Consider the size and scope of the federal government. In 2014, it had revenues of $3.021 trillion. This is more than the combined revenues of the 16 largest Fortune 500 companies at the time. It also had about 4.2 million employees (including uniformed military personnel) a size that equals the total employment of the six largest U.S. companies. It is impossible to find anyone who has ever run a company this big.
Most corporations, even very large ones, have a “core” business like building airplanes or selling hamburgers. The federal government does everything from contracting for state-of-the-art weapons systems to reviewing new drugs to sending out retirement checks. It has a wide variety of missions and a wide variety of personnel needs.Also at The Atlantic, Clare Foran writes:
For many of the biggest and most expensive operations of the federal government, there is no private sector analog from which to take good ideas or best practices. For instance, no one in the private sector manages a nuclear arsenal. That’s what many people in the Department of Energy do. And no one in the private sector makes plans and conducts operations for the defense of Europe. That’s what they do over at the Pentagon.
The Trump administration might face a unique set of challenges if the people tasked with recommending and carrying out reforms lack expertise in actually running government. A press release describing the so-called innovation office says that recommendations will be developed “with career staff along with private-sector and other external thought leaders.”
“The concern would be that relying on business people to make recommendations and fixes might not work as well as relying on public administration experts,” said Rob Atkinson, the president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. “The federal bureaucracy is complicated, and you need to address these issues with people who actually understand public administration. Otherwise it would be kind of like taking a governor and asking him to go in and advise General Motors on how to run their business.”