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Government Mission Statements: Are These Examples Humorous or Realistic?

Updated on April 28, 2013

Generally, when I write an article, it has a rather serious tone, usually explaining a topic in business or mathematics. This article is much more relaxed and I invite you, the reader, to participate in the poll questions below and share any comments you have.

For this article, I have chosen the mission statements from three well-known government agencies. Please read through them carefully and then give your opinion in the questions that follow.

Patrick Donahoe, Postmaster General

The United States Postal Service

The following is the mission statement of the USPS taken from that organization's website:

The mission of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service is to support and protect the U.S. Postal Service and its employees, infrastructure, and customers; enforce the laws that defend the nation’s mail system from illegal or dangerous use; and ensure public trust in the mail.

Do you think the USPS lives up to this mission statement?

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Which of the following do you think this mission statement has as its highest priority?

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The postal service has suggested dropping Saturday mail delivery. Do you think this policy change is in line with the mission statement?

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I was standing in a client's office about 15 years ago when an elderly gentleman who worked for my client walked in. He proceeded to show us a letter he had just received in the mail. The owner and I were unimpressed until we looked at the postmark on the stamp. It was dated 1946. The letter had gotten lost and was not found for about 50 years.

Douglas H. Shulman, IRS Commissioner

The Internal Revenue Service

Now we turn our attention to everyone's favorite organization: the IRS. I am sure everyone is looking back fondly to April 15. The following is the mission statement of the IRS as posted on its website:

Provide America's taxpayers top quality service by helping them understand and meet their tax responsibilities and enforce the law with integrity and fairness to all.

Do you think the IRS lives up to its mission statement?

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Which of the following in the mission statement do you think the IRS does best?

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Which of the following in the mission statement do you think the IRS does worst?

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I have helped represent several clients before the IRS and this representation has ranged from simple form mistakes to full-scale audits. There is no such thing as a "kindly, gentler IRS."

William Craig Fugate, Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

When major disasters strike, FEMA is often called to assist in the aftermath. The following is the mission statement of FEMA as given on their website:

FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.

Do you think FEMA lives up to its mission statement?

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Which of the following reflects how you feel about this mission statement?

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Final Thoughts

Just like regular businesses, governmental agencies should have well thought out mission statements that define their actions. This article has been a less serious look at the mission statements of three of our most popular federal government agencies. If you have not taken the time to complete the poll questions, please do so. I am very interested in your opinions. Also, if you wish, you may comment on this entire article.

There are two final thoughts. First, if a mission statement is not followed, it is worthless and needs to be abandoned. But that also implies the organization has no boundary for its actions and can end up in strategic "quicksand". Second, I always look at the mission statement and try to find out what or who has the highest service priority. This will often tell a lot about an organization.

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