Government as a Service

Here is a novel idea: Let’s treat government as a service. Wow! What a great innovation for all of us. When Republicans take power, they could provide better services for less and thereby cut everyone’s taxes—massively.

In order for the government to catch up, the public sector should turn to SaaS to solve their IT and citizen experience challenges. Software as a service (SaaS) is a software distribution model in which a cloud provider hosts applications and makes them available to end users over the Internet. It opens up endless possibilities that mark the “end of the world as we know it,” to quote a famous song.

We all detest government inefficiency, bureaucracy, and what has become a bloated and overly politicized, administrative state. We shouldn’t put up with it and don’t have to any longer. 

SaaS platforms could deliver the same or vastly improved experience day in and day out for all citizens. Whether it’s a township with a population of less than 1,000 or a state with a population well over 10 million, or the whole United States, innovative technology is available to all. SaaS and private sector tech empower governments not just to improve their overall operations but to give citizens an experience they have come to expect but which is totally lacking when it comes to government. In one fell swoop, we could change things, not in piecemeal fashion or with a few gimmicky experiments, but top-down across the board. Mandated and enforced on day one, we can throw away government 1.0.

Modern, tech-savvy conservatives who want limited government and decentralization to foster the empowerment of citizens are coming to realize that it is necessary to come to understand this technology. In addition, the government agencies themselves should understand and recognize their situation and realize technology like this can help improve and increase their capabilities to foster better, easier, and cheaper government. By harnessing SaaS platforms, we can achieve what the political landscape has failed to materialize. Less government, reduced bureaucracy, and massive savings. 

The size and scope of government has gotten just too large, too complex, and too expensive. The federal government in the United States has grown to over eleven million employees. Under Obama and now Biden, the federal workforce has grown exponentially. In 2022 the gross cost of government is $7.3 trillion. The total U.S. debt has soared past $31 trillion dollars, with interest costs of $718 billion annually, which now makes up about 12 percent of all federal funding. It is rising as interest rates creep upwards.

I would argue the average U.S. citizen is not getting anywhere near the value he or she deserves from our government, at all levels, particularly considering the significant percentages of income going into taxes. Again, we need to change mindsets as corporations and businesses have done. We need to turn the present situation on its head and use SaaS, and similar platforms, to transform government into more of a service. It would be the end of government as a costly, stale, one flavor, dead institution overseen and run by an elitist expert class.

Using design thinking and digitization, we can do the government we want, better, faster, cheaper. This is not utopian, either. It can and should be done even if it takes a strong will and a sharp knife to make the necessary cuts and reorganization. Digital transformation is simply the process of using digital technologies to create new—or modify existing—processes, culture, and customer experiences to meet changing business and market requirements. Government is not immune to these changes and badly needs to catch up with all the other players and engagements we experience in our day-to-day experiences. By dropping the legacy systems with which we have been burdened, we can start over and do it right.

In the process, we can get rid of at least half of the federal workforce and see similar cuts across the board at every governmental level. How could we do that, looking at what has been achieved across other sectors in recent years?

  • Hospital Corp of America (known as HCA) rolled up insolvent public hospitals beginning in the ’60s, making Nashville a hub for healthcare management (most notably hospital companies). HCA has spawned an industry of spinoffs that are private companies succeeding in a predominately public economic sector. With 50 years of maturity, there is much to learn from there: many doctors still believe “I’m in the business of saving lives, not saving money.” Entrepreneurs have created knock-off ideas in other industries: Corrections Corp of America (now CoreCivic), Education Corp of America, and Infrastructure Corp of America.
  • A Nashville startup, iConstituent, has aimed to connect public officials and their constituents. It has struggled, apparently, because the priorities of public officials are instead to raise money and stay elected, and their resources are directed to reelection, not better services. 
  • Tennessee Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn has proposed (with others) to relocate U.S. federal agencies around the country. This would decentralize control, place functions closer to their customers (Department of Interior, Labor, Agriculture, etc.), and, most of all, give Americans a chance to shake up entrenched bureaucracies. 

A key question in the new reality is what “services” government should actually provide. 

Dozens of training programs, agencies, and efforts are poorly structured, duplicative, and mismanaged. Some are redundant, others unnecessary. Many municipalities now outsource garbage collection, which the private sector does so much more efficiently. Medicare Advantage programs illustrate another way that the private sector outperforms public bureaucracies. And private mediation is much less expensive than long, drawn-out court trials. Outsourced security can be more controllable and dependable than depending on police. 

The upcoming Supreme Court rulings on the administrative state, following this year’s decision in West Virginia v. EPA, could radically widen the opportunities to do what is contemplated here. 

We should also mention charter schools, which even some Democrats are beginning to support. That movement is decades old but needs to be completely funded and incentivized to replace inferior public schools dominated by power-seeking teacher unions which do not have students’ best interests at heart. 

With the recent ruling that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau funding scheme is unconstitutional, finance regulation might be ripe for change. That would open still other doors. In fact, banking is already being transformed into Banking as a Service (BaaS).

A more radical proposal along these lines would entail rethinking political representation. Using technology for more direct participation would mean politicians could become, as originally intended, part-time and definitely not permanent fixtures. The people themselves could decide a raft of issues, thereby disintermediating the greedy pols and all their fundraising, constant commercials, and campaigning. 

Conservatives should step forward and say that the government ought to be out of the business of controlling the healthcare, education, finance, energy, and transportation sectors (plus other smaller, less vital sectors). They ought to be in the business of common defense, a justice system, and stable currency. Less would mean more and especially more freedom and choice by employing technology.

This is not a dream. 

All this raises the question of how “government as a service” relates to outsourcing, privatizing, and “rightsizing.” Can we not abolish whole departments or agencies altogether? 

Said another way, to improve service, government should be disentangled from many of these services rather than reforming their delivery through government. There will always be some (limited) government and we should get what we pay for. Government workers might resist such moves but does the country exist for them or for all its citizens? 

Look for more: Insist on more GaaS.

About Theodore Roosevelt Malloch

Theodore Roosevelt Malloch, scholar-diplomat-strategist, is CEO of the thought leadership firm The Roosevelt Group. He is the author of 18 books, including The Plot to Destroy Trump and, with Felipe J. Cuello, Trump's World: GEO DEUS. He appears regularly in the media, as a keynote speaker, and on television around the world. 

Photo: iStock/Getty Images

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