How do “government-wide” programs really work? Part II


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Last week, we examined the investigation into how members of the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan interpreted the idea of ​​a “government-wide” counterinsurgency in that war. This week, we’ll look at what the WOG obsession approaches the U.S. wars in the mid-aughts has produced in modern public policy: an insistence on using WOG approaches to all sorts of problems.

Related: How do “government-wide” programs really work? Part I

In an article in the journal Development and Practice, Megan Rhodes, an official with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and global health researcher Samuel Boland set a goal for a recent episode of research ongoing US government to use everything. During the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the U.S. pledged assistance from a number of agencies to help local governments contain and treat the disease. The agencies would work together, coordinating to provide a “government-wide” response to the Ebola challenge. The international effort to counter Ebola was a success, preventing a catastrophic outbreak and providing the hope, which will soon be eradicated, that international public health cooperation would be an important feature of 21st century international relations. But was it really an example of a successful WOG effort?

Rhodes and Boland examine this question by reading the reports that all the agencies involved in the WOG anti-Ebola campaign produced to assess their own performance. Focusing on reports from the Department of Defense, the Department of Health and Human Services, USAID, and the USAID Attorney General, they extracted the reports and their recommendations for any type of broad-based agreement (up to and all “the whole government”). about what has gone well and what can be improved.

Of course, the fact that each agency has its own report is indicative of the problem with the concept of WOG efforts. As Rhodes and Boland write, “a comprehensive and publicly available review of the [US government’s] The “whole government” response that synthesizes common recommendations and disputes different proposals on how best to move forward would be of enormous value, “but none.” policies that are supposed to be defined by close cooperation between agencies were classified according to the degree of cooperation with the others, although the Ebola effort may have had the characteristics of a WOG program, the reality is that the U.S. executive structure remains stubbornly separate in parts of the government. of West African Ebola. ”

With that in mind, it’s instructive to look at what all the relevant agencies wished they had done to make WOG’s work more effective. All reports agreed that work needs to be done to make clear which agency is responsible for what in WOG operations, due to the duplication of effort and lack of clarity that marks the beginning of cooperation between agencies that are normally separate. All reports also agreed that data exchange is crucial and that the arduous process of deleting data is a major obstacle to creating effective cooperation. Most reports also noted cultural and communicative mismatches between agencies, noting that different agencies often have difficulty sharing plans or observations because the language they use for each is very varied.

Rhodes and Boland consider that the solutions to each of these problems are technically and logistically feasible, even easy in many cases. However, solutions, such as the general report on WOG cooperation on Ebola, have not been produced. The reason for this can be found in last week’s Deep Dive. In this article, Maya Dafinova argued that national policy was the main determinant of commitment to WOG approaches. With the political will to cooperate between agencies likely to vary, agencies are moving to protect their resources and reputations rather than restructuring to maximize interoperability with others.

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