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National Partnership for Reinventing Government

Did NPR Make a Difference?

Brookings scholar Don Kettl, in one of his periodic assessments of NPR said in 1998: “No executive branch reform in the twentieth century Ė indeed, perhaps in the Constitutionís 210 years Ė has enjoyed such high-level attention over such a broad range of activities for such a long period of time.” 15

When assessing the impact of the administrationís eight-year reform effort, there were at least a half dozen major areas where NPRís impact had been felt:

  • Ending the era of big government by cutting both its size (see charts 1 and 2; Note: Source: 2001 Budget, Office of Management and Budget) and costs;
  • Changing government to be more results- and performance-oriented;
  • Serving the public better;
  • Changing the ways government works with businesses;
  • Changing the way government works with communities;
  • Transforming access to government through technology; and
  • Making the federal government a better place to work. (see Appendix F for details).

In the end, though, the real measure of impact was: did Americansí trust in their federal government to do the right thing increase? The answer was yes. Between 1994 and 1998, the University of Michiganís biennial survey of Americans on this question nearly doubled from an all-time low of 21 percent to 40 percent. (see Trust in Government). While NPRís efforts cannot claim all the credit for this increase, other studies have shown public trust is strongly tied to performance, and in a 1999 survey by the American Customer Satisfaction Index, 60 percent of respondents said they noticed improvements in service over the previous two years.

In addition, the effects of NPR will be felt for years to come. New approaches to performance management, for example, now require consideration of not only mission results to be considered successful, but also employee and customer views. This will lead to major changes in the governmentís culture. In addition, new approaches focused on results, not programs or agencies, will have a long term impact on how government approaches its work. Much of this is driven by the increased use of technology, especially the Internet, in the delivery and organization of services, information, results, and citizen feedback.

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