It appears as though the swing from the far left to the far right in the nation’s last general election was the result of growing unrest within the population based on a waning lack of confidence in our public officials.
If you follow the news on any level of government from local to national levels, you will see that we simply don’t trust our public administrators to do the right or ethical thing.
Here are some of the most critical issues which must be addressed in order to win back the confidence of the people.
1. The Need for Greater Transparency.
It is always easy to formulate opinions based on the limited information you are given by public officials.
Perhaps the greatest and most publicized example would be the lack of transparency within the recent investigation into the now infamous email communications from the private server of then Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton. Instead of releasing true findings, there is controversy over whether or not the FBI played a role in a major coverup. Some details were ‘leaked’ to the press with an obvious bias that swung to the left.
As new details emerge, it has become clear that someone, somewhere at some level of government administration withheld important information for personal or political reasons. James Comey is at the top of these headlines, and without assuming guilt or innocence, the fact remains that the public no longer knows who to trust in our appointed public officials.
The solution to this might be to look at an approach to public administration highly valued at leading U.S. graduate schools like the program offered by Syracuse University.
If you read the summation of core challenges within their Executive Master’s in Public Administration on Onlinempa.syr.edu, you will see that of prime importance is “upholding ethics and morality.”
Is it ethical to withhold information that could sway the outcome of public opinion in an election year? Probably not, and in a presidential election year in which the subject of the investigation is running for Commander in Chief, the public has a right to know the facts as they are discovered.
Oddly, many were not released until after the election, which leaves voters on all sides perplexed. Why the need for secrecy?
2. An Increased Focus on Cybersecurity.
Another major issue which has eroded confidence in our public officials is the general lack of sufficient cybersecurity.
The Clinton email debacle aside, what about the alleged hack said to be perpetrated by the Russians during that very same election? Setting the debate aside as to whether or not there was any validity to that theory, it brought the need for greater cybersecurity to the spotlight.
If the nation can’t protect cyber attacks during a presidential election year, how safe are our armed forces?
How safe are we in terms of national security from known terrorist groups set on destroying our nation? That’s a major issue today and one in which a master’s in public administration seeks to address. Today’s public officials need to be up on technology and any master’s program preparing professionals to meet the challenges of today must address this concern.
3. Setting and Meeting Realistic Budgets.
One of the key duties of public administrators is to lead a team dedicated to setting and meeting the goals of annual budgets. It falls within the range of an administrator’s duties to manage the budget as it is established.
This means a continual effort to evaluate spending and in researching ways to cut costs while gaining access to funds for programs established for the public good, typically within the realm of health and welfare.
To date, we have seen an unrealistic allocation of funds. Often those funds are not available but based on faulty analysis of data on hand. Which, in turn, leads to the next issue confronting public officials.
4. The Use of Technology for Data Analysis.
In award-winning graduate schools like Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, grad students are taught the art and science of “integrating data analysis into management and policymaking.”
While public administrators do not have the time or the actual expertise to compile the data to be analyzed, it is their obligation to understand how technology factors into data evaluation before taking a public stance on any issue whatsoever.
Remember, public administrators must take into account the needs of all segments of the population they serve and have the ability to balance outcomes based on the analysis of empirical data. This is an area significantly lacking in past public administrators and one which is being addressed in graduate programs like that mentioned above.
If these critical issues aren’t addressed, public confidence in our leadership will continue to erode. It’s not a matter of approaching any issue from the left or the right, but rather of balancing the needs of all for the greater good. Ethics seems to top the list of critical concerns which must be addressed.