Lesley Field: 'Take whatever priorities come our way and make them work'

The deputy administrator of the OFPP discusses the importance of continuity and career employees’ critical role.

Lesley Field
 

Lesley Field is the winner of FCW’s 2017 President’s Award in recognition of her career-long commitment to civil service and efficient government.

Field started her career as a Transportation Department intern and since 2008 has been deputy administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy. She has stepped into the acting administrator role four times, ultimately running OFPP longer than most of her politically appointed bosses.

She spoke with FCW in early March about the importance of continuity and career employees’ critical role. Her remarks have been edited for length and clarity.

How long have you been at OFPP?

I came in as a staff analyst at the very beginning of 2001 and was appointed as the deputy in August of 2008. Then probably maybe a month or six weeks later I was made acting administrator.

Nothing like diving right in! What’s it like to step in and out of that role as one administrator leaves and the next one comes in?

I think that continuity is so critical. We’ve got 40,000 contracting officers out there who look to our small team for guidance and leadership. And then it’s important to set the groundwork for any new team or person who comes in here to understand this is what the landscape looks like.

Political turnover is not just every four or eight years. Does that churn hurt agencies’ effectiveness?

There are so many civil servants who step in at a moment’s notice to keep that continuity. That’s really critical.

But I’ve gotten to see a number of great administrators come and go. What’s great about that is every person brings a new focus. It makes our initiatives even better and sharper. Our job as career people is to take the best of all of that and make our agencies even better.

What are you doing now to ensure that the next OFPP administrator can jump in and succeed?

We’re making sure the teams that are coming in understand the work that’s been done and the foundation that’s there. Then we also have to be able to show flexibility in pivoting to different priorities.

I think that’s our job: to show what’s come before, what works and what could be improved, then be able to take whatever priorities come our way and make them work. It’s all part of the career civil service, which I’m really proud to be a part of.

 

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