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The Business of Government Hour features a conversation about management with a government executive who is changing the way government does business. The executives discuss their careers and the management challenges facing their organizations. Past government executives include Administrators, Chief Financial Officers, Chief Information Officers, Chief Operating Officers, Commissioners, Controllers, Directors, and Undersecretaries.

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Ambassador Patrick F. Kennedy interview

Friday, July 4th, 2008 - 19:00
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Ambassador Kennedy is responsible for the people, resources, facilities, technology, consular affairs, and security of the Department of State and is the Secretary's principal advisor on management issues.
Radio show date: 
Sat, 07/05/2008
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Ambassador Patrick F. Kennedy
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Complete transcript: 

Originally Broadcast March 29, 2008

Washington, D.C.

Announcer: Welcome to The Business of Government Hour, a conversation about management with a government executive who is changing the way government does business. The Business of Government Hour is produced by The IBM Center for The Business of Government, which was created in 1998 to encourage discussion and research into new approaches to improving government effectiveness.

You can find out more about the Center by visiting us on the web at businessofgovernment.org.

And now, The Business of Government Hour.

Mr. Morales: Good morning. I'm Albert Morales, your host, and managing partner of The IBM Center for The Business of Government.

With its focus on transformational diplomacy, the U.S. Department of State has charted a bold new course in U.S. diplomacy. Implementing this vision includes significant changes to the very culture and view of U.S. diplomacy as well as in managing of institutions at home and abroad.

With us this morning to discuss his efforts in support of transformational diplomacy is our special guest, Ambassador Patrick Kennedy, Under Secretary of State for Management at the U.S. Department of State.

Good morning, Ambassador Kennedy.

Amb. Kennedy: Good morning, Albert.

Mr. Morales: And joining us in our conversation is Bonnie Glick, project executive at IBM.

Good morning, Bonnie.

Ms. Glick: Good morning.

Mr. Morales: Pat, many of our listeners will be familiar with the Department of State as the diplomatic arm of the U.S. Government. But to provide a broader context, could you take a few moments and provide us an overview of the history and mission of the State Department? When was it created and how has its mission evolved over time?

Amb. Kennedy: Well, thank you. The State Department has been around since 1789, since the actual founding of the United States. And there are slight predecessors of the State Department that go back even before. I mean, Benjamin Franklin, who we at the State Department count as our first diplomat and envoy to France during the Revolutionary War, existed prior to the Constitution. But the State Department is the oldest and one of the smallest cabinet agencies.

We provide a number of services to the American people. Our mission essentially is to protect the economic and political security of the United States, and to protect the numerous American citizens who travel overseas, and lastly, to serve as the front line in our border security efforts. Our colleagues in the Bureau of Consular Affairs stationed at our embassies around the world provide not only, as I said, services to American citizens who live and work abroad or are in distress when they're tourists, but also issue visas to foreigners who wish to either live or work in the United States.

Mr. Morales: Now, that's certainly a very broad mission, but you also used the term that it's the smallest of the departments. So could you give us a better sense of scale? How is it organized, the size of the budget, number of full-time employees?

Amb. Kennedy: I should have said it's one of the smallest. It is not the smallest. We have approximately some 20,000 employees stationed in the United States and around the world. That's composed of about 11,000 Foreign Service officers and Foreign Service professionals, who serve both in the U.S. and at embassies and consulates abroad, and about 7,800 or so Civil Service employees, most of whom serve in the United States, but our Civil Service colleagues also do temporary duty, and some of them do special assignments in Iraq.

And we have a number of Civil Service employees, for example, serving in Iraq and Afghanistan now and doing very, very important work. So it's about 20,000 Americans, and backed up by about 37,000 foreign national employees stationed at our embassies. These are either residents of the country where the embassy or council is located, or foreign nationals from another country. They are also an integral part as they help to provide support activities for us.

Ms. Glick: Great. Now that you've provided us with a sense of the larger organization, could you tell us more about your area and specific role within the Department? What are your specific responsibilities and duties as the Under Secretary of State for Management? Could you tell us about the areas under your purview, how your area is organized, the size of your staff and budget? And given the responsibility for both overseas and domestic operations, could you give us a sense of how you balance limited resources between domestic and overseas operations?

Amb. Kennedy: Well, that's a very good question. I am the senior management advisor to the Secretary of State. My responsibility is to organize the support activities of the Department to ensure that the resources, whether they be human or financial, in order to carry out the missions that the Secretary has received from the President.

We organize along about seven major lines. There's the Bureau of Administration. This deals with logistics, supply, transportation, all those essential elements that keep operations going.

Then there is the Bureau of Consular Affairs, incredibly important. Issues passports to American citizens who wish to travel overseas. Registers births of Americans born overseas. Tragically, if an American citizen dies overseas, assists the family in that regard. And then issues visas, whether they're tourists, business, students, journalists, or immigrants.

The Bureau of Diplomatic Security. Our security professionals ensure that embassies are safe, work with the American business community abroad in a very important organization called the Overseas Security Advisory Committee, and work with businesses to advise them on the situation in a given country, and also protect foreign dignitaries who visit the United States. And lastly, do important law enforcement work in ensuring that those who wish to counterfeit or abuse American passports and visas are turned over to the Department of Justice.

We have an important training mission. Our Foreign Service Institute, which is based at the National Foreign Affairs Training Center at the old Arlington Hall station in Arlington, Virginia, teaches some 500 courses a year in management or professional specialties, and also does language training in over 70 languages so that our American diplomatic corps is able to communicate with people in their own languages.

When you have operations all over the world, you have to be able to communicate with them, and we have a robust information technology division, the Bureau of Information Resources Management, under our chief information officer. And that office makes sure that we are able to communicate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week; the most modern means -- satellite, high-speed fiber, to make sure that any information that we collect abroad can get back in the Secretary's hands or the National Security Council staff's hands or to the Pentagon's hands in literally seconds.

We have a medical division. We have the Bureau of Resource Management under our chief financial officer. The State Department has an operating budget of about $3.5 billion a year, and it's up to the chief financial officer to advise me and then help me advise the Secretary and the Deputy Secretary on how our resources should be deployed.

And lastly, we have an Office of Overseas Buildings Operations, which builds and constructs and helps maintain some 15,000 properties that the U.S. Government owns abroad.

The entire State Department's operating budget is about $3.5 billion. That's generally under my purview. In addition to that, there is about $1-1/2 billion in construction and maintenance accounts, and then another couple of billion dollars that are generated by our consular service, which is essentially a fee-based operation. When you go and get a new passport, part of the fee that you pay goes to the Bureau of Consular Affairs to underwrite the service and the staff it takes to produce that. And when somebody in most countries overseas applies for a visa to come to the United States, they pay an application fee that also serves to underwrite the expenses there.

Your second question was sort of the tougher one, which is how do you balance overseas and domestic? Our view, and that's the view of all the senior management at the State Department, is our main focus is overseas. Our assignments are to collect and analyze the political and economic events that are going on abroad, to look at science and technology efforts that are going on in foreign countries, to report those activities to Washington along with the analysis.

And the other thing I should mention is that State Department functions as the owner and the operator of an embassy platform. And so when an agency wishes to go overseas, the State Department provides services, personnel services, financial services, building services to that government agency, but charges them for it.

Domestically, we try to make sure that our focus is supporting our overseas operations, with two important codicils: One is that obviously, there are many U.S. Government agencies in Washington that have an interest in foreign affairs. And so part of our Washington operation is to liaison with the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Commerce, National Security Council staff, and others, to make sure they're getting the information they need. And secondly, our consular services, whether it be assisting you to get a passport or assisting an American who's trying to adopt a child overseas, those are critical. The major force is overseas, and we try to push most of our personnel and our resources overseas to carry out those missions.

Ms. Glick: Well, you have a huge plate that you try to balance. Regarding all of this, in your responsibilities and duties, what are the top three challenges, if I could be so bold as to ask, that you face in your position? And how have you addressed those challenges?

Amb. Kennedy: Well, I think that the first thing to remember is the State Department is essentially a people organization. Basically, our activities, as I mentioned earlier, are to do political and economic reporting and provide consular and administrative services, and to do that, you need people. My first goal is always to make sure that the State Department recruits, retains, trains, and assigns the best people that we possibly can so that we have the human resources to do our job.

Secondly, obviously, is the budget. The State Department's budget is always very tight. The fluctuating U.S. dollar has taken a big hit on State Department operations this year. We figure that between the time we started the budget process and this actual fiscal year, the dollar has probably sunk almost $100 million in terms of what we have to buy in terms of local currency to pay those expenses overseas that one pays in local currency. So budgeting is at times an exercise in triage, and we try to do that very carefully.

And the third activity, which is something that we work on very closely, is to make sure that our services to American citizens are the best they can be. As you well know, there were a few problems last year in terms of a huge surge in passport applications. In 2006, we issued 12 million passports. In 2007, it surged incredibly, literally in a couple of months, and in the end, we issued 18 million passports, which was a 50 percent increase that no one had really foreseen. There was no data that predicted you would have such a surge as that. And so over the past year, we have taken steps to make sure that as passports are again requested this year, that kind of delays to the American public will not happen again. This year, we're running an estimated 20 to 25 percent ahead of last year in terms of passport demand, but yet there is no delay. An American citizen who goes in and gets their passport is going to get them, you know, within a few weeks, and not the month or two that it was taking last year.

So I think those are the three issues I'm focusing on now.

Mr. Morales: Now, you've spent a little over 35 years in government service. Could you describe your career path for our listeners? And how have these prior experiences prepared you for your current leadership role and perhaps shaped your management style?

Amb. Kennedy: Well, I joined the Foreign Service, as you said, 35 years ago, shortly after graduating from college. I spent my first two tours in the Foreign Service in the Bureau of African Affairs, the first part of that as a regional administrative officer, roaming around Africa as, in effect, a spare tire. And then secondly, came back to Washington after that to become the personnel officer for the Bureau of African Affairs, and went on from there to be a special assistant to the Under Secretary for Management.

Went to Paris then as the general services officer in that State Department lingo for the logistics and maintenance officer. Came back to Washington, spent five years as the executive director of the Secretariat, which means that I was the administrative officer for the Secretary of State and other senior officials and took care of their budget, finance, and human resources needs as well as accompanying the Secretary of State for five years on all foreign and domestic travel.

Did a year of advanced training after that; went on to Cairo, which was and still is one of the largest U.S. embassies in the world. Was chief of administration there. Came back to Washington, was Assistant Secretary of State for Administration for a number of years.

Went to New York. I was one of the deputies to John Negroponte when he was the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and was responsible for U.S. budget contributions to the U.N. as well as U.S. relations with the U.N. and other nations on what are called host country affairs: protocol issues, taxation, parking tickets, law enforcement issues.

And during my time in New York, I was twice detailed to Iraq. The first in 2003, for about six and a half months, and I was the chief of staff for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq. Then went back in 2004 to do the transition from a Department of Defense-run CPA to the new American embassy. And at the end of my four-year tenure in New York, I went to the Office of National Intelligence and again worked for John Negroponte and helped him set up the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. And then in 2007, came back to the State Department.

That sort of long and varied career I think has taught me a couple of things that hopefully have prepared me for this job. The first is the importance of people. You get things done if you have a good team. But I think what I've learned is people will respond to a mission, they'll respond to tough and difficult assignments if you sit them down and explain this is our goal, this is why that goal is so important, this is your individual mission in supporting that goal, this is how you fit into the big picture. Give them that assignment and then let them do their job.

The second thing I learned is that operations overseas are different than they are in Washington. It's not that it's better. It's just different. And having served overseas, it gives you the context that you're now trying to manage something in Washington in support of the field, you have to keep always in mind that things are different.

The third thing, I guess, is that there are always problems that arise, and that you have to be creative and flexible. Events happen overseas, some good, some bad, but you have to be always prepared to surge resources, to operate almost instantaneously to either protect the lives of American citizens, to working to protect American embassies when they come under attack.

Mr. Morales: Very, very broad mission. Thank you.

How does the State Department manage its resources and infrastructure here and abroad?

We will ask Ambassador Patrick Kennedy, Under Secretary of State for Management at the U.S. Department of State, to share with us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.

(Intermission)

Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm your host, Albert Morales, and this morning's conversation is with Ambassador Patrick Kennedy, Under Secretary of State for Management at the U.S. Department of State.

Also joining us in our conversation is Bonnie Glick, project executive at IBM.

Pat, given the release of the joint State and USAID strategic plan of 2007 to 2011, could you tell us about the efforts to integrate USAID operations with those of the State Department? Specifically, how has this joint effort enhanced the ability of both organizations to ensure that the nation's foreign policy and development programs and fully aligned? And how has the effort impacted your bureau and its workload?

Amb. Kennedy: I think there's two separate aspects to that very good question, and let me take the logistical and administrative and managerial part first. Over the years, many AID operations have taken place in a separate building. And so when you have separate buildings, it is logical that there are quasi-separate administrative structures. Thanks to the Congress, we built some 50 new embassies in that period of time. And as we built a new embassy, we have made room so that the State Department contingent, the other agencies, and AID can be co-located on one compound.

As we have done that, we have taken steps to streamline our activities. And so rather than two motor pools or two maintenance elements, we're now pulling all that together in a combined operation. And so that streamlining, which contributes to cost savings and effectiveness, is very important. And so we're seeing State and AID co-located, and we're deriving administrative and managerial efficiencies from that.

The other part of the strategic effort forward is the Secretary has taken steps to ensure that we have very much a holistic look. We have a strategic plan where the U.S. Government should go overseas, and she's taken steps by creating a senior advisor to her on foreign assistance, Henrietta Fore, who also is the administrator of the Agency for International Development. So we're pulling the two organizations together at the top and ensuring that AID knows where the State Department feels it needs to go in terms of foreign affairs support, and the State Department well knows and understands what important missions the Agency for International Development is engaged in terms of helping people in distress.

By having a common strategic framework, we're able to make sure that State and AID are operating in tandem. And I think that contributes both to advancing U.S. interests abroad and also better helping people around the world, many of whom are in desperate need of such assistance.

Mr. Morales: Now, along similar lines, could you provide us an overview of such an issue such as transformational diplomacy, and your corporate right-sizing and regionalization strategies?

Amb. Kennedy: The Secretary feels, and I think she's absolutely right, that as the world has changed, as issues have changed, as countries that may not have been at the forefront of our thought or topmost on our radar screen, so over the course of the past three years, we've gone through three exercises in which we have shifted resources from various parts of the world, Europe to some extent, to Asia, the Pacific, and the Middle East and Africa. We call this "global repositioning." The goal here is to make sure that we have positioned our personnel and our financial resources so that they are most strategically aligned with the foreign policy goals of the United States.

And we do that by also making sure that not only has the focus in terms of countries changed somewhat -- although let me emphasize that it's critically important that we continue to deal with our neighbors in the Western Hemisphere and our partners in Europe through such mechanisms as the European Union, NATO, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. So we're not abandoning parts of the world to move to others. We're simply realigning so that we get the best bang for the taxpayers' buck.

But the second part of transformational diplomacy is to realize that there are additional issues out there. There's issues of science and technology, of AIDS, economic investment, energy, oil and other means. So more and more, State Department must, should, and is dealing with nongovernmental groups. It's important to reach out to academia, to the media, to the private sector, and to private sector organizations within countries, which are having more and more of an impact in their nation, just as in our country, private sector entities have a major influence on how things happen in the United States.

Ms. Glick: Given the size of the Department's budget, would you tell us a little about the Department's efforts to improve its financial performance? And how has your organization expanded the use of financial data to inform its management decision-making process?

Amb. Kennedy: Another good question. We have a chief financial officer in Brad Higgins. Brad is an excellent CFO. And his focus has been to make sure that we can track every single dollar that we have, and he has accomplished that. We have installed a new financial management system in the Department, our global financial management system. In the past, it was very much of a paper thing, where papers were moving from one place to another. And if funds were expended overseas, it might be days, if not weeks, before we had an accurate snapshot of where the resources were at that moment. That's completely changing with the global financial system. It moved to a common platform, electronic transfers, and so we're able now to know exactly where our money is going and we're able then to shift it.

The second part of that is we know that we need more data. We need to have data so that managers can make more informed decisions. And so the colleagues in the chief financial office, our planning office, and our chief information officer working together to build a more robust data warehouse so that all the information the decision-makers need is at their fingertips.

And the third point is we are also collecting data in a more rigorous form. We provide administrative services, management services to some 50 different government agencies overseas on 165 different embassy platforms. All of them follow the same financial rules and input the same financial data. But to a degree, the definitions that they were using as they were counting something as either an apple or an orange or a fruit or a vegetable were just slightly different.

And so through a process in conjunction with our regional bureaus and our posts overseas, we are tightening up that activity so that will then enable us to compare and contrast unit cost in doing business, so that we can challenge our colleagues overseas and ask them the right questions. Why is your unit cost different from another? Obviously, there may be reasons based upon geography or individual circumstances prevailing in a country. But we need better data, and we're getting it so we can ask those tough questions.

Ms. Glick: That's great. Moving to a slightly different place where you have budget expenditures, the State Department's real estate portfolio exceeds $14 billion in value, and as you said, includes over 15,000 properties. And the State Department is one of only four federal agencies out of the 15 that managed to achieve a green for both status and progress in the President's Management Agenda for federal real property.

Would you elaborate on this incredible achievement, and could you tell us about your efforts in this area? And what advice would you provide your colleagues in other agencies?

Amb. Kennedy: The State Department has unique challenges since we operate in so many countries, in different circumstances. Some places, it is easy to rent good facilities; some places, it's very, very hard. We do own a large number of properties overseas. And the first step that the Office of Overseas Buildings took was to develop an asset management plan so that we were sure that every property we had was being utilized to the maximum extent possible. So we analyzed our properties in terms of their value against their utility. And that has led us in some cases to buy properties; it has led us in other cases to sell properties where the value of the property exceeded the utility. There are properties that we acquired right after the Second World War that had become so valuable that it was not necessarily -- we were getting -- that value out of them, so we have sold those properties and bought multiple other ones. And so we have achieved economies of scale against what we have to pay in leasing and rent.

I'm always hesitant to offer advice to colleagues at other agencies, but I think the easiest thing, and it's the simplest, is just to make sure if you've got properties, do you have a plan? Have you analyzed each property, and is each individual property being put to its highest and best use? And if it doesn't fulfill your business needs' highest and best use, get rid of it. The State Department also has one advantage that is not necessarily available to all other government agencies, is the Congress permits us when we sell a property abroad to reinvest those proceeds in the purchase of additional properties. So they've given us a wonderful incentive to be as efficient as we can, and we take advantage of that at every opportunity.

Mr. Morales: Now, Pat, I understand that consular officers around the world process over 7 million non-immigrant visa applications and nearly 700,000 immigrant visa applications each year. This strikes me as sort of an interesting challenge between maintaining security and facilitating legitimate travel. Could you tell us about your efforts to meet the security challenges associated with performing visa services, and to what extent does the visa and passport security strategic plan outline these efforts?

Amb. Kennedy: We feel that we have absolutely two requirements laid upon us in both the passport and visa. The first and the primary is to protect national security. Our consular officers are our first line of defense overseas and domestically in terms of passport issuance.

Every applicant who comes in for a visa is interviewed. We use biometrics, working with the FBI. We now take what's called a tenprint. We take fingerprints from every applicant, and those are immediately loaded into our technology system and go back to the FBI central files, as well as checks at Homeland Security. And no visa is issued if those fingerprints come back and say the individual is on anybody's warrant or watch list.

Secondly, the name of every visa applicant, and other data, such as data and place of birth, are entered into a separate database, which is run through the entire U.S. Government data bank, so to speak. And so if that individual has any activities that are of concern to any element of the U.S. Government, that issue is resolved either favorably by consulting with those agencies. Lots of people have the same name. People with the same name may even have the same date of birth. And so you have to resolve cases like that. But we don't issue a visa until we are sure that there is no one in the U.S. Government who has concerns about that individual.

Backing that up is the Bureau of Diplomatic Security. We have regional security officers and assistant regional security officers around the world, and they are part of our front-line defense as well. They investigate fraudulent attempts to obtain U.S. visas. They're on guard against visa brokers and others who try to suborn the process. And so the consular workload and the visa investigations of diplomatic security work hand-in-glove to make sure that we have a robust and secure process at all times.

Mr. Morales: Now, Pat, I only have a minute left, but I want to bring us back to a comment you made earlier around the recent surge in passport applications. How has your Department enhanced the passport application and delivery process? And to what extent does the transition to e-passports assist in this area?

Amb. Kennedy: Well, we have increased by several hundred the number of passport acceptance agents around the country. It is important, though, that when you apply for a passport, we adjudicate your application. We make sure that you are who you say you are. So we've increased the number of personnel. We've opened a new production facility in Arkansas that has the capacity to produce 10 million passports a year. We also have added, in effect, SWAT teams. We have personnel trained in the State Department who don't do consular work or passport work on a daily basis, but they have been trained and they're deployed and they're in effect our ready reserve.

And lastly, many applications for passports are renewals. Renewals are handled differently than first-time applicants because you've already been adjudicated once. And those are handled in an electronic process, with the image on the screen of your original application, the image of your current application, and the image of your current passport. We have developed a way that if we should get hit with another surge, we can actually send that electronic work to our embassies around the world and their consular officers working the night shift, in effect, will process those applications for renewals and then send the approved electrons back to one of our production facilities, and the passport will be issued the next day.

Mr. Morales: How does State manage its resources and infrastructure here and abroad?

We will ask Ambassador Patrick Kennedy, Under Secretary of State for Management at the U.S. Department of State, to share with us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.

(Intermission)

Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm your host, Albert Morales, and this morning's conversation is with Ambassador Patrick Kennedy, Under Secretary of State for Management at the U.S. Department of State.

Also joining us in our conversation from IBM is Bonnie Glick.

Ambassador Kennedy, what are some of the significant challenges your bureau faces in administering the diplomatic missions in hot spots such as Iraq and Afghanistan?

Amb. Kennedy: The State Department normally does not operate in spots that are quite this hot, but we see ourselves as partners with the U.S. military, and therefore, the State Department has committed large numbers of personnel to both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Using Iraq as the example, we have personnel in Baghdad. We have personnel in some 27 other cities and locations around Iraq, embedded in many cases with our military colleagues in what we call "embedded provincial reconstruction teams," and then in reconstruction teams where we're operating on our own. These personnel work with the local leaders to help them develop ways that municipalities can operate better and deliver services, services to the people. Because if individuals believe that they're getting good services from their local government, then they have a higher opinion of their local government. And those who would wish to disrupt good order stand a less chance of doing so.

Security is always a challenge in Iraq. We have taken extraordinary steps to make sure that our personnel are secure, either through the Diplomatic Security Service, or in conjunction with our military colleagues.

We've also had no real shortage of people stepping up to serve. This past year, we advertised all the jobs. We reached a point where almost all of them were filled. We then said that we would use the provisions of the Foreign Service Act to direct personnel to go to fill the remaining jobs. And before we even implemented that procedure, we got sufficient numbers of volunteers stepped up and said, no, we'll take that job, we'll take this job.

Mr. Morales: Now, continuing along this line of security, I understand that the Secretary assembled a panel of outside experts to review the State Department's personnel protective services, specifically in Iraq. Could you tell us more about this panel? And could you perhaps elaborate a bit more on other efforts being pursued by your area in securing people and facilities both here and abroad?

Amb. Kennedy: I was part of that panel, and the charge to the panel was to conduct a serious probing and comprehensive review of the activities. So I was the only member of the four-person panel who was a State Department employee. We had a retired four-star general, a retired ambassador, and the director of security from another U.S. government agency.

The four of us went out to Iraq. We reviewed the situation. We reviewed our processes and the incidents there and found in general that we had good processes in place. We screened personnel who we were using for contract security. We trained them well, but you can always improve a process, so the panel made a dozen or more recommendations to the Secretary, all of which were adopted. For example, now every time we have a motorcade or a convoy taking embassy staff from Point A to Point B, there is a special agent, a federal agent of the Diplomatic Security Service, who accompanies that convoy as the agent in charge to make sure that all of those rules and procedures are followed.

We've been installing cameras in the vehicles to record what may happen along the route. We have increased our coordination with the U.S. military. We had already been passing them data on our movements. So we think we have resolved any potential issues in Iraq, but at the same time, it is a very dangerous environment. umber of security professionals working with us have been killed in the line of duty. There are individuals who seek to disrupt our support for the building of a new and democratic Iraq. And so those challenges are our challenges on a daily basis.

Worldwide, again, there are various terrorist organizations that strike out. Tragically, just a while ago, an officer from one of our sister agencies, the Agency for International Development, was killed on New Year's Day in Sudan. And so we have a very, very robust security operation under the auspices of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, which works very closely with the intelligence community and others to pull in every piece of information that we possibly can, to analyze this to see who's being targeted, and take appropriate steps, whether it's the provision of armored vehicles or whether it's the provision of bulletproof or resistant doors. Recently, one of our embassies was attacked in Europe, and there were lots of stories in the press about the compound being breached. But the hard line that we construct, that hard line was never breached.

Ms. Glick: The Office of Language Services is responsible for providing interpreting and translating services to the Department. A significant challenge facing this program is recruiting a pool of direct-hire employees and contractors who are among the world's best interpreters and translators. How has your organization handled this challenge? And are there any plans to relax some of OPM's applicant rating procedures and security clearance requirements?

Amb. Kennedy: We think our interpreters are the best in the U.S. Government. When you see somebody standing next to the Secretary of State or the President or many other cabinet officers, it is an employee of the State Department's Bureau of Language Services who are providing that interpretation service. And when you see the United States sign a treaty or any other international agreement, it's always in two languages: the language of the country we're signing with and English. And that work has been done by State Department translators who compare to make sure that the texts are actually equivalent.

OPM and the Defense Department and the State Department and other government agencies are looking at new rules on security clearance procedures. But we don't see those as relaxing the security clearance procedures. I think it is more of bringing them into the modern era, more exchange of information on an electronic basis.

We think streamlining the security clearance process is good, but I believe that the result will not be any diminution of security, but it will rather be greater efficiency and effectiveness.

Ms. Glick: I understand your Department's information technology central fund totals some $260 million. Would you elaborate on your Department's IT investment priorities, including modernization of its global IT infrastructure and various e-government initiatives? What are some of the critical challenges your Department faces, and what are you doing to progress and improve in the E-Gov Initiative?

Amb. Kennedy: I think our major challenges are that we have over 300 activities, missions overseas, consulates, embassies, plus some 30 or 35 operations in the United States, so we have to have a robust IT operation that can reach out in a secure way, whether it's secure meaning it can't be breached, or it's secure because it's moving national security information.

So as diplomacy moves on, we need also to find ways to give diplomats the ability to be more portable, to be more mobile. The State Department has a very, very good system now which issues little fobs, little devices with encryptions and passwords that you could sign on to a PC in your hotel room or in some other facility and move very surely but safely into our unclassified network in a way that no one can trail you through the door, so to speak, so we can do that work more efficiently.

But that's not to say that those who are out there who are either hackers or cyber-terrorists aren't after us every day. They hack at us all the time, and we work very, very closely with our colleagues in the Department of Defense and the intelligence community and the Department of Commerce and others to always keep abreast of what is the best technology we can find to ward off the hackers.

E-Gov is important. We constantly work on the website to make sure that it is the most robust and responsive possible, because it's certainly something that is much more efficient and effective for us, and allows us to deploy our resources in the most efficient way possible.

Mr. Morales: Now, Pat, we talked earlier about the 18 million passport applications and some 7 million non-immigrant visa applications. Could you elaborate on your Department's efforts to improve its IT security to protect such things as personally identifiable information? Specifically, what role does the Information Systems Security Committee, or the ISSC, play in your efforts to improve IT security across the Department?

Amb. Kennedy: Security is always job one, whether it's personal security or physical security or cryptological security, and IT security is right up there. In fact, in the process of just recently appointing our new chief information officer, we elevated the position of director of IT security from an office director to the position of deputy chief information officer as a sign of our commitment, but more than that, making sure that he has full access to the resource table to make sure that we're providing it.

We believe I think in what you might call defense in-depth. We have to be able to combat those who would hack their way into us. So we have multiple layers. I think we have a very, very robust system in place, so it's a daily activity for which we have made a significant commitment in personnel and other resources. And we will do it today and we'll do it tomorrow and the next day.

Mr. Morales: That's fantastic.

What does the future hold for the U.S. Department of State?

We will ask Ambassador Patrick Kennedy, Under Secretary of State for Management at the U.S. Department of State, to share with us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.

(Intermission)

Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm your host, Albert Morales, and this morning's conversation is with Ambassador Patrick Kennedy, Under Secretary of State for Management at the U.S. Department of State.

Also joining us in our conversation from IBM is Bonnie Glick.

Pat, I'd like to transition now to the future. We talked about transformational diplomacy, but could you give us a sense of some global trends and changes that will impact the domestic and international deployment of State Department employees? And what perspective do you have regarding meeting these changes head-on?

Amb. Kennedy: Well, I think that the major focus of transformational diplomacy has to get our personnel out and operating in different ways, reaching out to new audiences, to the private sector, to nongovernmental organizations, in ways that we have not done in other parts of the world other than Western Europe and Latin America. But with less than 12,000, only about 11,500, Foreign Service personnel overseas in 267 posts, that's a tall order. That is a big stretch. And so this means that we are going to have to make sure that we continue to recruit the best people who are representative of America, and we're going to have to get them the language skills that they need.

The President's budget request that just went up to the Congress recently includes a request that was strongly championed by the Secretary for 300 additional training positions, so that the State Department can put more people into Chinese and Arabic and Farsi and Hindi and other languages so that our personnel can become more productive and more able to get more done in any given day because they now have the language skills. And the last thing I think we have to concentrate on is more interagency cooperation. It's clear that when something happens overseas, it usually has multiple dimensions. It has a political-military dimension. It has an economic dimension. It has a social dimension. It has a developmental dimension. So the State Department, which has always been the leader of the country team, all the agencies assembled at an embassy, has to do that even more so, and especially partnering with our colleagues in the U.S. military. They have resources and they have training, and we have resources and we have competences. And we need to make sure that we lash State and Defense together in such a way that we can take advantages of each other's skills, and the resulting lash-up is, as they say, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

Ms. Glick: That's great.

A recent Center for Strategic and International Studies Commission on what they call the "embassy of the future" argues that buildings themselves will play less of a role in furthering America's diplomatic goals in the future, while outreach and access will grow increasingly important. This goes directly to what you were just discussing. And if true, it calls for a serious rethinking of how and what to build. In your perspective, what will embassies of the future look like, and what role will technology play in building the embassy of the future? Are you looking at virtual technologies, for example, like Second Life, perhaps, in this effort?

Amb. Kennedy: Clearly, we need to have more robust mobile communication skills. When an officer is out away from the capital city and out in one of the provinces or visiting a district capital, he or she needs to be able to both communicate back to the embassy and also file their reports in ways so that the information they gathered has the most timely deliverance. So that's true. Also, we need to make sure that we're using wikis and blogs. I mean, State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research is one of the leaders in that regard. Those are just marvelous tools that allow people to work collaboratively, sometimes in the same facility, but sometimes in neighboring countries collaborating on a regional perspective or collaboration between Washington and a post in the field. And we certainly need to think about expansion of something the State Department calls "virtual presence posts," where in a university community outside the capital city, you set up a room with some Internet computer terminals that allow people to communicate and research with and about the United States Government.

At the same time, I think that as much as I respected the CSIS study, I think they're overstated their view on buildings. The buildings the State Department has have always been platforms. There has to be someplace for them to go back to at night, someplace for them to keep their files.

So I think we are going to absolutely see greater use of information technology, both in terms of mobile and in terms of wikis and blogs. But I think that we're going to see embassy buildings continue to be an important activity, because it has to be the base. It has to be the platform, as well as the fact that certain activities, such as the important consular work we do, whether it's visa screening or the issuance of passports or help to American citizens in distress need a solid base, literally and physically, from which to operate.

Ms. Glick: There's been much discussion about the pending government employee retirement wave. How are you handling this, what some are calling a crisis? And what steps are being taken to attract and maintain a high-quality technical and professional workforce?

Amb. Kennedy: We see this crisis coming, as does every other government agency, and the State Department obviously has a twofold interest here. We have both the Foreign Service of the State Department and the Civil Service, and neither of those segments can be ignored. To do so would be doing it at your own peril.

We value our Civil Service colleagues and the work they perform as much as we value our Foreign Service colleagues. And so therefore, we're investing significant resources in both the Presidential Management Fellow Program, the PMF Program that's run by OPM, but we're a big taker of those marvelous young men and women. And we also have our own program called the Career Entry Program, which is not the same as, but somewhat akin to the PMF Program, to make sure that we're building a new cadre of individuals who are prepared, who are experienced in the Department, and therefore, prepared to move up in the system.

On the Foreign Service side, we continue to be lucky in getting large number of applicants for just the few hundred Foreign Service positions that we can hire for each year. But again, we're not resting on our laurels. In the past, the Foreign Service Exam was offered once a year. Now we're offering the exam three or four times a year, and we're offering it online at various centers that we have contracted with. And so we know we need the best and the brightest. We're reaching out, both with new programs and more efficient and effective and we hope more fruitful ways of giving the exam in the case of the Foreign Service.

Mr. Morales: So following up, how do you ensure that your employees and future employees have the appropriate training and skills to meet some of the future challenges that we talked about? And how does the National Foreign Affairs Training Center factor into these efforts?

Amb. Kennedy: I think that the National Foreign Affairs Training Center is the jewel of the State Department. Secretary Schultz spent hours and put his personal efforts on the line to acquire for the State Department the former DoD property in Arlington. And we put additional resources into it. We are now literally in the process of building another wing on the National Foreign Affairs Training Center to give us the additional classroom capacity. And that's our commitment.

In addition, we talked earlier about working with the military. We also need to do more training with our military colleagues. But the reverse is kind of true. When a State Department person goes to Army War College, for example, not only does he or she learn how the military does it, but when they participate in classroom exercises, when they participate in discussions, they're in effect teaching their military colleagues the perspective of the State Department, and that synergy is incredibly important. So we want to do more training with the military.

And lastly, the Foreign Service Institute has put into place hundreds of long-distance learning courses that are posted on the State Department website. Thirteen languages are on the website, as well as numerous professional development courses for both American personnel and our many foreign national colleagues working at our embassies overseas who can benefit from this training in consular work or administrative work.

Mr. Morales: That's great.

Pat, you've had a very successful 35 years in government. What advice would you give to a person who's perhaps considering a career in public service or perhaps in the foreign service?

Amb. Kennedy: Well, the first thing I would tell them is to apply to the State Department first. Do not apply to any other government agency. We want you.

The State Department is an incredibly challenging activity. If you want a job that will change every day whether you're in Washington or whether you're overseas, the opportunities that State has across the board, everything from information technology to medical to logistics to refugees to consular work to legal. I think we have jobs there that will challenge everyone.

I think also that one has to realize that the government is a hierarchical organization, and you are probably going to start at the bottom. But every day will be a challenge. Every day will be an education. Every day, you will have prepared yourself another 8 hours or 10 hours or 12 hours to do what the American people need. I encourage people to apply to State because I think that we have the careers and we have the opportunities, as we talked about earlier.

Mr. Morales: That's wonderful advice. Thank you. Unfortunately, we have reached the end of our time. I want to thank you for fitting us into your busy schedule, but more importantly, Bonnie and I would like to thank you for your dedicated service to our country across the various roles that you've held within the Department of State.

Amb. Kennedy: Thank you very much, Albert and Bonnie. It's been a pleasure being with you here today. The State Department is America's front line. We try desperately to do our job. We are not a perfect organization. I encourage your listeners or their friends who have any questions about the State Department or any of the services we provide, our website, www.state.gov, is robust. I encourage your listeners to go there. And we're here to serve you, and I believe that you'll be able to find the answers and support you'll need.

Thank you.

Mr. Morales: Great, thank you.

This has been The Business of Government Hour, featuring a conversation with Ambassador Patrick Kennedy, Under Secretary of State for Management at the U.S. Department of State.

My co-host has been Bonnie Glick, project executive within IBM.

As you enjoy the rest of your day, please take time to remember the men and women of our armed and civil services abroad who may not be able to hear this morning's show on how we're improving their government, but who deserve our unconditional respect and support.

For The Business of Government Hour, I'm Albert Morales. Thank you for listening.

Announcer: This has been The Business of Government Hour. Be sure to join us every Saturday at 9:00 a.m., and visit us on the web at businessofgovernment.org. There, you can learn more about our programs and get a transcript of today's conversation.

Until next week, it's businessofgovernment.org.

Ambassador Patrick F. Kennedy interview
07/05/2008
Ambassador Kennedy is responsible for the people, resources, facilities, technology, consular affairs, and security of the Department of State and is the Secretary's principal advisor on management issues.

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