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This Is No Way to Run a Government

By David Bernhardt

What follows is a stress-tested perspective on the challenges faced by political appointees whose attempts to navigate the bureaucratic swamp and drive change are met with the recalcitrance of the administrative state. Because decision-making power has been delegated deep into the bowels of federal agencies, employees often ignore or frustrate the president’s policies absent clear direction by political leadership. You Report to Me highlights my own experiences with very different approaches to presidential oversight and with executive management of the bureaucracy. I present my views as someone who was initially called to public service as a junior political appointee in the George W. Bush Administration and rose through the political ranks over a decade of public service to lead the same cabinet department.

On a cold day in December 2018, while serving as the deputy secretary at the U.S. Department of the Interior, I received a directive to report to the Oval Office to meet with the president of the United States. This was the first time I had been called to the Oval Office, and the circumstances were not ideal.

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