By Steve Kelman

Blog archive

The Lectern: Remembering life before the fear industry ran the show

Readers of this blog may remember that I have been interviewing a number of senior executives from the Clinton and Bush administrations nominated by fellows of the National Academy of Public Administration and principals of the Council for Excellence in Government as having undertaken important efforts to realize an important vision while in government service. Today, I interviewed another senior Clinton administration agency manager, and the tone was so different from what we hear today, from White House officials and Congress, that I am unable to resist feeling nostalgic. Two things the executive spoke about caught my attention. One was that whenever an agency achievement was being publicly highlighted, White House officials always wanted the agency to be represented in the first instance not by the agency's politically appointed head -- but by a frontline civil servant involved in the effort. Any procurement folks remember Michelle Craddock, the frontline HHS contracting officer who contributed to the legislation language for the government purchase card in the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act of 1994 and was invited to the Rose Garden for the bill signing ceremony and acknowledged in President Clinton's remarks? The second was how the executive repeatedly emphasized the importance of supporting career folks who tried something new, even if things didn't work out. He recalled a situation in which, initially, a job redesign employees had developed to improve the way the organization worked initially actually lowered productivity. Although, eventually the redesign raised productivity. Under attack from outside interest groups, the executive publicly defended what the employees had done. "This is huge," the executive reported that a senior career manager told him. "Everyone in the organization will hear that the boss backed up the employees who innovated." Can we expect -- or at least hope -- that a change in the White House would bring us an era where innovation and excellence in government are promoted -- or will Democrats take the easy way out of allying with Washington's fear industry?

Posted by Steve Kelman on Oct 05, 2007 at 12:08 PM


Featured

  • FCW Perspectives
    human machine interface

    Your agency isn’t ready for AI

    To truly take advantage, government must retool both its data and its infrastructure.

  • Cybersecurity
    secure network (bluebay/Shutterstock.com)

    Federal CISO floats potential for new supply chain regs

    The federal government's top IT security chief and canvassed industry for feedback on how to shape new rules of the road for federal acquisition and procurement.

  • People
    DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, shown here at her Nov. 8, 2017, confirmation hearing. DHS Photo by Jetta Disco

    DHS chief Nielsen resigns

    Kirstjen Nielsen, the first Homeland Security secretary with a background in cybersecurity, is being replaced on an acting basis by the Customs and Border Protection chief. Her last day is April 10.

Stay Connected

FCW INSIDER

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.