Federalist No. 70: Where Does the Public Service Begin and End?

Date01 December 2011
DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-6210.2011.02471.x
Published date01 December 2011
Janine R. Wedel is a professor in the
School of Public Policy at George Mason
University and a senior research fellow at
the New America Foundation. Winner of the
prestigious Grawemeyer Award for Ideas
Improving World Order, her books include
Shadow Elite: How the World’s
New Power Brokers Undermine
Democracy, Government, and the
Free Market (2009) and Collision and
Collusion: The Strange Case of
Western Aid to Eastern Europe (2001).
E-mail: jwedel@gmu.edu
S118 Public Administration Review • December 2011 • Special Issue
Janine R. Wedel
George Mason University
Federalist No. 70 argues that presidents will rise above
factions through their power to assemble a government
composed of highly motivated, accountable of‌f‌i cers.  e
author confronts this assumption through a detailed
examination of the heavy use of contractors in today’s
administrative state. She documents the challenges
and dangers associated with the role of contractors to
execute the laws through broad mandates. An appendix
to Federalist No. 70 of‌f ers a series of tweets that would
introduce needed reforms in the hidden workforce of
contractors.
W ithout revolution, public debate, or even
much public awareness, a giant work-
force has invaded
Washington, D.C.—one that
can undermine the public and
national interest from the inside.
is workforce consists of gov-
ernment contractors, specif‌i cally
those who perform “inherently
governmental” functions that
the government deems so inte-
gral to its work that only federal
employees should carry them
out (OMB 2003).1 Today, many
federal government functions
are conducted, and many public
priorities and decisions are driven, by private compa-
nies and players instead of government agencies and
of‌f‌i cials who are duty bound to answer to citizens and
sworn to uphold the national interest.
It is hard to imagine that the founding fathers would
have embraced this state of af‌f airs. Acting as a na-
tion—defending its security and providing for the
safety of its citizens—is a bedrock concept in some of
the Federalist Papers. For instance, John Jay writes in
Federalist No. 2,
As a nation we have made peace and war; as
a nation we have vanquished our common
enemies; as a nation we have formed alliances,
and made treaties, and entered into various
compacts and conventions with foreign states.
A strong sense of the value and blessings of
union induced the people, at a very early
period, to institute a federal government to
preserve and perpetuate it.
James Madison lays out a forceful case for the separa-
tion and distribution of government powers. He
cautions against “a tyrannical concentration of all
the powers of government in the same hands” and
outlines the importance of maintaining boundaries
among the divisions of government (see Federalist No.
47, 48, 51). I argue that the
considerable contracting out of
government functions is coun-
ter to the vision espoused by
these statesmen. Such contract-
ing out potentially erodes the
government’s ability to oper-
ate in the public and national
interest.2 It also creates the
conditions for the intertwining
of state and private power and
the concentration of power in
just a few hands—about which
Madison warned.
The Indispensable Hand
Once, government contractors primarily sold military
parts, prepared food, or printed government reports.
Today, contractors routinely perform “inherently
governmental” functions—activities that involve “the
exercise of sovereign government authority or the
establishment of procedures and processes related to
the oversight of monetary transactions or entitlements”
(OMB 2003).  e 20 “inherently governmental”
functions on the books include “command of military
forces, especially the leadership of military personnel
who are members of the combat, combat support, or
combat service support role”; “the conduct of foreign
relations and the determination of foreign policy”; “the
Federalist No. 70: Where Does the Public
Service Begin and End?
Today, many federal
government functions are
conducted, and many public
priorities and decisions are
driven, by private companies
and players instead of
government agencies and
of‌f‌i cials who are duty bound to
answer to citizens and sworn to
uphold the national interest.

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