Which Agencies Are the Best

Apparently on alternate years the Office of Personnel Management does a huge survey of the federal workforce in which they, among other things, rate each agency on four dimensions. Lee Siegelman determined that “the correlations between agencies’ scores on any pair of dimensions are all .88 or above” so you can useful combine the four scores into a single composite and then get a nice chart:


The best-run federal agencies, according to this measure, are the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the National Science Foundation, the Office of Management and Budget, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Three cabinet departments — HUD, Homeland Security, and Transportation — are bottom-of-the-listers. The worst-run agency by far, though, appears to be the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees nonmilitary international broadcasting by the government. It used to be part of USIA, but it became independent in 1999, and, to judge by the assessments of those who work there, seems to be something of a disaster. What is it about the Broadcasting Board of Governors that’s soo bad? Basically everything, according to the OMB survey: It ranks dead-last on three of the four dimensions iand 36th of 37 on the other dimension.

Fortunately, the Broadcasting Board of Governors isn’t that big a deal in the scheme of things. By contrast, the low quality of HUD, DOT, and DHS is a very significant problem. There seem to be some very interesting ideas about sustainable communities coming from the leadership at HUD and DOT that I’m very interested in, and that have important implications for our long-run growth, quality of life, and ecological sustainability. But it seems to me that these initiatives are unlikely to be successful unless the agencies running them can be reasonably effective.