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Delivering public service for the future: US government profile

Answering the challenge for long-term public service planning and delivery.

Overview

Accenture launched its Delivering Public Service for the Future program with our foundational piece of research and thought leadership, Delivering Public Service for the Future: Navigating the Shifts. In it, we outlined four major structural shifts in the design and delivery of public services that we believe governments will need to make to be able to deliver against the public service outcomes citizens expect, at a sustainable cost:

  • The shift from standardized services to personalized services.

  • The shift from reactive to insight driven.

  • The shift from public management to public entrepreneurship.

  • The shift from piecemeal efficiency to mission productivity.

This US profile complements that paper, and is intended to put our recommendations in context of country-specific issues and research results. We advise referring to the larger foundational piece for more detailed information on the structural shifts, as well as for many useful examples from countries across the globe.

Future installments of our Delivering Public Service for the Future program, coming over the next two years, will also explore these shifts in more detail—as well as other important enabling pieces (for example, human capital) vital to delivering on the vision of public service for the future.

Background

The United States is challenged at all levels of government in planning and delivering public service for the future. At issue is growing demand. Increases in the elderly population, healthcare price inflation, and increases in citizen expectations that correspond to increases in GDP will affect demand for services, raising the “price” of providing US public services at current per capita levels. According to Oxford Economics modeling of demand-driven costs, the annual additional cost for delivering public services in the US will have grown to $940 billion per year in 2025, nearly one trillion dollars over and above the costs for public services that the current trajectory (which does not account for demand-driven increases) projects for just that one year.

Meanwhile, an enormous part of the backdrop to future public services delivery in the US is the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA). The fiscal environment in the US will remain constrained at all levels of government for some years to come—and make delivery of government services against the demand-driven projections difficult to sustain.

Analysis

Accenture’s experience and research indicate that the solution to this underlying challenge lies in improving public service productivity—improving the level and quality of outcomes without corresponding increases in revenues. According to Oxford Economics, by 2025 the US could save as much as $995 billion in expenditures by increasing its public services efficiency by just 1 percent a year—offsetting the projected gap.

In a poll by Ipsos MORI, a majority of US citizens (51 percent) cited “provide services in a more cost-effective way” as a top priority. Moreover, Accenture research has found that improving public service productivity can improve not only the long-term costs of delivery, but also the quality of public service outcomes. The mechanisms for improving public services productivity may include segmenting populations into much more precise needs-based categories; performance-based budgeting; core function restructuring; more efficient asset management; and new models of collaboration.

Recommendations

US government leaders must tackle the cost and quality challenges of public service delivery with a long-term view that transcends political cycles. The fiscal environment will not get any easier. The approaches of the past will not answer. However, a new focus on improving public service productivity by changing how public services are structured and delivered will be key to delivering services citizens want at a cost that can be sustained.

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