The news that the District government has continually refused help from the federal government is surprising to those of us in the federal arena. It is unthinkable to reject help that can actually save money—particularly considering the money crunch facing the D.C. government.
However, to whatever extent the rejection goes beyond arrogance or incompetence at the local level, it is indicative of an attitude that is pervasive in the state and local community. Many executives believe they can deliver services to their citizens better, faster and less expensively than the federal government traditionally has done. They see devolution as the hot topic of the times. (For those still challenged by the local vocabulary, "devolution" is the passing of funds and authority from a central government to local government units.)
Many state CIOs are not interested in buying off federal schedules, saying they can get far better prices on their own.
I suspect that it is not that simple. The states have found at various times during this country's history that there are advantages to cooperation—and union. The challenge now is to find ways to work together. The Intergovernmental Enterprise Panel, chartered by the NPR's GITS, is one group looking for ways to cooperate and improve the service delivery.
It would be a mistake for states to reject federal know-how, any more than they would reject federal money.