Reflections on New Public Management-Style Reform in the U.S. National Administration and Public Trust in Government

David Rosenbloom, Suzanne Piotrowski


A concerted effort to introduce thoroughgoing reforms into U.S. national administration began in September 1993, when the Clinton-Gore administration issued the first report of the National Performance Review (NPR). The continuing reform effort, which is generally called “reinventing government” in the United States, shares many characteristics with the broader global New Public Management (NPM) movement and is often treated as part of it. The American NPM-style reform program was augmented by congressional attempts to make national agencies more performance-oriented. President George W. Bush, who took office in January 2001, continued to advance several NPM goals, though with some important differences. There is no parallel period of such fundamental, comprehensive, and concentrated administrative reform in American history. The reform agenda has been coherent and consistent enough to allow reflection on its efficacy in terms of its own objectives. These were: 1) making government work better and cost less and 2) building citizens' trust in it. We made two conclusions within this paper. First, the record of the NPM's achievement of greater cost-effectiveness is ambiguous, disputing the Clinton-Gore administration's central claims; the public as a whole perceives no reduction in the waste of its tax dollars. Second, the NPM fell far short of building significantly greater trust in government.

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Chinese Public Administration Review (ISSN 1539-6754, Online ISSN 2573-1483)  is published by the School of Government, Sun Yat-sen University.