By Ken Hunter
In the weeks ahead we will be diving deeply into our next political transition to a new President, new Congress, and new elected officials throughout out our Federal system of shared powers. The National Academy of Public Administration has recommended this include a set of foresight activities. To prepare for these activities, I have analyzed the publicly available proposals of both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump from their respective campaign websites, as of mid-October 2016. Here is a summary of my observations from a foresight perspective.
In my analysis, I assessed their proposals along four dimensions that I believe are important for approaching implementation and strategic foresight.
- The extent of change from current policy.
- The alignment with Constitutional authorities and operational processes.
- Recognition of big enduring messes that must be managed 24/7.
- The long view, including change drivers and shapers, change agenda management, and more.
Observations of Hillary Clinton’s Proposed Policy Changes
Clinton’s policy change proposals are presented on her website in folders under the “Issues” menu. There are 35 issue folders. Each contains a summary statement of major policy proposals with links to factsheets and statements that describe the reasoning and many specific actions to be taken. In addition, there are several summary “early action agenda folders” with content from the other 35 issues — the most important is the Factsheet that is Clinton’s “An economy that works for everyone” package that is the core of the First 100 days agenda.
For my analysis, I grouped the proposal into 232 policy change modules — I have examined each issue package and identified the major sets of policy changes being proposed. More than 500 specific actions are identified in the factsheets so far. Only about half of the factsheets describe specific actions clearly enough for me to identify and count. The Clinton team continues to add more detail to their factsheets and no doubt they do have many more actions identified but not yet published. Therefore, there are many more than 500.
Dimension 1: Extent of change from current policy —extent to which the module’s proposed changes are rooted in current law and changes are based on well researched and debated policy proposals. Of the 232 modules:
· Defend. 9 modules (4%) involve only defending current policy.
· Expand. 136 modules (58%) involve expansion, increasing, strengthening, etc., current policy.
· Revise. 20 modules (9%) involve procedural changes to carryout current policy more effectively and/or meet changed needs.
· Refocus. 28 modules (12%) involve modifying or refocusing current policy to be more effective and/or meet changed needs.
· New Approach. 39 modules (17%) involve adopting a new approach and/or significant modification.
Clinton’s change agenda is almost entirely rooted in current policy and law and incremental in approach and draws upon well-known progressive public policy research.
Dimension 2: Alignment of proposals to legal authorities and operational processes— In my judgment, implementation and operations are simplest if they fit into a single authority and process type (a common culture and practices) and they are more difficult when a hybrid approach is use. Clinton's 232 policy change modules can be classified along a continuum of the following seven sets of authorities/processes:
· Federally-Centered Authority: 38 modules (16%) — Totally Federal authorities and operations mostly under Commander-in-Chief and/or Chief Diplomat and operate as command and control management.
· Federally-Centered Financing: 12 modules (5%) — Totally Federal financial systems operating directly from the Federal government to citizens and enterprises — Federal taxes, social security, Medicare, much credit assistance.
· Shared Authority: 52 modules (22%) — Intergovernmental systems using the shared constitutional powers — operating through states as very complex systems.
· Legal-Driven: 68 modules (29%) — Lawyer led operations — justice, regulation, law enforcement, public health and safety.
· Science-Driven: 3 modules (1%) — Science led operations — mostly basic and exploratory research. Clinton has not included general science policy and basic research in her published agenda.
· General Operations: 6 modules (3%) — General government functions — public administration led. Clinton has not included general government management and operations in her published agenda.
· Hybrid Operations: 53 modules (23%) — Hybrid operations — using multiple constitutional authorities and operational processes with none dominant. These are highly vulnerable to great difficulty in implementation, ineffectiveness, inefficiency, and conflicts.
Again, Clinton’s change agenda is rooted in established authorities and operation. Most of those I have designated as hybrid already employ wide ranges of governmental functions, such as homeland security, climate change, technology and innovation, and rights of specific groups.
Dimension 3: Recognition of big “enduring messes” that must be managed 24/7 -- Clinton fully covers my own list of 16 big enduring messes (This list is detailed in my Trump observations below). In fact, her unstated world view clearly is focused on managing systemic messes (issues, adaptive changes, etc.). Her proposed changes are all incremental to make things better now with a full understanding that each involves changes in a complex adaptive system (again unstated but evident). Clinton’s proposals very seldom commit to “fixing a problem once and for all”. This is very important to implementation and expectations management — all of these can be managed through the established existing processes — administrative, budget, legislative, regulatory, and policy coordination. Almost all can be easily explained in term of specific change actions to address specific needs usually in terms of changed social and economic conditions that demand action.
Dimension 4: Long view not addressed -- At this point Clinton’s policy change agenda is a “foresight free zone.” Clinton is focused entirely on the here and now and making things better and managing what I call the Presidential operational and reform agendas. However, there is no indication that she would not add the long view and the longer-term institutional change agendas early in her administration.
Observations of Donald Trump’s Proposed Policy Changes
I have done the same type of analysis of Trump’s proposals, based on the material presented in his web site. There are 13 issue folders and one that contains his economic approach which draws from his proposal summaries on tax reform, regulatory reform, trade reform, and energy reform. For my analysis, I listed all 100 proposed actions (that it is 100 is a coincidence) from his proposal summaries and from the few speeches included. Since there are far fewer actions than Clinton, I did not have to group them into modules. The Trump team continues to add proposals occasionally.
Dimension 1: Extent of change from current policy. Of the 100 proposed actions:
· Defend. 2 actions (2%) involve only defending current policy.
· Expand. 34 actions (34%) involve expansion, increasing, strengthening, etc., current policy. 10 of these concern significantly expanding our military.
· Revise. 1 action (1%) involve procedural changes to carryout current policy more effectively and/or meet changed needs.
· Refocus. 21 actions (21%) involve modifying or refocusing current policy to be more effective and/or meet changed needs. 12 of these actions concern tax reform and 4 concern cybersecurity.
· New Approach. 42 actions (42%) involve adopting a new approach and/or significant modification. 12 actions concern defeating ISIS and Radical Islam and immigration. 14 actions concern trade, deregulation, and energy.
Trump’s approach is transformational and targeted, contrasted with Clinton’s comprehensive and incremental approach.
Dimension 2: Alignment of proposals to legal authorities and operational processes. Trump’s 100 policy change actions can be classified along a continuum of the following seven sets of authorities/processes:
· Federally-Centered Authority: 25 actions (25%) — Totally Federal authorities and operations mostly under Commander-in-Chief and/or Chief Diplomat and operate as command and control management.
· Federally-Centered Financing: 20 actions (20%) — Totally Federal financial systems operating directly from the Federal government to citizens and enterprises — Federal taxes, social security, Medicare, much credit assistance. 12 actions concern major changes to our income tax system.
· Shared Authority: 8 actions (8%) — Intergovernmental systems using the shared constitutional powers — operating through states as very complex systems.
· Legal-Driven: 38 (38%) — Lawyer led operations — justice, regulation, law enforcement, public health and safety. 11 actions concern immigration, 9 concern deregulation, 8 concern gun rights, and 7 concern trade.
· Science-Driven: 0 actions (0%) — Science led operations — mostly basic and exploratory research. Trump has not included general science policy and basic research in his published agenda.
· General Operations: 0 actions (0%) — General government functions — public administration led. Trump has not included general government management and operations in his published agenda, although he has included many targeted personnel actions within his policy change actions.
· Hybrid Operations: 9 actions (9%) — Hybrid operations — using multiple constitutional authorities and operational processes with none dominant. These are highly vulnerable to great difficulty in implementation, ineffectiveness, inefficiency, and conflicts.
As you can see, Trump’s proposed actions use mostly the command authorities, legal authorities, and the tax code. In short, Trump proposes the early and large scale use of executive powers to rescind agreements and executive orders and to stop or redirect ongoing activities. In addition, he proposes to use threats of such executive actions to force the renegotiation of international relationships and policies. The scale and nature of the changes constitute paradigm shifts in U.S. governance and directly challenge our U.S. Constitutional system of shared powers. However, the proposals are for the most part silent on the roles and likely actions of the Congress, Courts, States, and others.
Dimension 3: Recognition of big “enduring messes” that must be managed 24/7 – Trump is targeting a selected set of enduring public policy messes as outline above. Let me illustrate the selectivity and direction using my own list of 16 big “enduring messes” and their management.
Enduring conflicts, criminality and corruption
1. Thinking the unthinkable 24/7 — use of nuclear weapons. Trump’s proposed expansion of our military would presumably include the proposals to modernize our nuclear weapons systems and his comments indicate he expects other nations to do the same.
2. Enduring conflicts around the world and domestically from the South China Sea, Korean peninsula, Kashmir, Middle East, South Sudan, Boko Haram, Columbia, and America’s racial conflicts. Trump is focused on defeating ISIS and the ideology of Radical Islam first before addressing any other enduring conflict.
3. Criminal cultures and institutions, including those in the business of illegal drugs, weapons, prostitution, trafficking people, and money laundering. Trump is fully focused on illegal immigration.
4. Corruption. Not addressed.
Stewardship: our collective responsibilities
5. Earth systems and services — our natural infrastructure and its operations and resiliency. Dismantle current policies that impede business and job creation.
6. Habitats, mobility and energy systems and services — our physical/built infrastructure and its operations and resiliency. Trump would focus on removing barriers to the coal, oil and gas industries operations.
7. Communities and families and civil society — our social infrastructure and the day-to-day 24/7 work of government. Trump proposes to provide tax deductions (not refundable credits) to both families and employers for dependent care costs.
8. Troubled and vulnerable people, including homeless, refugees, severely disabled, those in extreme poverty. Trump’s proposals would likely diminish government services for these people, such as block granting Medicaid to the states and repeal and replace Obamacare with Health Savings Accounts.
Critical “socio-econo-eco-poli” enablers
9. Education and lifelong learning, adapting and engaging; this is the largest function of local governments through which we entrust the care and learning of our children. Trump’s education priority is to advance school choice.
10. Science, technology and innovation. Trump proposes to aggressively protect companies’ intellectual property.
11. Public health and safety, including emergency response and care and regulation to protect people from injury. Trump is focused on deregulation.
12. Financial systems and services that support our financial lives globally 24/7. Not addressed.
Governance institutions and their modernization and streamlining
13. U.S. Federal system of shared powers and representative democracy, including our representative elections and law making and implementing institutions with 24/7 authority and accountability to act on behalf of all American citizens. Trump is focused on three specific authorities: (1) the President’s executive powers, (2) the tax systems as a centralized vehicle for policy, and (3) the law enforcement and prosecutorial powers.
14. Justice and the rule of law. Not explicitly addressed.
15. U.S. global relationships, including international institutions that provide forums of collective decisions and actions and provide or coordinate services around the world 24/7. Trump is proposing to withdrawal from or renegotiate selected relationships and to act more bilaterally rather than multilaterally.
16. Change management with foresight, accountability and change agendas in support of the above 15 enduring messes and their management. Trump seems to see change as the exercise of power through negotiations or through direct action.
Dimension 4: Long view not addressed – Trump’s policy change agenda is also a “foresight free zone.” Its direction is to return to an earlier industrial era. There is no indication that he would add a perspective of the long view and the longer-term institutional change agendas during his administration.
Conclusion: Absence of the “Long View” by Either Candidate
Totally absent from both candidates' proposed policy changes is consideration of the long view and any deeper understanding of the long-term structural changes needed to modernize and streamline our governance institutions and systems to navigate the real frontiers of the 21st Century. Trump proposes to dismantle many existing institutions in hopes of returning to an earlier industrial era. Clinton's proposals appear to be deeply into managing the messes we are in with incremental changes to our current institutions and systems, which is absolutely necessary, but not sufficient for leading the transformational changes needed in the decades ahead.
Any views or declarations outlined in this piece do not reflect the positions of the National Academy of Public Administration.