Federalist No. 71: Can the Federal Government Be Held Accountable for Performance?

DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-6210.2011.02472.x
Published date01 December 2011
Date01 December 2011
Beryl A. Radin is a scholar in residence
in the Department of Public Administra-
tion and Policy at American University. An
elected member of the National Academy
of Public Administration, she received the
H. George Frederickson Award in 2009 from
the Public Management Research Associa-
tion. She has written a number of books
and articles on public management issues,
served as managing editor of the Journal
of Public Administration Research
and Theory, and was a staff member in
several federal government agencies.
E-mail: bradin@ix.netcom.com
S128 Public Administration Review • December 2011 • Special Issue
Beryl A. Radin
American University
Federalist No. 71 and Federalist No. 76 focus on the
level of authority in the executive.  is essay reviews
the recent history of ef‌f orts to measure government
performance as a way to control executive performance
and then proceeds to a discussion of the weakness inherent
in past approaches.  e author uses the Government
Performance and Results Act and the George W. Bush
administration’s Program Assessment Rating Tool as
examples in making the case.
Reading the Federalist
Papers in 2011 seems
very distant from the
day-to-day preoccupations of
those who practice and study
public administration in the
United States. In part, this is a
result of an ahistorical ten-
dency in our f‌i eld.  e past is
somewhere in a never-never
land; with the exception of a
relatively small cadre of people
who focus on the intellectual
history of the f‌i eld, it is the
present, not the past, that
def‌i nes and overwhelms our
current agenda.
Reading the Federalist Papers also indicates that the
style of discourse used in that compilation almost
seems to be conducted in a different language and
form. The very task of creating a Constitution
stimulated a discourse that was a combination of
both the abstract and the specific. The complex-
ity of the system that emerged from the process
of developing the Constitution is evidence of the
reach of that discourse. One is struck not only by
the scope of the subjects included in the volume
but also by the range of perspectives included in
the exchanges.
All of this is to say that the current debate on perfor-
mance measurement in the public administration f‌i eld
seems far from the legacy of the Federalist Papers in
both substance and style. Yet there is an often unstated
issue within that debate that touches on views about
the power and authority of the executive branch of the
U.S. government—issues that clearly are found in the
Federalist Papers.
is article reviews the most recent activities within
the federal government involving performance
measurement, noting what issues have preoccupied
those involved in that area and
what topics have not been in-
cluded in that debate. It revisits
Federalist Nos. 71–76 to see
what clues those essays of‌f er to
compensate for issues that have
been ignored, and it makes
some suggestions about a
contemporary paper that might
provide some insight into per-
formance measurement.
Recent Federal Activities
Involving Performance
Measurement
While a concern about the
performance of federal agen-
cies can be found in a range
of initiatives throughout the second part of the
twentieth century,1 passage of the Government
Performance and Results Act of 1993 (GPRA) was
the ef‌f ort that began the contemporary interest in
performance measurement (GAO 1997, 7).2 e
GPRA originally was crafted in Congress and was
one of the few management ef‌f orts that had roots
in legislation, not simply in executive orders. It
required all federal agencies to develop strategic
plans, annual performance plans, and annual per-
formance reports.  ese requirements were linked
to the annual budget process and asked agencies to
focus on the outcomes that emerged from the use of
the federal dollars that were appropriated to them
(Radin 2006, 118–21).
Federalist No. 71: Can the Federal Government
Be Held Accountable for Performance?
is article reviews … recent
activities within the federal
government involving
performance measurement,
noting what issues have
preoccupied those involved
in that area and what topics
have not been included in that
debate. It revisits Federalist Nos.
71–76 to see what clues those
essays of‌f er to compensate for
issues that have been ignored …

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