Presidential and congressional investigations are particularly powerful tools for asking tough questions about highly visible, often complex government breakdowns. In Government by Investigation, Paul Light, one of America’s premier authorities on public service and management, provides a deep assessment of what he has identified as the federal government’s one hundred most significant investigations since World War II.
The findings and impact of Light’s top one hundred vary nearly as much as the range of topics they covered, including communist infiltration of government and the Sputnik launch during the 1950s, the Ku Klux Klan and Vietnam War during the 1960s; Watergate and Central Intelligence Agency abuses during the 1970s; the Social Security crisis, Challenger disaster, and the Iran-Contra scheme during the 1980s; the back-to-back sieges at Waco and Ruby Ridge and Bill Clinton’s impeachment in the 1990s; and the 9/11 attacks, collapse of Enron, and the financial meltdown in the 2000s.
Government by Investigation provides a deep history and analysis of these investigations, providing rare insight into why some great investigations succeeded, while others failed, and what investigators can do to increase the odds that their work will pay off in improved government performance and more effective public policy.
Informed by a deep reading of investigatory histories, numerous interviews with legislators, commission members, and leading scholars, as well as his own experience and original research, Light undertakes his own search for answers to a long list of questions about how each of these investigations performed. Was the investigation visible and well led? Was it serious and thorough? Did it involve a particularly controversial issue or a powerful public figure? Were investigators given enough freedom to pursue their goals? Did they forge the bipartisanship so often associated with what he calls the “good investigation?” And most important, what are the most important drivers of ultimate impact? Government by Investigation will inform practitioners and observers of government on what drives impact in the American system.
Praise for the work of Paul Light:
[With A Government Ill Executed] Paul Light has made a major contribution to rethinking federal bureaucracy at a crucial time in its evolution.”—Newt Gingrich