In October 2020, Just Security published the Good Governance Papers, in which leading experts explored actionable legislative and administrative proposals to promote non-partisan principles of good government, public integrity, and the rule of law. Earlier this year, in connection with the one-year mark of the Biden administration, we invited authors to provide brief updates on their Papers and, where applicable, further recommendations for the Biden administration and Congress. For more information, please see the introductions to the original series and to the updated series.

Today, as President Joe Biden prepares to deliver the State of the Union, we have collected the updates published to date in a brief “Report Card” summary below. The Report Card is divided into (1) updates for which the authors noted some meaningful progress since publication of the original Papers; (2) updates where the authors assessed that there has been some movement but more improvement is needed; and (3) updates where the authors concluded there was little to no progress. No policy reforms reviewed qualified for “A+/Exceeded Expectations”-level progress. (Several Papers for which the authors were unavailable to participate in the updates, primarily because they are now in government themselves, or for which updates may be forthcoming, are not included in the Report Card. A complete list of the original Papers is available at the bottom of this page.)

At the time of the original Good Governance Papers in October 2020, the United States had already experienced a number of dramatic events, including the systematic rule-of-law violations and norm breaking that prompted the original Papers as well as the first nine months of a global pandemic. Now, a year and a half later, the United States has weathered a contested presidential election, an insurrection, a persistent pandemic, and – with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last week and Russia calling a nuclear alert – existential questions about the international legal order and control over nuclear weapons. Against this backdrop of geopolitical uncertainty, it is clearer than ever that the strength and stability of democratic, law-based institutions matter, serving as a bulwark against both domestic and international authoritarianism.

To that end, we encourage readers interested in these issues to review the complete analyses of the Good Governance Papers and 2022 updates, linked below.

* * *

Updates Reflecting Some Progress:

Updates Reflecting Positive Momentum, But More Improvement Needed:

Updates Reflecting Little to No Progress:

  • No. 5: Prepublication Review – How to Fix a Broken System (2022 Update) by Oona Hathaway and Jack Goldsmith. Widespread recognition of the need to reform the prepublication review system governing millions of former federal employees failed to result in any policy changes. The next step is judicial review in Edgar v. Haines, which the authors are covering in a Just Security/Lawfare series that begins here.
  • No. 6: Domestic Military Operations (2022 Update) by Mark Nevitt. No progress on recommendations for reform of the Insurrection Act, the Posse Comitatus Act, or National Guard Authorities. One sliver of hope: the District of Columbia National Guard Home Rule Act, introduced last year, could give the Mayor of the District of Columbia authority over the DC National Guard, equivalent to that enjoyed by governors.
  • No. 20: Reporting and Strengthening Norms of Nuclear Restraint (2022 Update) by Dakota S. Rudesill. The Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol was a catastrophic near-miss for the nuclear command and control system, due to deep concern about the president’s judgment and the peril in which the insurrection placed the top successors to the presidency and the Vice President’s nuclear “football.” So far, however, Congress has not acted to reform the system.