By Steve Kelman

Blog archive

Secret Service program could be a recruiting model for other agencies

I blogged last week about my student Steve Ander's consulting project for the Partnership for Public Service on how government agencies could improve their ability to recruit graduating students. I should note that Steve has landed a great job after graduation. He will be entering the Special Advisor program of the U.S. Secret Service, established three years ago through the personal initiative of Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan. Based on an earlier program at the FBI, the Special Advisor program aims to attract master's students from top-ranked business or public policy/adminstration schools into fast-track positions that actually begin at the GS-13 level, making the starting salary within range (although lower) than starting salaries our students generally get if they work for consulting firms on graduation. (By contrast, our master's students are often required to enter other federal jobs at the GS-9 level, which makes salaries very uncompetitive with the private sector.)  Steve, a top Kennedy School student, turned down a private-sector consulting job for the position at the Secret Service.
The special advisors are a small group (three to four) of well-trained and highly motivated young people put into a three-year program that generally involves three rotations in different parts of the Secret Service. The special advisors are given lead responsibility inside the division where they work for discrete tasks, often involving improving the management of the Secret Service -- examples over the past few years include everything from developing models to predicting travel costs for Secret Service agents during presidential election years to implementing the implementation of the agency's balanced scorecard to a project to consolidate agency contracts to leverage the organization's buying power. The program is modeled on an earlier and somewhat larger program developed at the FBI, which began with a few Harvard MBA’s. Both programs are open to applicants from any background, but have found top-tier MBA’s and public policy / administration students – many from the Kennedy School – have been the most successful at landing these positions.
Clearly, the FBI and the Secret Service have a brand name that makes it easier to attract top students into a program such as this. However, I believe more agencies could, and should, be setting up programs of this sort to attract very top students such as Steve Ander. Three things are key:  the personal interest of top executives (as with Mark Sullivan at the Secret Service), very interesting job assignments and, last but not least, grade levels that make these jobs more competitive salary-wise for our best students.

Posted by Steve Kelman on Apr 28, 2009 at 12:08 PM


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