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What Is Policy Analysis?

The product o f policy analysis may be advice as simple as a statement linking a pro-
posed action to a likely result: passage o f bill A will result in consequence X. It may
also be more comorehensive and auite com~lex:Dassaee of bill A, which can be
achieved with the greatest certainti through'legislative &ategy S, kill result in ag-
gregate social costs o f C and aggregate social benefits o f B, but with disproportion-
ate costs for group one and disproportionate benefits for group two. A t whatever
extremes of depth and breadth, policy analysis is intended to inform some decision.
either implicitly (A will result in X) or explicitly (support A because it will result in X,
which i s good for you, your constituency, or your country).
Obviously, not all advice is policy analysis. So to define it, we need to be more
specific. We begin by requiring that the advice must relate to public decisions and be
informed by social values. That is not to say that policy analysts do not work in pri-
vate organizations. Businesses and trade associations often seek advice about pro-
posed leg~slation and regulations that might affect their private interests-when their
employees or consultants consider the full range o f social consequences in giving
such advice, they are providing policy analysis. Of course, the major~ty o f policy ana-
lysts are to be found in government and non-profit organizations where day-to-day
operations inherently involve public decisions, as well as in consultancies that serve
these public and private organizations. Because our interest centers on policy analy-
sis as a professional activity, our definition requires that policy analysts, in either pub-
lic or private settings, have clients for their advice who can participate in public deci-
sion-making. With these considerations in mind, we hazard the following simple
definition: policy onolysis i s client-oriented advice relevant to public decisions and in-
formed by social values.
What Is Policy Analysis?

The product o f policy analysis may be advice as simple as a statement linking a pro-
posed action to a likely result: passage o f bill A will result in consequence X. It may
also be more comprehensive and quite complex: passage o f bill A, which can be
achieved with the greatest certainty through legislative strategy S, will result in ag-
gregate social costs o f C and aggregate social benefits of B, but w ~ t hdisproport~on-
ate costs for group one and disproportionate benefits for group two. A t whatever
extremes of depth and breadth, policy analysis is intended to inform some decision,
either implicitly (A will result in X) or explicitly (support A because it will result in X,
which is good for you, your constituency, or your country).
Obviously, not all advice is policy analysis. So to define it, we need to be more
specific. W e begin by requiring that the advice must relate to public decrsions and be
informed by social values. That is not to say that policy analysts do not work in pri-
vate organizations. Businesses and trade associations often seek advice about pro-
posed legislation and regulations that might affect their private interests-when their
employees or consultants consider the full range o f social consequences in giving
such advice, they are provrd~ngpolicy analysis. Of course, the majority o f policy ana-
lysts are to be found In government and non-profit organizations where day-to-day
operations inherently involve public decisions, as well as in consultancies that serve
these public and private organizations. Because our interest centers on policy analy-
sis as a professional activity, our definition requires that policy analysts, in either pub-
lic or private settings, have clients for their advice who can participate in public deci-
sion-making. With these cons~derationsin mind, we hazard the following simple
definition: policy analys~sis client-oriented advice relevant to public decisions and in-'
formed by soc~alvalues.
What Is Policy Analysis? Chap. 2
Policy Analysis and Related P r o f e s s i o n s
A plethora o f definitions o f policy analysis already exists.' W h y introduce this
A comparison o f policy analysis with five other paradigms-academic social
one? One answer is that it helps us keep our focus on the purpose o f this book: de-
science research, policy research, classical planning, journalism, and the " o l d public
veloping the practical approaches and conceptual foundations that enable the reader
administratiowappears in Table 2. 1. W e focus our attention on similarities ar.d dif-
t o become an effective producer and consumer o f policy analysis. W e emphasize de-
ferences in characteristics such as major objectives, client orientation, common
velopment o f a professional mind-set rather than the mastering o f technical skills. If
w e keep central the idea o f providing useful advice t o clients, then an awareness o f style, tlme constraints, and general weaknesses. The comparison o f em-
phasizes drfferences. A s our discussion indicates, however, the professions o f plan-
the importance o f learning the various techniques o f policy analysis and o f gaining an
ning and public administration have moved much closer to the policy analysis para-
understanding o f political processes will naturally follow.
digm in recent years.
Another answer is that this definition also emphasizes the importance o f social
The common experience o f higher education gives us all at least some familiar-
values in policy analysis. Social values can come into play even when advice seems
ity with academic research in the social sciences. Its major objective is the develop-
purely predictive. By looking at consequences o f policies beyond those that affect
ment of theories that contribute t o a better understanding o f society. Because the
the client, the analyst is implicitly placing a value on the welfare o f others. Good pol-
client for the research is "truth," at least as recognized by other scholars, the social
icy analysis takes a comprehensive view o f consequences and social values. As will
science disciplines have attempted t o develop rigorous methods for logically specify-
become clear in subsequent chapters, w e believe that economic efficiency deserves
ing theories and empirically testing hypotheses derived from them. Progress in the
routine consideration as a social value not only because i t measures aggregate wel-
social sciences proceeds as much from the idiosyncrasy o f researchers as from the
fare fairly well but also because it tends t o receive inadequate weight in political sys-
demands of the larger society. The new theory or clever empirical test earns respect
tems.
from social scientists whether or not it is ~mmediatelyrelevant t o public policy. Nev-
A n appropriate starting place for our study is an overview o f the profession o f
ertheless, the accumulation o f empirical evidence, and the associated rise and fall o f
policy analysis. H o w does policy analysis differ from the older professions t o which it
competing theories eventually influence the "world views" o f policy makers outside
is related? Where are policy analysts to be found and what do they do? What skills
of the academy.* Although academic research only fortuitously contributes t o the
are most essential for success?
debate over any particular policy issue, the development o f social science knowledge
forms a base for more narrowly specified research of greater potential relevance.
This research, which often directly employs the methods o f the social science
P O L I C Y ANALYSIS A N D RELATED PROFESSIONS disciplines, can be described as policy r e ~ e a r c hWhereas
.~ academic research looks for
relationships among the broad range o f variables describing behavior, policy research
If you are a student in a public policy analysis program, then you probably already
focuses on relationships between variables that reflect social problems and other
have a good sense o f w h a t policy analysis is all about-you have by your educational
variables that can be manipulated by public policy. The desired product o f policy re-
choice purposely selected the profession. Yet you may instead aspire t o another pro-
search is a more-or-less verified hypothesis o f the form: If the govemment does X,
fession, such as public administration, business management, city and regional plan-
then Y will result. For example, academic research into the causes o f crime might
ning, law, or public health, in which you may nevertheless be required to play the
identify moral education within the family as an important factor. Because our politi-
role o f policy analyst from time to time. Perhaps you are reading this book as a stu-
cal system places much of family life outside the sphere o f legitimate public interven-
dent in an academic program in political science, economics, or political economy.
tion, however, there may be little that the govemment can do to foster moral educa-
We hope t o put policy analysis in perspective by comparing it with some o f the re- tion within the home. The policy researcher, therefore, may take moral education as
lated professions and activities with which you may be more familiar.
a given and focus instead on factors partially under government control, such as the
certainty, swiftness, and severity o f punishment for those who commit crimes. The
policy researcher may then be willing t o make a prediction (a hypothesis t o be tested
'Some examples: "Policy analysis is a means o f synthesizing information including research results
t o produce a format for policy decls~ons(the laying out o f alternative choices) and o f determining future
needs for policy relevant information." Walter W~lliams.Social Policy Research and Analysrs (New York:
American Elsevier Publishing Company. 1971). p. xi; and "Policy analysis is an applied social science disci-
'within disciplines, acceptance o f new theories that better explain empirical anomalies often oc-
pline which uses multiple methods o f inquiry and argument to produce and transform policy-relevant In-
curs only after repeated failures of the older theories over an extended period. See Thomas S. Kuhn. The
formation that may be utilized in political settings to resolve policy Willlam N . Dunn, Public
Structure of Sc~entrfjcRevolutrons (Chicago. Un~versityo f Chicago Press. 1970). For a discuss~ono f a para-
Policy Analysis (Englewood Cliffs. N.J.: Prentice Hall. 1981). p. ix. These definitions, as do most, lack the
digm shift in political context, see Peter A. Hall, "Policy Paradigms. Experts, and the States: The Case o f
client orlentation that distinguishes policy analysis as a professionalactiv~ty.Descriptions o f policy analysis Macroeconomic Policy-Making in Britain." in Stephen Brooks and Alain-C. Gagnon, eds.. Sonal Scientists,
closest t o our definition are given by Arnold J. Meltsner, Policy Analysts in the Bureaucracy (Berkeley: Uni-
Pol~cy,and the State (New York: Praeger. 1990), pp. 53-78.
versity o f California Press. 1976) and Norman Beckman. "Policy Analysis in Government: Alternatives to
'Muddling Through'." Public Administration Revrew. Vol. 37. no. 3. 1977. pp. 221-22. For an extended
o or a discussion o f policy research, see James S. Coleman. Polrcy Research jn the Socral Scrences
(New York: General Learning Press. 1972). Policy research. expanded to include the study o f the policy
discussion o f the policy sciences, a broader conception o f policy analysis, see Carry D. Brewer and Peter
process, is sometimes referred to as policy sclence. Harold D. Lasswell. "The Emerging Conception o f
deleon, The Foundations of Policy Analysis ( H o m e w d , Ill: Dorsey Press, 1983). pp. 6-17.
the Policy Sciences." Policy Sciences. Vol. I, no. 1. 1970, pp. 3-30
What Is Policy Analysis? Chap. 2
Policy Analysis and Related Professions 29
A plethora o f definitions o f policy analysis already exists.' M y introduce this
A comparison o f policy analysis with five other paradigms-academic social
one? One answer i s that it helps us keep our focus on the purpose o f this book: de-
science research, policy research, classical planning, journalism, and the "old" public
veloping the practical approaches and conceptual foundations that enable the reader
administratiow-appears in Table 2. I. W e focus our attention on similarities and dif-
to become an effective producer and consumer o f policy analysis. W e emphasize de-
ferences in characteristics such as major objectives, client orientation, common
velopment of a professional mind-set rather than the mastering o f technical skills. If
style, time constraints, and general weaknesses. The comparison o f paradigms em-
we keep central the idea o f providing useful advice to clients, then an awareness of
phasizes differences. As our discussion indicates, however, the professions o f plan-
the importance o f learning the various techniques o f policy analysis and o f .gaining an
ning and public admjnistration have moved much closer to the policy analysis para-
understanding o f politicalprocesses will naturally follow.
digm in recent years.
Another answer is that this definition also emphasizes the importance o f social
The common experience o f higher education gives us all at least some familiar-
values In policy analysis. Social values can come into play even when advice seems
ity with academic research in the social sciences. Its major objective is the develop-
purely predictive. By looking at consequences o f policies beyond those that affect
ment o f theories that contribute to a better understanding o f society. Because the
the client, the analyst is implicitly placing a value on the welfare o f others. Good pol-
client for the research is "truth," at least as recognized by other scholars, the social
icy analysis takes a comprehensive view o f consequences and social values. As will
science disciplines have attempted to develop rigorous methods for logically specifi--
become clear in subsequent chapters, we believe that economic efficiency deserves
ing theories and empirically testing hypotheses derived from them. Progress in the
routine consideration as a social value not only because it measures aggegate wel-
social sciences proceeds as much from the idiosyncrasy o f researchers as from the
fare fairly well but also because it tends to receive inadequate weight in political sys-
demands of the larger society. The new theory or clever empirical test earns respect
tems.
from social scientists whether or not it is immediately relevant to public policy. Nev-
An appropriate starting place for our study is an overview o f the profession o f
ertheless, the accumulation o f empirical evidence, and the associated rise and fall o f
policy analysis. H o w does policy analysis differ from the older professions to which it
competing theories eventually influence the "world views" of policy makers outside
is related?Where are policy analysts to be found and what do they do? What skills
of the academy.' Although academic research only fortuitously contributes to the
are most essential for success?
debate over any particular policy issue, the development of social science knowledge
forms a base for more narrowly specified research of greater potential relevance.
This research, which often directly employs the methods o f the social science
POLICY ANALYSIS AND RELATED PROFESSIONS disciplines, can be described as policy r e s e ~ r c hWhereas
.~ academic research looks for
relationships among the broad range o f variables describing behavior, policy research
If you are a student in a public policy analysis program, then you probably already focuses on relationships between variables that reflect social problems and other
have a good sense ofwhat policy analysis is all about-you have by your educational
variables that can be manipulated by public policy. The desired product o f policy re-
choice purposely selected the profession. Yet you may instead aspire to another pro-
search is a more-or-less verified hypothesis o f the form: If the government does X,
fession, such as public administration, business management, city and regional plan-
then Y will result. For example, academic research into the causes o f cnme might
ning, law, or public health, in which you may nevertheless be required to play the
identifi moral education within the family as an important factor. Because our politi-
role of policy analyst from time to time. Perhaps you are reading this book as a stu-
cal system places much o f family life outside the sphere o f legitimate public interven-
dent in an academic program in political science, economics, or political economy.
tion, however, there may be little that the government can do to foster moral educa-
W e hope to put policy analysis in perspective by comparing it with some of the re-
tion within the home. The policy researcher, therefore, may take moral education as
lated professions and activities with which you may be more familiar. a given and focus instead on factors partially under government control, such as the
certainty, swiftness, and severity o f punishment for those who commit crimes. The
policy researcher may then be willing to make a prediction (a hypothesis to be tested
'Some examples: "Policy analysls is a means of synthesizing information including research results
t o produce a format for policy decisions (the laying out o f alternat~vechoices) and o f determining future
needs for policy relevant information." Walter Williams, Soc(a1 Polrcy Research and Analysrs (New York:
American Elsevier Publishing Company. 1971), p. xi: and "Policy analysis is an applied social science disci-
thin disciplines, acceptance o f new theories that better explain empirical anomal~esoften oc-
pline which uses multiple methods o f Inquiry and argument to produce and transform policy-relevant in- curs only after repeated failures o f the older theories over an extended period. See Thomas S. Kuhn. The
formation that may be utilized In political settings to resolve pollcy problems." William N. Dunn. Public Structure oJScientifc Revolutions (Chicago: Univers~tyof Chicago Press. 1970). For a discussion o f a para-
Policy Analysis (Englewood Cltffs. N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1981), p. ix. These definitions, as do most, lack the digm shift in political context, see Peter A. Hall. "Policy Paradigms. Experts, and the States: The Case o f
client orientation that d~stinguishespolicy analysis as a professional activ~ty.Descriptions o f policy analysis Macroeconomic Policy-Making in Britain." in Stephen Brooks and Alain-C. Gagnon, eds.. Sociol Scientists.
closest t o our definition are given by Arnold J. Meltsner. Policy Analysts in the Bureaucracy (Berkeley: Uni- Polrcy, and the State (New York: Praeger, 1990). p p 53-78.
versity of California Press, 1976) and Norman Beckman. "Policy Analysis in Government: Alternatives t o
'Muddling Through'." Public Administration Review, Vol. 37, no. 3, 1977, pp. 221-22. For an extended
o or a discussion of policy research, see James S Coleman. Policy Research ;n the Sociol Scrences
(New York: General Learning Press. 1972). Policy research, expanded t o include the study o f the policy
discussion o f the pol~cysciences. a broader conception o f policy analysis, see Garry D. Brewer and Peter
process, is sometimes referred to as policy science. Harold D. Lasswell. 'The Emerging Conception of
deleon, The Foundations oJPolrcy Analysis (Homewood. Ill.: Dorsey Press, 1983). pp. 6 1 7 .
the Policy Sciences." Policy Sciences. Vol. I. no. 1. 1970, pp. 3-30.
Table 2.1 Policy Analysis in Perspective

1 Major
Objective
Common
style 1 Time
constraints
General

Construct theories "Truth" as defined Rigorous methods Rarely external time Often irrelevant to
Academic Social for understanding by the disciplines: for constructing constraints information needs
Science Research society other scholars and testing theories; of decision makers
usually retrospective
- - - -

Predict impacts of Actors in the policy Application of formal Sometimes deadline Difficulty in trans-
changes in variables arena:the related methodology to pressure, perhaps lating findings into
Policy Research that can be altered disciplines policy-relevant mitigated by issue government action
by pubiic policy questions: prediction recurrence
of consequences

Defining and achiev- "Public interest" as Established rules Little immediate time Wishful thinking in
ing desirable future professionally and professional pressure because plans when political
Classical Planning state of society defined norms,, specifi- deals with long-term processes ignored
cation of goals future
and objectives

Efficient execution of 'Public interest" as Managerial and Time pressure tied to Exclusion of alter-
The "Old" Public programs estab- embodied in man- legal routine decision natives external to
Administration lished by political dated program maklng such as program
processes budget cycles

Focusing public 1 General pubiic Descriptive Strong deadline Lack of analytical


Journalism attention on societal pressure-strike while depth and balance
problems issue is topical

Systematic compari- Specific person or Synthesis of existing Strong deadline Myopia resulting
son and evaluation institution as decision research and theory pressure-comple- from client orienta-
of alternatives avaii- maker to predict conse- tion of analysis usu- tion and time
Policy Analysis
able to public actors quences of alterna- ally tied to specific pressure
for solving social tive policies decision
problems
Table 2.1 Policy Analysis in Perspective
Major Common Time General
Objective "Client" Style Constraints Weakness

Construct theories "Truth" as defined Rigorous methods Rarely external time Often irrelevant to
by the disciplines; for constructing constraints information needs
other scholars and testing theories: of decision makers
usually retrospective

Predict impacts of Actors in the policy Application of formal Sometimes deadline Difficulty in trans-
changes in variables arena;the related methodology to pressure, perhaps lating findings into
Policy Research1 that can be altered disciplines policy-relevant mitigated by issue government action
by public policy questions: prediction recurrence
of consequences
- - - - -

Established rules Little immediate time


and professional pressure because plans when political
defined norms: speclfl- I deals with long-term processes ignored
cation of goals future
and objectives

Efficient execution of "Public interest" as Managerial and Time pressure tied to Exclusion of aiter-
The "Old" Public programs estab- embodied in man- legal routine decision natives external to
Administration lished by political dated program making such as program
processes budget cycles

Focusing public General public Descriptive Strong deadline


Journalism attention on societal pressure-strike while depth and balance
problems issue is topical

Systematic compari- Specific person or Synthesis of existing Strong deadline Myopia resulting
son and evaluation 1 institution as decision research and theory pressure-comple- from cilent orienta-
of alternatives avaii- maker to predict conse- tion of analysis usu- tion and time
Pollcy Analysis
able to public actors quences of alterna- ally tied to specific pressure
for solving social tive policies decision
problems
i Policy Analysis and Related Professions
What Is Policy Analysis? Chap. 2 r 33
Despite numerous arbitrary and questionable assumptions, the Club o f Rome report
was embraced by many whose worldview associated continued economic growth
goals and objectives, Zoning and land-use ordinances were to serve as the mecha-
with unavoidable environmental degradation. The formality o f the model tended t o
nisms for implementing the master plans.
divert attention from its implicit assumptions.
The impact of urban planning has been limited, however, by the autonomy of
A more focused application of systems analysis is the planning. programming,
local governments that do not fully accept the professionally specified goals and ob-
budgeting system (PPBS), which shares some characteristics with policy analysis.
jectives, by the dynamic o f local economic growth that often takes unanticipated
The basic approach of PPBS is t o identifi all programs that have common objectives
forms, and by a narrow emphasis on physical structure rather than broader issues of
so that budget allocations to those programs can be compared in terms o f their ef-
social behavior. Recognizing the incongruence of the classical planning paradigm
fect~venessin achieving the objectives. PPBS is like policy analysis in that it is di-
with the reality of democratic politics, many planners have urged their profession t o
rected at influencing specitic decisions in the budget cycle. It differs in its attempt to
adopt a more active interventionist role in public decision m a k i q 5 Consequently,
force comprehensive and quantitative comparisons over a wide range o f programs.
many urban and reg~onalplanning schools now require coursework in policy analysis.
Afier some apparent success in the Defense Department, President Lyndon John-
A more recent manifestation o f the planning paradigm was systems analysis,
son ordered its use throughout the federal government in 1965. In 1971, however, its
which attempted to extend the techniques o f operations research beyond narrow ap-
use was formally abandoned by President Richard Nixon's Office o f Management
plications The basic approach of systems analysis involves the construction o f quan-
and Budset. Even this limited form of planning placed too great a strain on available
titative models that specify the links among the multitude of variables o f interest in
knowledge and analytical resource^.^
social or economic systems. The analytical objective is to maximize, or at least
The goal of the '01d"public odrninistrotion was more modest than that of plan-
achieve lower bounds on, certain variables that represent goals by altering other vari-
ning: the efficient management o f programs mandated by the political process. Its
ables that can be manipulated by government. By identifying the many possible inter-
advocates sought to separate the management function from what they saw as the
actions, the systems analyst hopes t o avoid the myopia o f incremental political deci-
corruption o f politics. The words of Woodrow Wilson provide an unequivocal state-
sion making
ment of the basic premise of the old public administration: ". . . administration lies
But systems analysis has tended to be both overambitious and reduction~st.'
outside the proper sphere of politics. Administrative questions are not political ques-
Rarely is there adequate theory or data for the construction of reliable comprehen-
tions. Although politics sets the tasks for administration, it should not be suffered to
sive models. Further, not all important factors are readily subject to quantification. In
manipulate its ~ f i c e s . " The
' ~ ideal is a skillful and loyal civil service free from political
particular, the appropriate weights t o place on the multiple goals that characterize
interference and dedicated to the implementation and efficient administration o f po-
public issues are usually not obvious; the analyst's choice may cloak value judgments
litically mandated programs according to sound principles o f management. In other
In apparent objectivity. Additionaliy, the mystlque o f quantification may give simplis-
words, the sclence of management was insulated from the art o f politics.
tic models more attention than they deserve. Witness, for example, the public atten-
Both the OM public administrat~onand policy analysis are intended to bring
tion given t o the report o f the Club o f Rome on the limits to world growth7-a re-
greater expertise into public endeavors. Once organizational structures for programs
port based on a model with virtually no empirical links to the real world.' A n
have been created, public administrators turn their attention to the routine decisions
apparently rigorous model, it purported t o show that continued economic growth
concerning personnel, budgets, and operating procedures that help determine how
would soon be unsupportable, leading to a dramatic decline in world living standards.
well the programs will meet their mandated goals. Although policy analysts must
concern themselves with questions of organizational design and administrative feasi-
'For example, see Jerome L. Kaufman, 'The Planner as Interventionist In Public Policy Issues," in bility, they seek to influence the choice of programs by the political process. One fo-
Robert W. Burchell and George Sternlieb, eds.. Plonninq Theory m the 1980s: A Search for Future Direc- cuses exclusively on doing well what has been chosen; the other also considers the
tions (New Brunswick. N.J.: The Center for Urban Policy Research. 1978). pp. 179-200. choice ofwhat is to be done.
6For critiques of systems analysis, see Ida R. Woos. Systems Analysis in Public Poliv: A Critique Public administration has gradually come to include policy analysis among its
(Berkeley: University o f California Press, 1972); and Aaron Wildavsky, "The Political Economy of Eff- professional activities. One reason is that the large bureaus and vague legislative
ciency. Cost-Benefit Analysis, Systems Analysis, and Progrm Budgeting." Public Administration Rewew. mandates associated with an expanded public role in society require administrators
Vol. 26, no. 4. 1966, pp. 292-310. For a comparison ofsystems analysis and policy analysis, see Yehezkel
Dror, Analysts: A N e w ProFessional Roie in Government Service." Public Administration Review,
Val. 27, no. 3, 1967, pp. 197-203.
'consider the following assessment: "Although it may fail for many other reasons, such as lack of
'Donella H. Meadows. Dennis L. Meadows. Jorgen Randers, and Willlam W . Behrens Ill. The
polltical support or trained personnel, i t always fails for lack o f knowledge, when and if it IS allowed to get
LimIts to Growth: A Report fw the Club of Rome's Proiect on the Predicament of Mankind (New York: Uni- that far" in Aaron Wildavsky, Budgetmg: A Comparative Theory of Budgetary Processes (Boston L~ttle,
verse Books. 1974).
Brown. 1975). p 354. Also see Allen Schick, "A Death in the B u r e a u ~ r aThe ~ : Demlse o f Federal PPB."
'For critiques o f the Club o f Rome approach, see Wllliam D. Nordhaus. 'World Dynamics: Mea- Public Admrnrstration Revrew. Vol. 33. no. 2, 1973. pp 146156.
surement Without Data," Econorn;~Journol. Vol. 83, no. 332, 1973, pp. 115&1183; Chi-Yuen Wu.
'Woodrow W~lson,"The Study o f Administration." Po1rt;cal Science Quarterly, Vol. 2, no. I,
"Growth Models and Limits-to-Growth Models as a Base for Public Policymaking in Economic Develop- 1887. pp. 197-222.
ment." Polrcy Sciences. Vol. 5 , no. 2, 1974, pp. 191-211: and Julian L. Simon and Herman Kahn, eds.. The
Resourceful Earth: A Response to Global 2000 (New York: Basil Blackwell. 1984).
I Policy Analysis a n d Related Professions
i 33
' 32 What Is Policy Analysis? Chap. 2
j Despite numerous arbitrary and questionable assumptions, the Club o f Rome report
!
goals and objectives. Zoning and land-use ordinances were to serve as the mecha- was embraced by many whose worldview associated continued economic growth
; with unavoidable environmental degradation. The formality o f the model tended to
nisms for implementing the master plans.
The impact of urban planning has been limited, however, by the autonomy o f divert attention from its implicit assumptions.
i
local governments that do not fully accept the professionally specified goals and ob- i
A more focused application o f systems analysis is the planning, programming,
jectives, by the dynamic o f local economic growth that often takes unanticipated ,, budgeting system (PPBS), which shares some characteristics with policy analysis.
The basic approach of PPBS is to identjfy all programs that have common objectives
forms, and by a narrow emphasis on physical structure rather than broader issues o f 1 so that budget allocations to those programs can be compared in terms o f their ef-
social behavior. Recognizing the incongruence of the classical planning paradigm
fectiveness in achieving the objectives. PPBS is like policy analysis in that it is di-
with the reality of democratic politics, many planners have urged their profession to
adopt a more active interventionist role in public decision making.5 Consequently. I rected at influencing specific decisions in the budget cycle. It differs in its attempt to
many urban and regional planning schools now require coursework in policy analysis. I force comprehensive and quantitative compansons over a wide range of programs.
After some apparent success in the Defense Depaitment, President Lyndon John-
A more recent manifestation o f the planning paradigm was systems analysis,
son ordered its use throughout the federal government in 1965. In 1971, however, its
which attempted to extend the techniques of operations research beyond narrow ap-
use was formally abandoned by President Richard Nixon's Office of Management
plications. The basic approach o f systems analysis involves the construction o f quan-
titative models that specify the links among the multitude o f variables of interest in
social or economic systems. The analytical objective is t o maximize, or at least
f and Budget. Even this limited form of planning placed too great a strain on available
knowledge and analytical resource^.^
i. The goal of the 'oid"pu6iic administration was more modest than that of plan-
achieve lower bounds on, certain variables that represent goals by altering other vari- i
ables that can be manipulatedby government. By identifyingthe many possible inter- ning: the eficient management of programs mandated by the political process. Its
actions, the systems analyst hopes to avoid the myopia of incremental political deci- advocates sought to separate the management function from what they saw as the
sion making. corruption of politics. The words of Woodrow Wilson provide an unequivocal state-
But systems analysis has tended to be both overambitious and reductionist.' ment o f the basic premise of the old public administration: ". . . administration lies
Rarely i s there adequate theory or data for the construction o f reliable comprehen- outside the proper sphere of politics. Administrative questions are not political ques-
sive models. Further, not all important factors are readily subject to quantification. In tions. Although politics sets the tasks for administration, it should not be suffered to
particular, the appropr~ateweights to place on the multiple goals that characterize manipulate its office^."'^ The ideal is a skillful and loyal civil service free from political
public issues are usually not obvious; the analyst's choice may cloak value judgments interference and dedicated to the implementation and eficient administration o f po-
in apparent objectivity. Additionally, the mystique o f quantification may give simplis- litically mandated programs according to sound principles o f management. In other
tic models more attention than they deserve. Witness, for example, the p u b l i ~
- atten- words, the science of management was insulatedfrom the art o f politics.
tion given to the report o f the club o f Rome on the limits to world growthf-a re- Both the old public administration and policy analysis are intended to bring
port based on a model with virtually no empirical links to the real world.8 An greater expertise into public endeavors. Once organizational structures for programs
apparently rigorous model, i t purported to show that continued economic growth have been created, public administrators turn their attention to the routine decisions
would soon be unsupportable, leading to a dramatic decline in world living standards. concerning personnel, budgets, and operating procedures that help determine how
well the programs will meet their mandated goals. Although policy analysts must
concern themselves with questions o f organizational design and administrative feasi-
'For example, see Jerome L. Kaufman. 'The Planner as lntervention~stin Publ~cPolicy Issues," in bility, they seek to influence the choice of programs by the political process. One fo-
Robert W . Burchell and George Sternlieb, eds.. Planning Theory h the 1980s: A Search for Future Direc- cuses exclusively on doing well what has been chosen; the other also considers the
tions (New Brunswick. N.J.: The Center for Urban Policy Research, 1978), pp. 179-200. choice of what is to be done.
'For critiques o f systems analysis, see Ida R. Hoos, Systems Analysrs in Publrc Policy: A Crrtique Public administration has gradually come to include policy analysis among its
(Berkeley: University o f California Press, 1972); and Aaron Wildavsky. "The Political Economy o f Efi- professional activities. One reason is that the large bureaus and vague legislative
ciency: Cost-Benefit Analysis. Systems Analysis, and Program Budgeting." Public Administration RevIew. mandates associated with an expanded public role in society require administrators
Vol. 26, no. 4, 1966. pp. 292-310. For a companson of systen~sanalysis and policy analysis, see Yehezkel
Dror. "Policy Analysts: A New Professional Role in Government Service." Publrc Administration Revrew.
Vol. 27, no. 3, 1967, pp. 197203.
'consider the following assessment: "Although it may fail for many other reasons, such as lack of
'Donella H. Meadows. Dennis L. Meadows. Jorgen Randers, and William W. Behrens Ill, The
political support or trained personnel. it always fails for lack of knowledge, when and if it is allowed to get
Llmits to Growth: A Report for the Club ofRome's Project on the Predicament of Mankrnd (New York. Uni-
that fa? in Aaron Wildavsk~,Budgeting: A Cornparatrve Theory of Budgetary Processes (Boston- Little.
verse Books, 1974).
Brown, 1975). p 354. Also see Allen Schick, "A Death ~nthe Bureaucracy. The Demise o f Federal PPB,"
'For critiques of the Club of Rome approach, see Willlam D . Nordhaus, 'World Dynamics: Mea- Public Adminrstration Revrew. Vol. 33, no. 2. 1973, pp. 146156.
surement Without Data,'' Economic Journal, Vol. 83, no. 332, 1973, pp. 115&1183; Chi-Yuen Wu,
'%Vccdrow Wilson. "The Study of Administration." Po1It;cal Scrence Quarterb. Vol 2. no. I,
"Growth Models and Lim~ts-to-GrowthModels as a Base for Public Policvaking in Economic Develop-
1887, pp. 197-222.
ment.'' Poli~ySciences, Vol 5, no. 2, 1974. pp. 191-21 1: and Julian L. Simon and Herman Kahn, eds.. T h e
Resourceful Earth: A Response to Globol2000 (New York: Basil Blackwell. 1984).
1

What Is Policy Analysis? Chap. 2 Policy Analysis as a Profession


35
writing-analysts must be able to explain their technical work in language that can
to choose among alternative policies-they thus become consumers and producers
be understood by their clients. Also, because the attention and time o f clients are
of policy analysis relevant to their own agencies. Another reason lies in the usual ab-
scarce resources, writing must be concise and convincing to be effective.
sence of a clean separation between politics and administration, Woodrow Wilson's
In summary, we gain a perspective on policy analysis by comparing ~tto related
vision notwithstanding. The administrator must be able to secure resources and de-
professions. Like policy research. policy analysis employs social science theory and
fend implementation decisions within the political process. Policy analysis may help
empirical methods to predict the consequences of alternative policies. Like joumal-
accomplish these tasks.
ism, policy analysis requires skills in information gathering and communication. Policy
The 'hew" public odmin~strationexplicitly abandons the notion that administra-
analysis is neither so narrow in scope as the old public administration nor so broad in
tion should be separate from politics." I t s practitioners seek to influence the adoption
scope as classical planning. Yet planners and public administrators who explicitly
as well as the implementation o f policies. Professional training, therefore, must in-
recognize participation in the political process as professionally legitimate may at
clude methods both for predicting the consequences o f alternative policies so that in-
times become advice givers to various political actors, thus playing the role of policy
formed choices can be made and for effectively participating in the political process
analysts.
so that the choices can be realized. Training in public administration thus often in-
cludes course work in policy analysis even though its primary focus remains manage-
ment and operational decision making.
POLICY ANALYSIS AS A PROFESSION
Comparing policy analysis with journalism may at first seem strange. Journal-
ists typically concern themselves with recent events; they are rarely called upon to
Until the 1980s, few o f those actually doing policy analysis would have rdentified
make predictions about the future. When they write about public policy. the need to
themselves as members of the policy analysis profession: even fewer were filling po-
attract a wide readership often leads them to focus on the unusual and the sensa-
sitions labeled "policy analyst.'' Many who do policy analysis held, and continue to
tional rather than the routine and the mundane. Narratives with victims, heros, and
hold, positions as economists, planners. program evaluators. budget analysts, opera-
villains catch readers' interest more effectively than nuanced discussions o f compet-
tions researchers, and statisticians. In recent years, however. the polky analysis pro-
ing social values. Their contribution to the political process, therefore, is more often
fession has emerged as an established profession Positions labeled policy analyst are
introducing policy problems to the public agenda than providing systematic compar-
now more common in government agencies, and often these positions are filled by
isons
-. of alternative solutions. Nevertheless, policy analysts and journalists share sev-
people who have been trained in graduate programs in policy analysis. Many practic-
era1 goals and constraints.
ing analysts trained in a variety o f disciplines have joined with academics to form a
Tight deadlines drive much o f journalist; work. Because news quickly be-
professional organization, the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Manage-
comes stale, they often face the prospect o f not being able to publish unless they
ment." Nevertheless, the profession is still young and those who consider them-
make the next edition. Similarly, the advice o f policy analysts, no matter how sophis-
selves members represent only a fraction o f those actually practicing the craFt o f pol-
ticated and convincing, will be useless i f it is delivered to clients after they have had
icy analysis.
to vote, issue regulations, or otherwise make decisions. Rarely will it be the case o f
Pract~cin policy
~ analysts work in a variety o f organizational settings, including
better late than never.
federal, state, and local agencies and legislatures; consulting firms; research insti-
Tight deadlines lead journalists and policy analysts to develop similar strategies
tutes; trade assoc!ations and ofher organizations representing interest groups; and
for gathering information. Files o f background information and networks o f knowl-
business and nonprofit corporations. W e focus here primarily on the U.S. context,
edgeable people often serve as extremely valuable resources. They may enable jour-
but policy analysts can h b u n d in similar settings in all the major industrialized
nalists to put events quickly in context. They play a sim~larrole for policy analysts,
countries." The way 61:ai;sti pracrice theii crafi ir greatly influenced by the natwe
but may also provide information useful for assessing technical, political, and admin-
of their relationships \:\. ::iitheir- clients and by tlie roles played by the clients in the
istrati\!e feasibility of policy alternatives when time does not permit systematic inves-
political process Becau:~these re!ationships and roles vary greatly acrnis wganiza-
tigation.12 Policy analysts, like journalists, wisely cultivate their information sources.
t~ons,we should expes: t s see a wide range ofanalytical styles. We conjirjer the var-
Finally. communication is a primary concern. Journalists must be able to put
iogs analytical stylei and t h e - athical impllc?tians i r detail in the n ~ x chapter.
t For
their stories into words that will catch and keep the interest o f their readers. Policy
now, let us look at a few exarnpli; ?folpnlzational sett~ngsin uihich poi~cyanalysts
analysts must do the same for their clients. Effecti\/e communication requires clear
work.

1".
i lm~onsider follcwlng. ,'Mew Public Administration seeks not only to carry out legislative
t. ..,
L .. dates i3 i^fl;sientl>, n,d economically as possible, but to both ~nfluenceand execute policies which more i*ssylali~n fm r'ubli~ Pdfw A r h I : s ~ar., m,,L, , (n p~ rjoh, 1 2 ; ~ rl,,hlngt~or,, U,C,
genel.ally lmpl-o,,e qualit" of life fQr all." ti.George Frederickson, "Toward a New' Public A.drninistra- 20036-8736 Infcr~5atimabout membsrsh~n:ind ai-~~-oud ~ : ~ n i p r ~Ct,f31,C,!
~ ~ ~ ,,:~the mliowi,li
t,on,,, Irl F ~ ~ ~~~~~~d~
~ ?.i., ! ~ /verr, fi,b/s A,irnmistratron (Scranton. Pa.: Chandler. 1971). P. 314. World Wide \Vet, 5dJ12si. asi! .,e, .<qu::e:l: v.. li;-.3pcrtm,,, ,bx.J
14 -
"0,- it.,c .dsiue of accumulated see Martha S. Feldrnan. Order kV;thout DesW (palc 41to- tor Internaaonal car!l~ar-i;.jns. 2;- 'v2.'ill1amI ? ! . ~ ~eij,
, 4u,J,s,nc
t7c ;<Ui.~,.: !;.. + ,,, .I.Orl( P_,lSil
Blachwzll. 198;:
i a l $ .;. hdbr d Uni.;.r ;bt.r Pl.esc. 148s).
Policy Analysis as a Profession
, 34 What Is Policy Analysis? Chap. 2 35
writing-analysts must be able to explain their technical work in language that can
to choose among alternative policies-they thus become consumers and producers
be understood by the~rclients. Also, because the attention and time o f clients are
of policy analysis relevant t o their own agencies. Another reason lies in the usual ab-
scarce resources, writing must be concise and convincing to be effective
sence o f a clean separation between politics and administration,Woodrow Wilson's -. -
In summary, we gain a perspective on policy analysis by comparing it to related
- - ~ ~

vision notwithstanding. The administrator must be able to secure resources and de-
professions. Like policy research, policy analysis employs social science theoly and
fend implementation decisions within the political process. Policy analysis may help
empirical methods to predict the consequences o f alternative policies. Like journal-
accomplish these tasks.
ism, policy analysis requires skills in information gathering and communication. Policy
The "new" public administration explicitly abandons the notion that administra-
analysis is neither so narrow in scope as the old public administration nor so broad in
tion should be separate from politics." I t s practitioners seek to influence the adoption
scope as classical planning. Yet planners and public administrators who explicitly
as well as the implementation o f policies. Professional training, therefore, must in-
recognize participation in the political process as professionally legitimate may at
clude methods both for predicting the consequences o f alternative policies so that in-
times become advice givers to various political actors, thus playing the role o f policy
formed choices can be made and for effectively participating in the political process
analysts.
so that the choices can be realized. Training in public administration thus often in-
cludes course work in policy analysis even though its primary focus remains manage-
ment and operational decision making.
Comparing policy analysis with journal~smmay at first seem strange. Journal-
POLICY ANALYSIS AS A PROFESSION
ists typically concern themselves with recent events; they are rarely called upon to
Until the 1980s few of those actually doing policy analysis would have identified
make predictions about the future. When they write about public policy, the need to
themselves as members of the policy analysis profession; even fewer were filling po-
attract a wide readership often leads them to focus on the unusual and the sensa-
sitions labeled "policy analyst." Many who do policy analysis held, and continue to
tional rather than the routine and the mundane. Narratives with victims, heros, and
hold, positions as economists, planners, program evaluators, budget analysts, opera-
villains catch readers' interest more effectively than nuanced discussions of compet-
tions researchers, and statisticians. In recent years, however, the policy analysis pro-
ing social values. Their contribution to the political process, therefore, i s more often
fession has emerged as an established profession. Positions labeled policy analyst are
introducing policy problems to the public agenda than providing systematic compar-
now more common in government agencies, and often these positions are filled by
isons o f alternative solutions. Nevertheless, policy analysts and journalists share sev-
people who have been trained in graduate programs in p i i c y analysis. Many practic-
eral goals and constraints.
ing analysts trained in a variety of disciplines have joined with academics to form a
Tight deadlines drive much o f journalists' work. Because news quickly be-
professional organization, the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Manage-
comes stale, they often face the prospect of not being able to publish unless they
ment.I3 even he less, the profession is still young and those who consider them-
make the next edition. Similarly, the advice o f policy analysts, no matter how sophis-
selves members represent only a fraction o f those actually practicing the craft ofpol-
ticated and convincing, will be useless i f it is delivered to clients after they have had
icy analysis.
to vote, issue regulations, or otherwise make decisions. Rarely will it be the case of
Practicing policy analysts work in a variety o f organizational settings, including
better late than never.
federal, state, and local agencies and legislatures; consult~ngtirms: research insti-
Tight deadlines lead journalists and policy analysts to de\felop similar strategies
tutes; trade assoc!ations and other organizations representing interest groups; and
for gathering information. Files o f background information and networks of knowl-
business and nonprofit corporations. W e focus here primarily on the US.context,
edgeable people often serve as extremely valuable resources. They may enable jour-
but policy analysts can he h u n d in s~milarsettlngs in all the major industrialized
nalists to put events quickly in context. They lay a sim~larrole for policy analysts,
countries." The way a:rysti praccice their craft is greatly influenced by the nature
but may also provide information useful for assessin2 technical, political, and admin-
o f their relationships i \ ~ their i
cl~ents
~and by the roles played by the clients in the
istrative feasibility of policy alternat~veswhen time does not permit systematic inves-
political process. Becau:~those relationships and roles vary greatly acrgss organira-
tigation.'' Policy analysts, like journalists, wisely cultivate their infixmation sources.
tions, \ve should exper: to see a wide range d'analytical styles. We consider the Val--
Finally, communication is a primary concern. Journalists must be able to put
ioils analytical styles and thelj- sthical implicrtiims in detail in the next chapter. For
their stories lnto words that will catch and keep the interest of their readers. Policy
now, let us look at a few examplci of o~pnizationalsettlnps in which pci~cy analysts
analysts must do the same for their clients. Effective communication requires clear
work.

Consider the f o l l ~ w ~ n "blew


g: Publlc Admlnlstration seeks not only t o carry out legislative man-
dates ~ 9 i ~ i e n t z~,d
ii l); as possible, but to both influace and execute policies which more l%ssaca~ion for IJublic F'r-iiw 1ri"l:n.; nr..: Yar~a~erncnt, PC i;oii ~ ; ~ ( !i.~,Jshlno~or,,
, 0.c.
20036-8736 infcricati?n about mernbershjr, 2nd a i - ~ ~ - ,conC-;en=- u~l :an b r r.r.ia,-rc(! -.:the f c l i o w ~ n ~
generally inpl~o\,e the qualit" o f life far all." H. G e u r g Frederickson. "Toward a N e w Public Administra-
Worid Wide \.lle'et sdcl~r-si:asit .,el
.;1\1er:!~:;,. :3; - - ,p,,,,,, .,vJ/
tion," irl Frank Mar~nl.e.l , Towordo /Vew Public Ailministrot~on(Scranton, Pa.: Chandler. 1971). p. 31.1.
" ~ a rinterna~~onal
conipa~-i;.>ns. i\'~lliam?!lLir, e d , AIIVIS,,!~ (1..
''On the value o f ,accumulated studies, see Martha S. Feldman. Order Without Des~gn(Pale 41to. ( 7 r?U!tr:
~ ?.i'\.Url: ESSir
Black\vell. 1987;
i :alif. 3-~~~1;,1-d
\jni,;a-,it., Pres~.198").
36 . W h a t Is Policy Analysis? Chap. 2 Policy Analysis As a Profession
37
First, consider the U.S. federal government. Where would w e find policy ana- in the General Accounting Office ( G A ~ ) , the ' ~ Congressional Budget Office
lysts? Beginning with the executive branch, w e could start our search right in the (CBO), the Congressional Research Service (CRS), and, until its recent elimination,
White House, where w e would find small but influential groups of analysts in the the OfFice of Technology Assessment (oTA)." T h e analytical agendas of these of-
National Security Council and Policy Development staffs. A s presidential appointees fices are set primarily by the congressional leadership, but sometimes by the requests
in politically sensitive positions, they generally share closely the philosophy and goals of individual congressional members a s well. O f course, members of congress have
of their administration. Their advice concerns the political, a s well a s economic and their own personal staffs, including legislative analysts. Most of the analysis and for-
social, consequences of policy options. They often coordinate the work of policy mulation of legislation, however, is done by committee staffs that report to commit-
analysts in other parts of the executive branch. tee chairs and ranking minority members." Committee staffers, often recruited from
T h e O 6 c e of Management and Budget (OMB) and, t o a lesser extent, the the campaign and personal staffs of members of congress, must be politically sensi-
Council of Economic Advisors (CEA) also play coordinating roles in the federal gov- tive if they are t o maintain their positions and influence. Congressional staff involved
ernment. Analysts in O M B are responsible for predicting the costs t o the federal with legislation-and therefore t o some extent working as policy analysts, even
government of changes in policy. They also part~cipatein the evaluation of particular though often trained as lawyers-number in the thousands.22
programs. T h e major role that O M B plays in the preparation of the administration H o w influential is policy analysis in policy formation and choice in Congress?
budget gives its analysts great leverage in disputes with the federal agencies; it also Based on his detailed study of communication surrounding four policy issues in the
often leads the analysts t o emphasize budgetary costs over social costs and bene- areas of health and transportation. Da-&-Whiteman concludes: "The results . . .
fits.15Analysts on the C E A d o not play as direct a role in the budgetary process and clearly indicate that policy analysis clearly does flow through congressional commu-
therefore retain greater freedom t o adopt the broad perspective of social costs and nication networks. In three of the four issues examined. analytic information played
benefits. Without direct leverage over the agencies, however, their influence derives a significant role in congressional deliberation^."'^ Much of the communication takes
largely from the percept!on that their advice is based on the technical expertise of the place through discussions between congressional staffers and analysts in government
discipline of economic^.^" offices and think tanks rather than a s formal written reports.
Policy analysts work throughout the federal agencies. In addition t o small per- Turning t o state governments, w e find a similar pattern. Governors and
sonal staffs, agency heads usually have analytical ofices reporting directly t o them." agency heads usually have staffs of advisors w h o do policy analysis. Most states
These ofices have a variety of names that usually include some combination of the have budget offices that play roles similar t o that of O M B at the federal Per-
words "policy," "planning," "administration," "evaluation," "economic," and "bud- sonal and committee staffs provide analysis in the state legislatures; in some states
get.'"8 For example, a t various times, the central analytical ofice in the Department such as California, the legislatures have offices much like the Congressional Budget
of Energy has been called the "OfFice of the Assistant Secretary for Policy and Eval- Office t o analyze the impact of proposed legislation.
uatton" and the "Policy. Planning, and Analysis Ofice." Often, the heads of agency
. .
subdivisions have analytical staffs that provide advice and expertise relevant t o their
substantive responsibilities. Later in this chapter, w e briefly consider policy analysls
in the Department of Health and Human Services t o illustrate the sorts of functions I 9 ~ h General
e Accounting Office and the Bureau o f the Budget, the forerunner o f O M B , were
analysts perform in federal agencies. established in 1921 with the creation ofan executive budget system. During much ofits history. G A O de-
Policy analysts also abound in the leg~slativebranch. Both the Congress as a voted its efforts primarily t o auditing government activities. In the late-1960s. however. G A O became a
whole and its individual members serve as clients. Policy analysts work for Congress major producer ofpolicy analysis ~nthe form of program evaluations with recmmendations for future ac-
tions. Because G A O must serve both parties and both legislative houses, and because its reports are gen-
erally public, it faces stronger incentives t o produce politically neutral analyses than OMB. For a compar-
ative history o f these "twins." see Frederick C. Mosher. A Tale of T w o Agencies: A Comparative Analysis
of the General Accounting Ofice and the Ofice of Management and Budget (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State
"For a d~scussiono f the inst~tutionalrole o f O M B . see Hugh Heclo. " O M B and the Presidency:
University Press. 1984).
The Problem of Neutral Competence," Public Interest, no. 38. 1975, pp. 80-98. For a history o f O M B .
see Larry Berman, The Ofice of Management and Budget and the Presidency 1921-1979 (Princeton, N.J. or an account of the elimination of the O T A and a comparison with the larger conzressional
Princeton University Press, 1979). support agencies that survived, see Bruce B~mber.The Politics ofExpertise ,n Congress. The Rise and Fall
ofthe Ofice of Technology Assessment (Albany: State University o f N e w York Press. 1996).
IbHerbert Stein. "A Successful Accident: Recollections and Speculations about the CEA," Jour-
nolofconomic Perspecti\,es. Vol. 10, no. 3. 1996, pp. 3-21. "see Carol H.Weiss, "Congressional Committees as Users o f Analysis," Journolof Policy Analy-
"For example, on the role of analys~sat the State Department, see Lucian Puzliaresi and Diane T . sisandManagernent. Vol. 8, no. 3. 1989, pp. 41 1-431
Berliner. "Pol~cyAnalys~sat the Department o f State: The Policy Flanning Staff," Journal of Polrcy Analy- " ~ i c h a e lJ. Malbin. Unelected Representatives (New York: Basic Books. 1980), pp. 252-56.
sis and Managemenr, Vol, 8. no. 3, 1989, pp. 379-94. Also see Robert H. Nelson, "The Office of Policy Z 3 ~ a v iWhiteman.
d Communication in Congress: Members. StaIff: and the Search for Information
Analys~sin the Department o f the Interior." pp. 395110 in the same issue. (hwrence: University o f Kansas Press. 1995). p. 181.
I S ~recently
s as the mid-1970s only a small fraction of the ofices responsible for doing policy 2 4 ~ oarsurvey, see Robert D. Lee. Jr.. and Raymond J. Staffeldt. "Executive and Legislative Use
analysis actually had ''policy'' or "policy analysis" In their names. Arnold J. Meltsner. Policy Analysts in the of Policy Analysis in the State Budgetary Process: Survey Results," Policy Arrolys,s. Val. 3, no. 3. 1977,
Bureaucracy (Berkeley: University ofCalifornia Press. 1976). pp. 173-77. pp. 395-405.
W h a t Is Policy Analysis? Chap. 2
Policy Analysis As a Profession

First, consider the U.S. federal government. Where would w e find policy ana- in the General Accounting Office (GAO).I9 the Congressional Budget Office
lysts? Beginning w i t h the executive branch, w e could start our search right in the (CBO), the Congressional Research Service (CRS), and, until its recent elimination.
White House, where w e would find small but influential groups o f analysts in the the Office o f Technology Assessment (OTA)." The analytical agendas o f these of-
National Security Council and Policy Development staffs. As presidential appointees fices are set primarily by the congressional leadership, but sometimes by the requests
in politically sensitive positions, they generally share closely the philosophy and goals o f individual congressional members as well. Of course, members o f congress have
o f their administration. Their advice concerns the political, as well as economic and their own personal staffs, including legislative analysts. Most o f the analysis and for-
social, consequences o f policy options. They often coordinate the work o f policy mulation of legislation, however, is done by committee staffs that report t o commit-
analysts in other parts o f the executive branch. tee chairs and ranking minority r n e m b e r ~ .Committee
~' staffers, often recruited from
The Office o f Management and Budget ( O M B ) and, t o a lesser extent, the the campaign and personal staffs o f members of congress, must be politically sensi-
Council o f Economic Advisors (CEA) also play coordinating roles in the federal gov- tive if they are t o maintain their positions and influence. Congressional staff involved
ernment. Analysts in O M B are respons~blefor pred~ctingthe costs t o the federal with legislation-and therefore t o some extent working as policy analysts, even
government o f changes in policy. They also participate in the evaluation o f particular though often trained as lawyers-number in the thousands.22
programs. The major role that O M B plays in the preparation o f the administration H o w influential is policy analysp in policy formation and choice in Congress?
budget gives its analysts great leverage in d~sputeswith the federal agencies; it also Based on his detailed study o f commun~cat~on surrounding four policy issues in the
often leads the analysts t o emphasize budgetary costs over social costs and bene- areas o f health and transportation, Da'hfWhiteman concludes: "The results . . .
f i t ~ .Analysts
'~ on the C E A do not play as direct a role in the budgetary process and clearly indicate that policy analysis clearly does flow through congressional commu-
therefore retain greater freedom t o adopt the broad perspective o f social costs and nication networks. In three of the four issues examined. analytic information played
benefits. Without direct leverage over the agencies, however, their influence derives a significant role in congressional de~iberations."~~ Much o f the communication takes
largely from the perception that their advice is based on the technical expertise o f the place through discussions between congressional staffers and analysts in government
discipline o f economic^.'^ offices and think tanks rather than as formal written reports.
Policy analysts work throughout the federal agencies. In addition t o small per- Turning t o state governments, w e find a similar pattern. Governors and
sonal staffs, agency heads usually have analytical offices reporting directly to them.I7 agency heads usually have staffs o f advisors who do policy analysis. Most states
These offices have a variety o f names that usually include some combination o f the
have budget offices that play roles similar t o that o f OMB at the federal Per-
words "policy," "planning," "administrat~on," "evaluation," "economic," and "bud- sonal and committee staffs provide analysis in the state legislatures; in some states
get."I8 For example, at various times, the central analytical ofice in the Department such as California, the legislatures have offices much like the Congresshnal Budget
o f Energy has been called the ''Ofice o f the Assistant Secretary for Policy and Eval- Office t o analyze the impact o f proposed legislation.
uation" and the "Policy, Planning, and Analysis Office." Often, the heads o f agency
subdivisions have analytical staffs that provide advice and expertise relevant t o their
substantive responsibilities. Later in this chapter, w e briefly consider policy analysis
in the Department o f Health and Human Services t o illustrate the sorts o f functions I 9 ~ h General
e Accounting Office and the Bureau o f the Budget, the forerunner o f OMB, were
analysts perform in federal agencies. established in 1921 with the creation ofan executive budget system. During much o f its history, GAO de-
Policy analysts also abound in the legislative branch. Both the Congress as a voted its efforts primarily to auditing government activities. In the late-1960s, however, GAO became a
major producer o f policy analys~sin the form o f program evaluations with recommendations for future ac-
whole and its individual members serve as clients. Policy analysts work for Congress
tions. Because GAO must serve both parties and both legislative houses, and because its reports are gen-
erally public, it faces stronger incentives t o produce politically neutral analyses than OMB. For a compar-
ative history of these "twins." see Frederick C . Mosher, A Tale of Two Agencies: A Comporotiw Analysis
"For a discussion of the institut~onalrole o f O M B . see Hugh Heclo, " O M B and the Presidency: of the General Accounting Ofice and the Ofice of Manapment and Budget (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State
The Problem o f Neutral Competence." Publjc Interest, no. 38, 1975, pp. 80-98. For a history o f OMB. University Press. 1984).
see Larry Berman, The Ofice ofMonagement and Budget and the Presidency 1921-1979 (Princeton. N.J.: 'O~oran account o f the elimination o f the O T A and a comparison with the larger congressional
Pr~ncetonUniversity Press. 1979). support agencies that survived, see Bruce Bimber. The Politics of Expertrse tn Congress: The R~seand Fall
''Herbert Stem. " A Successful Accident: Recollections and Speculations about the CEA." Jour- o f the Ofice of Technology Assessment (Albany: State University o f N e w York Press, 1996).
nal of Economtc Perspectives, Vol. 10, no 3, 1996, pp. 3-2 1. "see Carol H. Weiss, "Congressional Committees as Users o f Analysis." Journal of PaIiv Analy-
"For example. on the role o f analysis at the State Department, see Lucian Pugliares~and Diane T . SisandManagement, Vol. 8, no. 3. 1989, p p 411431.
Berliner. "Policy Analysis at the Department o f State: The Policy Planning StaK" Journal o f Policy Anoly- " ~ i c h a e lJ. Malbin, UnelectedRepresentatives(New York: Basic Books. 1980). p p 252-56.
srs and Management, Vol. 8. no. 3, 1989, pp. 379-94. Also see Robert H. Nelson, 'The O f i c e o f POIICY avid Whiteman. Communtcation ,n Congress: Members, Staff: and the Search for InJormation
Analysis in the Department o f the Interior." pp. 395410 in the same issue. (Lawrence: University of Kansas Press. 1995). p 181.
'%s recently as the mid-1970s only a small fraction o f the ofices responsible for do~ngwlicy 2 4 ~ oarsurvey. see Robert D. Lee, Jr.. and Raymond J. Staffeldt. "Executive and Legislative Use
analysis actually had "policy or "policy analysis" in their names. Arnold J. Meltsner, Pal~cyAnalysts in the of Policy Analysis in the State Budgetary Process: Survey Results." Poliv Analysis. Vol. 3, no. 3. 1977,
Bureaucracy (Berkeley: University o f California Press, 1976). pp. 173-77. pp. 395-405.
What Is Policy Analysis? Chap. 2 A Closer Look at Analytical Functions

tanks with strong ideological identifications, however, have predispositions toward


At the county and municipal levels, legislative bodies rarely employ persons
particular policies that often interfere with the professional validity o f the analyses
who work primarily as policy analysts.25Executive agencies, including budget and
they provide.
planning offices, usually do have some personnel whose major responsibility is policy
Finally, large numbers o f analysts neither work for, nor sell their services to,
analysis. Except in the most populous jurisdictions, however, most analysis is done
governments. They often work in profit-seekingfirms in industries heavily regulated
by persons with line or managerial duties. Consequently, they often lack the time,
by government. in trade as ociations and national labor unions concerned with par-
expertise, and resources for conducting analyses o f great technical sophistication.
ticular areas of legislation. dnd in nonprofit corporations that have public missions in
Nevertheless, because they often have direct access to decision makers, and be-
cause they can often observe the consequences o f their recommendations firsthand, their charters. For ex?-ple, consider a proposal to make health insurance premiums
paid by employers count as taxable income for employees. Private firms, trade asso-
policy analysts at the local level can find their work professionally gratifying despite
ciations, and labor unions would seek analysis to help determine the impact o f the
the resource constraints they face.
What do public agencies do i f their own personnel cannot produce a desired or proposed change on the pattern and cost of employee benefits. The American Med-
ical Association would seek analysis of the impact on the demand for physician ser-
mandated analysis? I f they have funds available, then the agencies can purchase
vices. Health insurance providers, such as Blue Cross and Blue Shield, commercial
analysis from consultants. Local and state agencies commonly turn to consultants
insurers, and health maintenance organizations, would want predictions of the effect
for advice about special issues, such as the construction o f new facilities or major re-
o f the change on the demand for their plans and the cost o f medical care. These in-
organizations, or to meet evaluation requirements imposed by intergovernmental
terests might also ask their analysts how to develop strategies for supporting, fight-
grant programs. Federal agencies not only use consultants for special studies, but
also as routine supplements to their own staff resources. In extreme cases, consult-
f ing, or modifying the proposal as it moves through the political process.
t It should be obvious fiom our brief survey that policy analysts work in a vari-
ing firms may serve as "body shops" for government ofices, providing the services o f
ety of organizational settings on problems ranging in scope from municipal refuse coi-
analysts who cannot be hired directly because o f civil service or other restrictions2'
The importance o f the relationship between client and analyst is extremely ap- lection to national defense. But what sorts of functions do analysts actually perform
in their organizations?
parent to consultants. Usually. the consultants are paid to produce specific products. If
they wish to be rehired in the future by their clients, then they must analyses
that the clients percetve as useful. Consultants who pander to the prejudices o f their
clients at the expense o f analytical honesty are sometimes described as "hired guns" or
A CLOSER LOOK AT ANALYTICAL FUNCTIONS
"beltway bandits." Consultants best able to resist the temptation to pander are proba-
bly those who have a large clientele, provide very specialized skills, or enjoy a reputa-
At the beginning of this chapter, we pointed out that the nature o f policy analysis
can vary widely. In the subsequent chapters, we set out a framework for doing com-
tion for providing balanced analysis; they will not suffer greatly from the loss o f any one
prehensive policy analysis-how an individual analyst should go about producing a
client, and they will be able to find replacement business elsewhere if necessary.
Researchers in academia, "think tanks." and policy research institutes also pro- structured analysis that assesses problems presented by clients and systematically
compares alternatives for solving them. This is the most appropriate pedagogic ap-
vide consulting services. Although their work is usually not directly tied to specific
proach because it encompasses the range o f functions that analysts commonly per-
policy decisions, researchers at places like the Rand Corporation, the Brookings In-
form. By mastering it, analysts not only prepare themselves for performing the inclu-
stitution, the American Enterprise lnstitute for Public Policy Research, the Urban
sive functions but also gain a useful framework for putting what they are do~nginto
Institute, Resources for the Future, the Institute for Defense Analyses, and the lnsti-
perspective.
tute for Research on Public Policy (Canada) sometimes do produce analyses o f nar-
row interest for specific clients. It is often difficult in practice to determine whether Rather than describe these inclusive functions in the abstract, we present a
brief overview of some o f the policy analytic functions identified by the Department
these researchers better fit the policy analysis or the policy research paradigms pre-
o f Health and Human Services (DHHS). W e single out D H H S for t w o reasons.
sented above. With the explosion in the number o f think tanks in recent years, more
First, it is a very large federal agency with responsibilities that demand the full range
and more issues attract policy analyses from think tanks.27Many of the newer think
o f analytical functions. Second, D H H S has written down what it sees to be the im-
portant functions o f its policy analysts.
D H H S i s very large by any measure. It oversees many specialized agencies,
25Thereare some exceptions See Gale G.Whiteneck, Assessment of State and Local Government such as the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes o f Health, the
Ei~aluat,onPract,ces: A n h,oluation Unit Profle (Denver: Denver Research InstituteIUniversity o f Denver.
Health Care Financing Administration, and the Centers for Disease Control and
March 1977).
Prevention, to name just a few. In fiscal year 1997, it administered spending o f over
26Fora ,tudy o f the use o f consultants by the federal government, see James D. Marver. Consul- $340 billion, issued more grants than any other federal agency, and employed more
tants Can Help (Lexington, Mass : Lexington Books, 1979).
than 130,000 people nationwide in i t s constituent units. As such, it is one o f the
*'For instance, The Capital Source (Washington, D C : The National Journal, Fall 1997) lists 114
largest and most complex bureaus in the world D H H S is o f such size and scope
think tanks in the Washington area (pp. 73-75) from the Alan Guttmacher Institute, which focuses on
that the Office of the Secretary (OS), the central coordinating office for H H S , itself
population issues, to the Worldwatch Institute, which focuses on environmental issues.
A Closer Look at Analytical Functions
38 What Is Policy Analysis? Chap. 2 39
tanks with strong ideological ident~fications, however, have predispositions toward
A t the county and municipal levels, legislative bodies rarely employ persons
who work primarily as plicy analysts.25Executive agencies, including budget and
articular policies that often interfere with the professional validity o f the analyses
they. .provide.
Finally, large numbers o f analysts neither work for, nor sell their services to,
planning offices. usually do have some ~ersonnelwhose major responsibility is policy
analysis. Except in the most populous jurisdictions, however, most analysis is done
governments. They often work in profit-seeking firms in industries heavily regulated
by persons with line or managerial duties. Consequently, they often lack the time.
by govemment, in trade as ociations and national labor unions concerned with par-
expertise, and resources for conducting analyses o f great technical sophistication.
ticular areas of legislation, bnd in nonprofit corporations that have public missions in
Nevertheless, because they often have direct access to decision makers, and be-
their charters. For e x ~ - e l econsider
, a proposal to make health insurance premiums
cause they can often observe the consequences o f their recommendations firsthand,
policy analysts at the local level can find their work professionally grati6ing despite
aid by employers count as taxable income for employees. Private firms, trade asso-
ciations, and labor unions would seek analysis to help determine the impact o f the
the resource constraints they face.
proposed change on the pattern and cost of employee benefits. The American Med-
What do public agencies do if their own personnel cannot produce a desired or
ical Associat~onwould seek analysis o f the impact on the demand for physician ser-
mandated analysis? If they have funds available, then the agencies can purchase
vices. Health insurance providers, such as Blue Cross and Blue Shield, commercial
analysis from consultants. Local and state agencies commonly turn to consultants
insurers, and health maintenance organizations, would want predictions o f the effect
for advice about special issues, such as the construction of new facilities or major re-
of the change on the demand for the? plans and the cost o f medical care. These in-
organizations, or to meet evaluation requirements imposed by intergovernmental
terests might also ask their analysts how to develop strategies for supporting, fight-
grant programs Federal agencies not only use consultants for special studies, but
ing, or modiQing the proposal as it moves through the political process.
also as routine supplements to their own staff resources. In extreme cases, consult-
It should be obvious from our brief survey that policy analysts work in a vari-
ing firms may serve as "body shops'' for government offices, providing the services of
ety of organizational settings on problems ranging in scope from municipal refuse col-
analysts who cannot be hired directly because of civil service or other restrictions."
lection to national defense. But what sorts o f functions do analysts actually
The importance of the relationship between client and analyst is extremely ap-
in their organizations?
parent to consultants. Usually, the consultants are paid to ~roduce specific prducts. If
they wlsh to be rehired in the future by their clients, then they must produce analyses
that the clients perceive as useful. Consultants who pander to the prejudices of their
A CLOSER LOOK AT ANALYTICAL FUNCTIONS
clients at the expense o f analytical honesty are sometimes described as "hired guns" or
'beltway bandits." Consultants best able to resist the temptation to pander are proba-
At the beginning o f this chapter, we pointed out that the nature o f policy analysis
bly those who have a large clientele, ~rovidevery specialized skills, or enjoy a reputa-
can vary widely. In the subsequent chapters, we set out a framework for doing com-
tion for providingbalanced analysis; they will not suffer greatly from the loss of any one
prehensive policy analysis-how an individual analyst should go about producing a
client, and they will be able to find replacement business elsewhere i f necessary.
structured analysis that assesses problems presented by clients and systematically
Researchers in academia, "think tanks," and policy research institutes also pro-
compares alternatives for solving them. This is the most appropriate pedagogic ap-
vide consulting services. Although their work is usually not directly tied to specific
proach because it encompasses the range o f functions that analysts commonly per-
policy decisions, researchers at places like the Rand Corporation, the Brookings In-
form. By mastering it, analysts not only prepare themselves for performing the inclu-
stitution, the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, the Urban
sive functions but also gain a useful framework for putting what they are doing into
lnstitute, Resources for the Future, the lnstitute for Defense Analyses, and the Insti-
tute for Research on Public Policy (Canada) sometimes do produce analyses o f nar- . ,
wrswctive.
Rather than describe these inclusive functions in the abstract, we present a
row interest for specific clients. It is often difficult in practice to determine whether
brief overview of some o f the policy analytic functions identified by the Department
these researchers better fit the policy analysis or the policy research paradips pre-
o f Health and Human Services (DHHS). W e single out DHHS for two reasons.
sented above. With the explosion in the number o f think tanks in recent years, more
First, it is a very large federal agency with responsibilities that demand the full range
and more issues attract policy analyses from think tanks.27Many o f the newer think
of analytical functions Second, DHHS has written down what i t sees to be the im-
portant functions o f its policy analysts.
D H H S i s very large by any measure. It oversees many specialized agencies,
25Thereare some exceptions. See Gale G. Whiteneck, Assessment of Stote and Loco1 Government such as the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health, the
Evaluation ProctJces:An Evoluotion Unit Profile (Denver: Denver Research InstituteIUn~vers~ty
o f Denver. Health Care Financing Administration, and the Centers for Disease Control and
March 1977).
Prevention, to name just a few. In fiscal year 1997, it administered spending o f over
'6For a study o f the use of consultmts by the federal government, see James D. Marver. Consul- $340 billion, issued more grants than any other federal agency, and employed more
tants Con Help ( L e x ~ n ~ t oMass.:
n, Lexington Books. 1979)
than 130,000 people nationwide in its constituent units. As such, it is one o f the
"For instance. The CopitolSource (Washington. D.C.: The National Journal, Fall 1997) lists 114 largest and most complex bureaus in the world. DHHS is o f such size and scope
think tanks In the Washington area (pp. 73-75) from the Alan Guttmacher Institute, which focuses on
that the Office of the Secretary (OS), the central coordinating ofice for HHS, itself
population issues, t o the Worldwatch Institute, which focuses on environmental Issues
What Is Policy Analysis? Chap. 2 Basic Preparation for Policy Analysis
41
staff because a key committee is preparing to mark up a bill. to helping . . . [the] O f -
employs approximately twenty-four hundred people. The purpose o f the OS in- fice of the Secretary prepare for a meeting with a key outside group t o m ~ r r o w . ' " ~
cludes providing independent advice and analysis concerning program issues, analyz- The term "firefighting" conveys the urgency of the task^-analysts drop whatever
ing trade-offs among programs, and developing common policies across agencies. else they are doing until the fire is put out!
While much o f what the OS does involves administrat~onand monitoring, there is no
These four categories of functions show the great variety o f tasks that ana-
clear separation o f these tasks from policy analysis. lysts are routinely called upon to perform. Some o f these tasks are ongoing, others
Although policy analysts can be found throughout DHHS, it is useful t o focus
are episodic. Some have short deadlines, others extend for long periods. Some are in-
on the Office of the Assistant Secretary, Planning and Evaluation (ASPE), because
ternal to the analysts' organizations, others require interactian with external m i y s t s
it has the clearest and most direct mandate for doing policy analysis. (The Office o f and decision makerrSome involve topics of great familiarity, others present novel is-
the Assistant Secretary, Management and Budget has closely related policy analysis sues. What sorts o f basic skills help analysts prepare for this diversity o f tasks?
responsibilities, but with greater emphasis on budgetary and cost issues: the two of-
fices often work together on ~ o l i c yanalysis projects.) ASPE analysts perform a vari-
I
etv
-- I of
-~functions. A n ASPE orientation document specjf;cally alerts new analysts to
~- -
BASIC PREPARATION FOR POLICY ANALYSIS
four major functions that they will be likely to perform:"
First, analysts play a "desk officei' function that involves coordinating policy
Policy analysis is as much an art and a craR as a ~cience.~' Just as the successful
relevant to specific program areas and serving as a contact for the line agencies portraitist must be able to apply the skills of the crafi o f painting within an aesthetic
within DHHS that have responsibilities in these areas. For example, a desk officer perspective, the successful policy analyst must be able to apply basic skills within a
might cover biomed~calresearch issues and work closely with analysts and other per-
reasonably consistent and realistic perspective on the role o f government in society.
sonnel at the National Institutes o f Health. Desk oficers serve as the eyes and ears In order to integrate effectively the art and craft ofpolicy analysis, preparation in five
of the department, "going out to the agency. talking with the staff about issues and areas is essential.
options before they reach decision points. and knowing what issues are moving and
First, analysts must know how to gather, organize, and communicate informa-
what are not.''29Desk officers are also expected to reach outside of D H H S to iden-
tion in situations in which deadlines are strict and access to relevant people is limited.
tlfy concerns and ideas from academics and those who deal with the programs in the They must be able to develop strategies for quickly understanding the nature o f pol-
field. By staying on top of issues, desk officers can provide quick assessments of pro- icy problems and the range of possible solutions. They must also be able to identify,
posed policy changes in their areas.
at least qualitatively, the likely costs and benefits of alternative solutions and com-
Second, analysts perform a policy development function. This is important to
municate these assessments to their clients. Chapter 10 focuses on the development
D H H S because ASPE resources "constitute some o f the few flexible analytic re- ofthese basic informational skills.
sources in the Policy development often involves special initiatives
Second. analysts need a perspective for putting perceived social problems in
within DHHS, but it can also be done through task forces that include personnel
context. When is it legitimate for government to intervene in private affairs? In the
from other departments. These initiatives often result in policy option papers or spe- United States, the normative answer t o this question has usually been based on the
cific legislative proposals.
concept of market jiilure-a circumstance in which the pursuit o f private interest
Third, analysts perform a policy research and oversight function. ''ASPE
does not lead to an efficient use o f society's resources or a fair distribution o f soci-
spends approximately $20 million a year in both policy research and evaluation ety's goods. But market failures, or widely shared normative claims for the desirabil-
funds" to carry out this core function3' I t is important to emphasize that D H H S ,
ity of social goals other than efficiency. such as greater equity in the distributions o f
like many other government agencies, contracts out a considerable amount o f pol-
economic and political resources, should be viewed as only necessary conditions for
icy-relevant research, therefore analysts at ASPE are both consumers and praduc-
appropriate government intervention. Sufficiency requires that the form o f the inter-
err o f policy research and analysis. ASPE analysts also participate in reviews o f the vention not involve consequences that would inflict greater social costs than social
research plans of other agencies, help formulate and justify plans for allocating evalu-
benefits. Identification of these costs o f intervention is facilitated by an understand-
ation funds, and serve on agency ~anelsthat award research contracts and grants. ing of the ways collective action can fail. In other words, the analyst needs a per-
Fourth, analysts perform a "firefighting" funct~on.Fires can be "anything from
spective that includes government jiilure as well as market failure. The six chapters
a request from the White House to review the statement o f administration accom-
of Part I1 provide such a perspective. Chapters 4. 5. 6, and 7 analyze the various
plishments on welfare reform . . . to preparing an instant briefing for congressional market failures and other rationales that have been identified; Chapter 8 discusses
the systematic ways that government interventions tend to lead to undesirable social
'8Ass~stantSecretary. Pollcy and Evaluat~on."All About APSE: A Guide for APSE Staff." no
date.
''lbid., E-I.
lalbid.,E-2. ' j ~ o ran excellent statement of th~sviewpoint, see Aaron Wildavsky. Speok,ng Trurh to Power:
The Art and Crafiof Poliiy Analysis (Boston: Little. Brown, 1979). pp. 38-06,
3'lbid.. E-2.
What Is Policy Analysis? Chap. 2 Basic Preparation for Policy Analysis
41
staff because a key committee is preparing to mark up a bill, to helping . . . [the] Of-
employs approximately twenty-four hundred people. The purpose o f the 0 s in- fice of the Secretary prepare for a meeting with a key outside group tomorrow."32
cludes providing independent advice and analysis concerning program issues, analyz- The term "firefighting" conveys the urgency of the task-analysts drop whatever
ing trade-offs among programs, and developing common policies across agencies.
else they are doing until the fire is put out!
While much of what the OS does involves administration and monitoring, there is no -.
I hese four categories o f functions show the great variety o f tasks that ana-
clear separation o f these tasks from policy analys~s. lysts are routinely called upon to perform. Some of these tasks are ongoing, others
Although policy analysts can be found throughout DHHS, it is useful to focus
are episodic. Some have short deadlines, others extend for long periods. Some are in-
on the Office o f the Assistant Secretary, Plann~ngand Evaluation (ASPE), because
ternal to the analysts' organizations, others require interaction with external analysts
it has the clearest and most direct mandate for doing policy analysis. (The Ofice of
and decision make~s.Someinvolve topics o f great fmiliarity, others present novel i r
the Assistant Secretary, Management and Budget has closely related policy snal~sis
sues. What sorts o f basic skills help analysts prepare for this diversity o f tasks?
responsibilities,but with greater emphasis on budgetary and cost issues; the two of-
fices often work together on policy analysis projects.) ASPE analysts a vari- 1
etv of functions. A n ASPE orientation document spe$cally alerts new analysts to
- -
BASIC PREPARATION FOR POLICY ANALYSIS
four major functions that they will be likely to perform:'"
First, analysts play a "desk officer'' function that involves coordinating policy
Policy analysis is as much an art and a crafi as a science." Just as the successful
relevant to specific program areas and serving as a contact for the llne agencies
portrait~stmust be able to apply the skills of the crafi o f painting within an aesthetic
within D H H S that have responsibilities in these areas. For example, a desk officer
perspective, the successful policy analyst must be able to apply basic skills within a
might cover biomedical research issues and work closely with analysts and other per-
reasonably consistent and realistic perspective on the role o f government in society.
sonnel at the National Institutes o f Health. Desk officers serve as the eyes and ears In order to integrate effectively the art and crafi of policy analysis, preparation in five
o f the department, "going out to the agency. talking with the staff about issues and
areas is essential.
options before they reach decision points, and knowing what issues are moving and
First, analysts must know how to gather, organize, and communicate infonna-
what are not."29Desk officers are also expected to reach outside o f DHHS to iden-
tion in situations in which deadlines are strict and access to relevant people is limited.
tify concerns and ideas from academics and those who deal with the programs in the
They must be able to develop strategies for quickly understanding the nature o f pol-
field. By staying on top o f issues, desk officers can provide quick assessments o f pro-
icy problems and the range o f possible solutions. They must also be able to identify,
posed policy changes in their areas.
at least qualitatively. the likely costs and benefits o f alternative solutions and com-
Second, analysts perform a policy development function. This is important to
municate these assessments t o their clients. Chapter 10 focuses on the development
DHHS because ASPE resources "constitute some o f the few flexible analytic re- o f these basic informational skills.
sources in the ~ e ~ a r t m e n t . "Policy
~' development often involves special initiatives -
Second, analysts need a perspective for putting perceived social problems in
within D H H S , but it can also be done through task forces that include ~ersonnel context. When is it legitimate for government to intervene in private affairs? In the
from other departments. These initiatives often result in policy option papers or spe- United States, the normative answer to this question has usually been based on the
cific legislative proposals.
concept of market failure-a circumstance in which the pursuit o f private interest
Third, analysts perform a policy research and oversight function. "ASPE
does not lead to an eficient use o f society's resources or a fair distribution o f soci-
spends approximately $20 million a year in both policy research and evaluation ety s goods. But market failures, or widely shared nonnative claims for the desirabil-
funds" to carry out this core f ~ n c t i o n . ~
It' is important to emphasize that DHHS.
i y of social goals other than eefciency, such as greater equity in the distributions o f
like many other government agencies, contracts out a considerable amount o f pol-
economic and political resources, should be viewed as only necessary conditions for
icy-relevant research, therefore analysts at ASPE are both consumers and produc-
appropriate government intervention. Sufficiency requires that the form o f the inter-
ers o f policy research and analysis. ASPE analysts also participate in reviews o f the vention not involve consequences that would inflict greater social costs than social
research plans o f other agencies, help formulate and justify plans for allocating evalu-
benefits. Identification o f these costs o f intervention is facilitated by an understand-
ation funds, and serve on agency panels that award research contracts and grants.
ing of the ways collective action can fail. In other words, the analyst needs a per-
Fourth, analysts p e h r m a "firefighting" function. Fires can be "anything from
spective that includes governmentjiilure as well as market failure. The six chapters
a request from the White House to review the statement o f administration accom-
of Part II provide such a perspective. Chapters 4, 5, 6, and 7 analyze the various
plishments on welfare reform . . . to preparing an instant briefing for congressional
market failures and other rationales that have been identified; Chapter 8 discusses
the systematic ways that government interventions tend to lead to undesirable social
'8~ssistantSecretary. Policy and Evaluat~on,"All About APSE A Guide for APSE Staff." no
date.
2'lbid.. E-1.
301bid..E-2. r excellent statement o f this vtewpoint. see Aaron Wildavsky. Speoktng T r o h
3 3 ~ oan to Power:

"lbid.. E-2. (Boston: Little, Brown. 1979),pp. 385406.


The Art and Crafi o f Policy Analysis
62 What Is Policy Analysis? Chap. 2

outcomes: and Chapter 9 reviews generic policy solutions for correcting market and
government failures. These chapters provide a "capital stock o f ideas for categoriz-
ing and understanding social problems and proposing alternative policies for dealing
with them.
Third, analysts need technical skills to enable them t o predict better and to
evaluate more confidently the consequences o f alternative policies. The disciplines o f
economics and statistics serve as primary sources for these skills. Although w e intro-
duce some important concepts from microeconomics, public finance, and statistics in
the follow~ngchapters, those readers who envision careers in policy analysis would
be well advised t o take courses devoted t o these subjects.34Even an introduction t o
policy analysis, however, should include the basics o f benefit-cost analysis, the sub-
ject of Chapter 12. Chapters 15 and I6 illustrate the application o f benefit-cost analy-
sis and related techniques.
Fourth, analysts must have an understanding o f political and organizational be-
havior in order t o predict, and perhaps influence, the feasibility o f adoption and suc-
cessful implementation o f policies. Also, understanding the worldviews o f clients and
potential opponents enables the analyst t o marshal evidence and arguments more ef-
fectively. W e assume that readers have a basic familiarity with democratic political
systems. Therefore, practical applications o f theories o f political and organizational
behavior are ~ntegratedwith subject matter throughout the text, but particularly in
the context o f thinking strategically about attaining goals (Chapter 13), information-
gathering skills (Chapter lo), and government failure (Chapter 8), and in the case
studies (es~eciallvC h a ~ t e r15).
ina ail^,
a n i l y s t s ' ~ h o ~ lhave
d an ethical framework that explicitly takes ac-
count o f their relationships t o clients. Analysts often face dilemmas when the private
preferences and interests o f their clients diverge substantially from their own percep-
tions o f the public interest. Approaches t o the development o f professional ethics for
policy analysts is the subject o f the next chapter.

34
There are three reasons why a solid ground~ngIn economics and statist~csis important for the
professional policy analyst: (I) the techniques o f these disciplines are often directly applicable to policy
problems: (2) researchers who use economic models and statistical techniques are important sources of
policy research-the abil~tyt o iriterpret the~rwork is therefore valuable: and (3) analytical opponents may
use or abuse these techniques-self-protection requires a basic awareness of the strengths and limitat~ons
of the techniques.