Government Program Termination in the USA

Why are government programs seldom terminated?

Usually, if the evaluation of some program shows that its findings are negative, it is terminated. If it becomes known that there was some inefficiency or fraud, the same thing happens. And, of course, in the case of negative benefit-cost ratios, the program is dismissed. However, government programs are commonly known to avoid such an ending even in the situations mentioned above. This happens due to several facts.

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Government programs are not funded by one person who spends an immense amount of money and will get furious when loses it. Even if the program needs hundreds of millions of dollars, people who provided them are likely to spend no attention to it. It is because, as a rule, the benefits of the program are gained by a small constituency that cares about the outcomes, while the costs are divided between a huge uninformed public. Each person pays about one dollar, so there is a possibility that he/she will not even know that became a sponsor. That is why these people will not demand the termination of the program.

People who supervise government programs depend on them, as the occupation of their jobs is tightly connected with the continuation of the program. The beneficiaries do not want to lose the advantages they gain (money, prestige) and do everything to support the program. Strong incentives exist for bureaucrats to resist or undermine negative evaluations of their programs, to respond to public criticism by making only marginal changes in their programs, or even by claiming that their programs are failing because not enough is being spent on them (Peters, 2012).

One more reason is that attention is almost always focused on changes or reforms, increases or decreases, rather than on the complete termination of programs (Zhang, 2009). The programs are not usually evaluated in a year. Their parts can be considered but not the whole.

Please present an example of a government program that should have been terminated and explain how it may have survived

An example of a program that should have been terminated is a research and development program that concentrates on commercial deployment and technology development programs. It seems to have no noticeable effect and only decelerates the development of energy technologies that are aimed at finding implement and viable ones. The government seems to spend a lot of money and time on this program with the best intentions, but in fact, only provide funding for the things that are already available. Such activities as carbon capture cannot function as they are supposed to due to the limits and regulations.

Moreover, they are very expensive and, thus, unprofitable. This leads to the situation that we have now when the government programs just spend the money that could be funded on something more promising.

I believe that this program survived due to several reasons. First of all, many people, who do not want to deepen into the subject and just gained some basic information, strongly believe that renewable energy is a great advantage. They are not interested in understanding what strategy is the best and are satisfied with what they have. That is why they are not interested in the termination of the program.

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Moreover, the amount of money they spend on it is not that great. To avoid troubles and difficulties they prefer to pay no attention to the failure (Peters, 2012). One more reason is that people who maintain the program do not want to lose their positions and try to prove that the things they do are very important, and they will achieve success soon. As other programs in the sphere are also funded, they show that the research does not stop the progress but enhance and empower it.


Peters, G. (2012). American public policy: Promise and performance. London, United Kingdom: SAGE Publications.

Zhang, L. (2009). Study on obstacles to policy termination. Journal of Politics and Law, 2(4), 98-102.

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