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News Release

The Quiet Crisis Roars

The Brookings Institution’s Center for Public Service announced today that it will convene a new National Commission on the Public Service. The Commission, chaired by former Federal Reserve Board Chairman Paul A. Volcker, will include distinguished Americans with long experience in the public and private sectors. Establishment of the new Commission comes almost twelve years to the day after the first Volcker Commission declared a “quiet crisis” in the federal public service.

“The events of September 11th provide compelling evidence that the ‘Quiet Crisis’ is no longer subdued,” said Brookings Institution President Michael Armacost. “The nation faces a serious problem attracting and retaining the most talented Americans for federal service. A successful war on terrorism and homeland defense rests on talented and dedicated public servants.”

The new National Commission on the Public Service will focus on the need for comprehensive reform in the federal public service. The key questions the Commission seeks to address are: how to reorganize government to improve performance; how to decide when a job should stay in government or be contracted out; what are reasonable compensation plans for federal executives; and what kinds of new recruitment, promotion and disciplinary procedures might help government compete for its fair share of talent in the future.

“What we on the Commission characterized a decade ago as a ‘quiet crisis’ in the civil service has only deepened,” said Volcker, “Too much experience and dedication has been lost.”

The Commission will be headquartered at Brookings as a project of the Center for Public Service. It will seek formal input from a number of other organizations, including RAND, the Council for Excellence in Government, the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, the National Academy of Public Administration, the National Academy of Sciences, and the Partnership for Public Service. The Partnership for Public Service will also work closely with the Commission in assuring that the Commission’s recommendations receive the widest possible attention and implementation.

“The formation of the Commission marks the beginning of a much needed repair of the federal public service,” said Paul C. Light, senior adviser to the Commission and Vice President and Director of Governmental Studies at the Brookings Institution. “Tinkering around the edges of reform won’t restore the public service. We need large-scale solutions for what is already a large-scale crisis.”

The Commission is composed of Chairman Volcker and ten members drawn from both political parties and a variety of backgrounds. Commissioners include: former Senator Bill Bradley; former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin; former Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala; former Secretary of Defense Frank Carlucci; former Comptroller General Charles Bowsher; former head of the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority Richard Ravitch; former White House Chief of Staff Kenneth M. Duberstein; former Congressman Vin Weber; former Office of Personnel Management Director Connie Horner; and former Office of Management and Budget Director Franklin D. Raines. Bruce Laingen, Executive Director of the first Volcker Commission and Michael Armacost, President of the Brookings Institution, will serve as ex-officio members of the Commission. Commission efforts will be guided by Executive Director Hannah Sistare, who has been Senator Thompson’s Staff Director and Counsel on the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee for the past 7 years.

“There are no pat solutions to the new challenges—not for Presidents and not for civil servants,” stated Volcker. “Simple slogans—reinventing government, less government—may be calls to action, but they are not substantive answers. At the end of the day, what will count is restoring and maintaining a sense of trust in government.”

The Commission plans to hold three plenary meetings during its year of operation. The first meeting, to be held in March 2002, will be to select the key problem areas that will define the commission’s work. The next meeting, slated for July, will consist of a day-long series of hearings to receive input from numerous sources (including RAND, the Kennedy School of Government, the Council for Excellence in Government, and the Partnership for Public Service) being mobilized in support of this effort. The final meeting is slated for the winter of 2002. Targeted recommendations for action and an action plan will be presented at this final meeting.

Under the leadership of the chairman and its members, the second National Commission on the Public Service will be administered by the Brookings Institution’s Center for Public Service (CPS). Established by the Brookings Institution in 1999 to monitor the state of the public service today, CPS is supported by grants from the Dillon Fund, the Ford Foundation, the Smith Richardson Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, The Atlantic Philanthropies, and by James A. Johnson, chairman of the Brookings Institution. The Volcker Commission is supported solely by a grant from the Dillon Fund.

Editors Note: For additional information about the second National Commission on the Public Service, please contact Gina Russo at (202) 797-6405 or via email at grusso@brookings.edu.

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The Brookings Institution is a nonprofit organization devoted to independent research and policy solutions. Its mission is to conduct high-quality, independent research and, based on that research, to provide innovative, practical recommendations for policymakers and the public.

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