Paul Volcker: "The Time is Right for Reshaping Government for the Twenty-First Century"

In a speech to the Excellence in Government conference today, Paul A. Volcker, Chairman of the National Commission on the Public Service, declared that the "time is right" for a fundamental reorganization of the federal government to meet the challenges of a new era.

"We all share a profound concern about the state of our government and its role in dealing with threats to our country and our way of life," Volcker stated. "And I know enough about government, and those within it, to know that we can't just stand still, encased in management structures and bureaucratic patterns set out in a simpler and more settled time."

Volcker's speech came at the mid-point of the public hearings of the National Commission on the Public Service. The three-day event features participation from members of every branch of government, and discussion of the opportunities for federal public service reform.

In his address, Volcker cited increasing levels of public distrust of the federal government as evidence of the necessity for reform. "Trust in our leaders and our officials to instinctively do the right thing has eroded for decades," Volcker said.

The events of September 11 temporarily reversed this trend. "Suddenly, the heroes were not investment bankers displaying their tokens of paper deals," Volcker said. "It was the fireman and the police, responding with a sense of duty, with skill and physical courage. There was a mayor rising above city politics and using his platform with skill and grace. In essence, it was public servants who inspired our pride. All of us were forced to recognize that government was not irrelevant in a world filled with risks and hazards almost beyond imagination."

Public trust in government, which peaked in the aftermath of September 11, is once again on the decline. Volcker attributed this to a shaken confidence in the federal government following revelations of layer-laden agencies, intelligence failures, and offices crippled by antiquated technology, ineffective communications systems and overburdened employees.

"The organization of the federal government has come into question," said Volcker. He characterized the simple model of administrative government created by the Hoover Commission nearly fifty years ago as obsolete considering the challenges and demands wrought by the war on terrorism.

"We need a model of government that will fit into the twenty-first century, a model that will facilitate more flexible management, that will be more responsive to the potential and techniques of modern technology," he said.

Volcker additionally addressed the federal government's need to attract and retain the best and brightest to government, to sustain and encourage effective leadership, and to provide employees with the tools and flexibility necessary to perform their jobs.

"We have a rare opportunity to get attention, to achieve something of a broad consensus, and to be a catalyst for meaningful change," Volcker said. He said that the success of federal public service reform, and the Commission's efforts, would depend on the engagement of a "coalition of the committed — a part of a larger effort, broadly responsive to widely felt needs."

Too little has been done to attract a fair share of our best young people into public life. The need for some administraThe National Commission on the Public Service is a project of the Center for Public Service at the Brookings Institution. The Commission is composed of Chairman Paul A. Volcker and ten Commissioners including: former Comptroller General of the U.S. Charles Bowsher; former U.S. Senator Bill Bradley; former Secretary of Defense Frank Carlucci; former White House Chief of Staff Kenneth M. Duberstein; former Office of Personnel Management Director Connie Horner; former Office of Management and Budget Director Franklin D. Raines; former head of the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority Richard Ravitch; former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin; former Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala;, and former Congressman Vin Weber. Bruce Laingen, executive director of the first Volcker Commission, serves as an ex-officio member. Commission efforts are led by Executive Director Hannah Sistare

For additional information about the second National Commission on the Public Service, please contact Gina Russo at (202) 797-6405 or via email at