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Donald Devine

TFAS Senior Scholar


Donald Devine is senior scholar at The Fund for American Studies in Washington, D.C. He served as President Ronald Reagan’s civil service director during the president’s first term in office. During that time, The Washington Post labeled him “Reagan’s Terrible Swift Sword of the Civil Service” for cutting bureaucratic excesses and reducing billions in spending.

Before and after his government service, Devine was an academic, teaching 14 years as associate professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland and for a decade as a professor of Western civilization at Bellevue University. In the definitive work on Frank Meyer’s essays, Devine was listed as one of the dozen “leading lights” of the postwar fusionist reevaluation of conservative and libertarian thinking.

He is a columnist appearing regularly in The American Spectator, The Imaginative Conservative and Law & Liberty and is the author of 10 books, including his most recent, “The Enduring Tension: Capitalism and the Moral Order” and “Political Management of the Bureaucracy.”

Today, Devine writes and teaches young people, speaking about reviving the Constitution and what Reagan called the secret of its success: the way it harmonized freedom and tradition in its fragile balance called federalism.

To learn more about Devine’s lectures and seminars, please visit the links below:

To book Dr. Devine to speak to your campus or organization, please contact TFAS Special Events Director Jane Mack at jmack@TFAS.org.

Op-Eds by Dr. Donald Devine



The FBI’s Own History Exposes the Often-Rogue Agency

With Federal Bureau of Investigation whistleblowers regularly informing Congress about agency abuses, it is difficult to remember that the FBI was once a quiet little bureaucracy mainly confirming facts for U.S. Department of Justice legal decision-making. Today the FBI is involved in everything from national-security excesses to charges of playing politics to protect one president and indict another. Just now, an ex-FBI counterspy chief has pled guilty to laundering funds for a Russian billionaire.

The Thales Way: The Book That Can Save American Education

Would you be interested in a book on reforming education by a man who created flourishing grade, middle, and high school charter schools, all with waiting lists today, found them too mired in government bureaucracy and so started 13 even more successful purely private campuses in 2007 — and who is willing to share his secrets of success with you?

Republicans Need a New Approach to Foreign Policy

In a speech reprinted in National Review, former Trump National Security Adviser John Bolton attempted a resolution to the debate by quoting George Washington’s warning that Americans should have “as little political connection [to foreigners] as possible” and support only America’s interests. But then he pivoted to add a long list of countries where U.S. values must be defended: “China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea all qualify.”

Thank Media’s Toxic Culture Wars for Today’s Universal Unhappiness

Is there anyone in the U.S. who doesn’t think America is in serious cultural decline? Trumpists, Never Trumpists, conservatives, progressives, the far Left, and the radical Right all define it differently, but all are unhappy, even our serene centrists.

The Strange Idea That a Cabinet Officer Should Report to the President

David L. Bernhardt, former U.S. secretary of the interior, deputy secretary, solicitor, and an independent agency commissioner, lets us in on an intriguingly strange secret about what insiders like him would recognize was an exceptional command he received from a U.S. president.

Left, Right and Center Agree Big Government Doesn’t Work

Government Executive public administration expert Donald F. Kettl has recently come to the painful conclusion that the conservative Heritage Foundation’s Mandate for Leadership 2025 proposal on government reform is “a thoughtful but piercing critique of the existing civil service system.”

Ronald Reagan Is Still the Answer to Conservative Disarray

Just about everyone these days believes that the political Right is in disarray. It does not know what it is for or against. It is both rejecting every old principle and clinging to any solution that might give it power — but deep down is certain nothing can be done, all doom and gloom. What conservatism needs is some convincing optimism, one based upon solid experience, philosophical truths, and earned results. Conservatives need a challenge.

Biden Administration Politicizing Civil Service Background Investigations

One would think we could all agree that foreign spies and domestic crooks are not good for government employment and that a universally accepted and fair methodology for keeping them out is essential to good administration. Unfortunately, the Biden administration has just now proposed a major new regulation called “OPM Suitability and Fitness Vetting Proposal,” which could dramatically politicize the whole civil service employment vetting process.

Implementing Ronald Reagan’s Recession Survival Kit

Don’t be confused by the latest numbers. Smart forecasters still predict a deep recession. Brian S. Wesbury and Robert Stein at First Trust Portfolios have been reliable guides over recent decades. They expressed some hope for a correction over the last two years, but by mid-year they saw a serious recession coming. Not misled by a late government-reported 2.9 percent increase in gross domestic product and more jobs, they explained that about half of the increase in real GDP was due to building inventories, “which isn’t sustainable and is almost certain to slow by late 2023.”

Pope Benedict’s Parting Challenge

With all that has been said about the passing of Pope Benedict XVI, most of it neglects the larger historical context—his prediction of the end of our era and his vision for the one to follow it. One must begin back in the decade following the horrors of World War I in April 1917. By then the Enlightenment Era’s victory for universal peace and prosperity was reckoned so successful as to justify a serious proposal to “outlaw war.” It resulted in a Kellogg-Briand Pact that was signed by all the world powers, including the US and Germany.