Deputy chiefs key to transition

Career executives can provide stability during a change in administration.

Overhead recently at a government agency: “Can you believe those career folks are starting to work on the transition?”That’s exactly what career executives — particularly deputy chief executive officers — should be doing with an election looming in about 20 weeks. The career CXOs will be running the show at their agencies while they await the appointment and confirmation of new political executives.“This time next year, it’s going to be the deputy CXOs who are running the government,” said Jonathan Breul, executive director at the IBM Center for the Business of Government and former senior adviser to the deputy director of management at the Office of Management and Budget. “It’s…the career officials who are going to be acting for some period of time. This isn’t a short-term arrangement, and it could last for quite a while.” At the Energy Department, Deputy Chief Human Capital Officer Rita Franklin, a career civil servant, began tackling the transition six months ago. “It’s the right thing to do because we have to be prepared for the next person that will come in,” she said. “In coming months, about a quarter of my time will be spent on transition, and as it gets closer to election time and thereafter, probably half to three-quarters of my time will be spent on transition-related activities.”Once DOE’s politically appointed CHCO departs, Franklin will temporarily assume the top role — as will most other deputy chief executives governmentwide. “My position description is that I act in the absence of,” she said. During that time, Franklin said, she will continue to follow the department’s current human-capital priorities until the new CHCO arrives.At the General Services Administration, career officials started preparing six months after the last presidential election, said David Bibb, GSA’s acting administrator. “We have everything ready to go.” Bibb is working on briefing papers for the next GSA administrator. He plans to address long-standing issues, such as the proliferation of acquisition contracts that have led to what he described as an overlapping, confusing excess of options. At the Social Security Administration, preparations for previous transitions — presidential or simply agency leadership — have provided a framework for the coming transition to a new administration.“Transition is something that happens with a greater frequency than we think about,” said deputy CHCO Felicita Sola-Carter, who has served at SSA since 1971. “Presidential transitions happen every four years. Even if you don’t have a change in party, there are changes in some of the lead players in the administration.”Bibb said experienced career executives have ample opportunity to practice dealing with transitions because agency political appointees change more frequently than every four years. It’s common to have two or three agency heads during a single presidential term.“The career executives are constantly in-briefing a new political appointee,” Bibb said. “It can be [a] distraction from the agency mission.”The Labor Department’s deputy chief information officer, Tom Wiesner, hasn’t been through a presidential transition as a deputy CIO, so the experience will be a new one, he said. Nevertheless, Wiesner has some idea of what needs to happen. “Later this fall, we’ll start putting together briefing books and information to get the new CIO up to speed.”In general, career executives provide a bridge for incoming political appointees, said Rob Burton, deputy administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy at OMB.“The career people really are the cornerstone of every federal agency,” Burton said. “The value they provide is hard to quantify. They’re there for consistency, they’re there for expertise. The key to a political appointee’s success is a reliance on the competence of the career employees.”Unfortunately, some political appointees don’t understand the value, Burton said, adding that “it’s a natural tendency for some political appointees to view dependence on the career executives as some kind of weakness.” Burton said he thinks the opposite is true. “The career folks really are the subject-matter experts,” he said. “They know where the pitfalls are. They know where the successes and failures of the past are and what not to repeat.”During a transition period, it becomes vitally important that career employees and the incoming political appointees understand their roles. Both sides must keep those roles from getting blurred, Burton said.Susan Swart, a career CIO at the State Department, said career officials’ and appointees’ distinctly different roles are positive for a government organization, even if there are tensions. “I think it’s a good relationship because [appointed officials] bring a fresh set of eyes and the desire to do what the administration wants to do,” Swart said. “My experience is that it’s a good mix. There are tensions there, but I think those tensions are good for the organization.”Broadly speaking, the relationship between career executives and appointees is symbiotic. “The best-kept secret in Washington is that both sides of this relationship need each other,” Breul said. “The new appointees need the career staff, and the career staff need the new appointees. They will depend on each other to succeed.”On a tactical level, the role of career executives will differ from agency to agency, depending on their business responsibilities. In the financial management arena, for example, deputy chief financial officers will have to prepare historical budget and funding information for new CFOs, illuminating the policy context to help them shape their own program agenda, said James Martin, deputy CFO at the Housing and Urban Development Department.  During the transition, HUD will be at a critical point in its plans to implement a modern financial system. “It will be up to the deputy CFO to champion the full execution of those plans as being in the best interests of the department regardless of administration,” Martin said.Once the newcomers are on board, it’s important to make assimilation as smooth as possible, career officials say.For example, at the Treasury Department, Deputy CFO Al Runnels will assist in developing an orientation plan and ensure its execution, including a proposed calendar for the first 90 days. He will have concise but comprehensive briefing materials on hand. At State, the deputies will work to get new officials up to speed on the organizational culture and how the bureaucracy works, Swart said.Tom Sharpe, Treasury’s senior career procurement executive, will hold briefings during the first few months following the appointees’ arrival in coordination with other deputies throughout the department. The goal is to brief the apointees on how procurement works, he said.In those briefings, he will emphasize the importance of contracting and key procurement objectives, such as reaching its small-business contracting goals.For many career officials, meticulously planned briefings will be key to successful transition.Gloria Steele, senior deputy assistant administrator at the U.S. Agency for International Development, said her briefings are simple. She offers basic facts on how the agency operates, pitfalls to avoid in the new role and lessons agency officials have learned through the years. Steele added that she will provide multiple briefings to avoid unloading e erything at once on the new chief.The bottom line is that it’s critical to have open, honest conversations with the new officials, Franklin said. It’s also crucial to make a good first impression. “Regardless of where you are in government, it’s important to get off on the right foot,” Bibb said. “That means if it’s a political appointee who’s going to be confirmed, as most of them are, complete honesty and candor. Discuss what’s going on in the agency, what’s been working, what’s not working.”Personal chemistry is a good thing if you have it, but not everybody clicks on a personal level, Bibb said. “But if you don’t happen to click, that’s not disastrous. It’s a little tougher, but I think then you really have to work on finding common ground. Sometimes that happens naturally, and sometimes you have to work for it.”For Franklin, there’s something more important than chemistry. “What’s most important is focusing on the success of the organization,” she said.

Transition tips

Jonathan Breul, executive director of the IBM Center for the Business of Government, offers some advice on getting ready for the transition from one presidential administration to another.

  • Have plenty of ideas ready for new officials. The new team will want to move quickly and smartly.

  • Think ahead about pre-positioning contracts. The newcomers might want contracts available to ramp up their agenda.

  • Get set for the budget process. There will be a big scramble beginning Jan. 20 to prepare the new president’s 2010 budget.

  • Meet staffing needs. It’s not uncommon for a new team to come aboard and institute a hiring freeze.






























































  • Ben Bain, Michael Hardy, Mary Mosquera, Florence Olsen and Matthew Weigelt contributed to this report.
    X
    This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
    Accept Cookies
    X
    Cookie Preferences Cookie List

    Do Not Sell My Personal Information

    When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

    Allow All Cookies

    Manage Consent Preferences

    Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

    We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

    Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

    Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

    If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

    Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

    Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

    If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

    Save Settings
    Cookie Preferences Cookie List

    Cookie List

    A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

    Strictly Necessary Cookies

    We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

    Functional Cookies

    We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

    Performance Cookies

    We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

    Sale of Personal Data

    We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

    Social Media Cookies

    We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

    Targeting Cookies

    We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.