The Policy and Public Management Residency Program: A Proposal to Restore Staffing Capacity in the U.S. House, CBO, CRS, and GAO
Buettner-Connelly, Sara K.
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There is robust consensus among political scientists, congressional observers, and in Congress that the First Branch’s internal staffing capacity is at historic, dangerous lows. This paper addresses staffing capacity in the U.S. House of Representatives and the three primary congressional support offices: Congressional Research Service (CRS), Congressional Budget Office (CBO), Governmental Accountability Office (CBO). In recent decades, political actors, penurious budgeting, and voter animosity have degraded needed expertise. Such actions include reduced or frozen staffing numbers and pay and poor working conditions. The result is frequent staff burnout and turnover. Bright but inexperienced staff struggle to manage an portfolio of policy issues in which they cannot possibly have a working proficiency. These staff turn to lobbyists inevitably join the “Influence Industry.” The executive branch staffing, relatively, is substantial. Congress struggles to exercise oversight over federal agencies, in large part, due to a mismatch of resources. Lawmakers face legislative gridlock and the lawmaking they do undertake is often overly responsive to the wishes of K Street. This capstone proposes a Residency Program to onboard an annual cohort of 300 staff into the U.S. House and three support agencies who are experienced, knowledgeable and credentialed in the fields of public policy and administration. It draws inspiration from similar and established programs. The program would annually onboard 150 recent graduates of masters programs and 150 recent graduates of doctoral programs. The programs must be accredited. The candidates must possess at minimum three years’ executive branch experience. The Residents would be paid a living wage and work 12 months. The goal is to find the Residents a permanent job in Congress, hopefully the House or three offices. There would be no job guarantee. By the end of 2025, the annual cohorts of 300 Residents could represent as much as 19.11 percent of the House, or 13.6 percent of the House and three support offices combined.