The Business of Government Hour

 

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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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Linda Morgan interview

Friday, August 2nd, 2002 - 20:00
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Linda Morgan
Radio show date: 
Sat, 08/03/2002
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Linda Morgan
Complete transcript: 

Arlington, Virginia

Tuesday, July 23, 2002

Mr. Lawrence: Welcome to The Business of Government Hour. � I'm Paul Lawrence, a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, and the co-chair of The Endowment for the Business of Government. � We created The Endowment in 1998 to encourage discussion and research into new approaches to improving government effectiveness. � Find out more about The Endowment by visiting us on the web at endowment.pwcglobal.com.

The Business of Government Hour >features a conversation about management with a government executive who is changing the way government does business. � Our conversation this morning is with Linda Morgan, chairman, Surface Transportation Board. �

>Good morning, Linda.

Ms. Morgan: Good morning. � I'm happy to be here.

Mr. Lawrence: Great. � Joining us in our conversation is another PwC partner, Dave Abel. �

Good morning, Dave.

Mr. Abel: Good morning, Paul.

Mr. Lawrence: Linda, could you describe the mission and the responsibilities of the Surface Transportation Board for our listeners?

Ms. Morgan: The Board's primary mission is economic regulation of surface transportation, principally freight rail transportation. � We regulate all aspects of freight rail transportation, rates, service, restructuring, such as mergers, line sales, abandonments. � Then in addition to rail, we also regulate some aspects of trucking and bus, as well as pipelines and noncontiguous domestic water trade.

Mr. Lawrence: You've described so much. � How many employees make up the organization, and what types of skills do they have?

Ms. Morgan: We have about 140 employees. � We have a mixed group of skills, and really, the skills reflect the kinds of cases that we have come before us. � We have lawyers, we have economists, we have transportation analysts, we have environmental specialists, and we have technology experts. � All of those experts come together to make sure that we issue the right kinds of decisions.

Mr. Abel: As chairman of the Surface Transportation Board, what are your specific responsibilities?

Ms. Morgan: Well, I have broad administrative responsibilities, personnel, budget, managing day-to-day the operations of the Board. � Then I also have responsibility for docket management. � In other words, I make sure that we handle our cases in an expeditious manner and move through the process in the way that we need to.

I also set the overall mission and direction of the Board. � Obviously, every organization is a group of people working as a team, but they need a leader, and that leader has the responsibility, as in my case, for setting the direction. � Then I also am the spokesperson for the agency. � So I speak to the press, I speak to members of Congress, I speak to other agency heads, I speak to people out in the hinterlands who are interested in what the Board is doing.

Mr. Abel: How about the other members of the Board? � How would you describe their responsibilities?

Ms. Morgan: They work with me on administrative issues as appropriate. � Obviously, I have the primary responsibility for the administration of the Board, and that is by statute. � But I make sure to consult as appropriate as I work my way through those functions.

The primary responsibility of the other board members is case disposition. � That is where they are involved principally. � We all vote on cases that are before us. � We function like a court, really. � We are an adjudicative body, so each of the Board members reviews the cases that come in and the records built on those cases, and then we vote on those cases. � That is really where the Board members' primary responsibility lies.

Mr. Lawrence: Tell us about your career prior to becoming chairman.

Ms. Morgan: I have been for just about my entire professional career a public servant of some sort or another; that's 24 years in public service. � I spent 15 years with the Senate Commerce Committee, first as a staff counsel working on transportation legislation. � Then I became general counsel of that committee, and then that allowed me to get into the areas of the Commerce Committee. � If you know anything about the Commerce Committee, its jurisdiction is quite broad and gets into a lot of business-related issues. � So that was 15 years with the committee.

Then I came to the Interstate Commerce Commission, first as a commissioner, and then I became chairman of that agency. � Then I was responsible for terminating the ICC. � Then I became chairman of the Surface Transportation Board, which is what I am today, and that has been about an 8-year period.

Mr. Lawrence: You've worked in both the branches, the Legislative and the Executive Branches. � How would you compare your experiences in each in terms of the culture and type of styles?

Ms. Morgan: First of all, I think in both places, I have found an incredible dedication among the staff people both on the Hill and at the agency. � I know there's a lot of talk out there about the quality of government service and the type of people who are in government and the kind of work that they do, and I can say that the public is in very good hands both on the Hill from the staffing perspective and at the Board.

I think your question for me is very interesting because I made a choice after spending 15 years in the Legislative Branch to go into another branch of government. � I felt that I'd spent time writing the laws, it was a good opportunity for me then to go and implement the laws that I had been involved in writing. � I think that that's actually a good experience to have, and I think it has certainly helped me to do my job at the Board to understand how the laws came about. � I think I also have a good appreciation for what it means to work with interested parties as well as Congress as I'm doing my job at the Board.

Mr. Abel: If you look at the beginning of your career, what drew you initially to public service? � What was the draw to begin public service in the first place?

Ms. Morgan: Well, I think it's a couple of things. � I think, first of all, I went to a Quaker school, and Quakers are very focused on public service. � That's one of the things, that if you go to a Quaker school, you spend a lot of time on. � You do a lot of community service, a lot of discussion about serving the public. � So that was in my blood from a very early age.

I think the second factor is that my father always used to say there is no greater reward than government service; if you have an opportunity to do that, please do. � He came from the Depression generation, where I think there was a view that government service was an honorable profession, and if you were in it, you should stay in it and devote your time to it, and he spent many of his years in government service.

I think the third thing is that I am from that generation of the �60s and the �70s, so I think we were raised in an environment where we were focused on public issues, whether it was the Civil Rights movement or whatever the issues were of that particular time. � Now, I happened to be in law school when Watergate was in process, and that still did not deter, at least myself and others from my generation, from going ahead and pursuing public service. �

So I think it was a combination of all of those, and then once I got into public service, I realized that I really did enjoy it and continued to be in it and have found it very satisfying.

Mr. Lawrence: You said earlier that when you got to the Surface Transportation Board, you got to see how the laws that you had helped write were actually being implemented or how they worked their way through the system. � Were there any surprises when you got on the other side?

Ms. Morgan: No. � In fact, interestingly, there were parts of the law I remember as a staff person working on that were left purposefully vague, and then when I proceeded to try to implement those vague provisions, I realized that, yes, they were vague and they were struggled with. � So that was not any surprise to me.

I also think, though, that the legislative process does need to be understood from another angle, and I, again, am very appreciative of having had the opportunity to see both sides, because I think I can now have a much greater appreciation and can work with others in educating them on a greater appreciation for how the entire process works.

Mr. Lawrence: You described your work on the Hill, and it sounds as though you interacted with a lot of private sector businesses.

Ms. Morgan: Yes.

Mr. Lawrence: So I'm curious, when you left if you ever left if you ever thought going to work for a private sector organization.

Ms. Morgan: Well, at the time I left the Hill, I didn't, because as I indicated earlier, I felt that it was time for me now to try another branch of government. � Now, I had been on the Hill as a Democrat during several Republican administrations. � So when President Clinton became President, that really, for a Democrat, was the first opportunity in some time go actually get a position in another branch of government. � So I knew that this was an opportunity that if I was going to take it, I needed to take it then. � But I really at that point didn't have any thought about going into the private sector.

Now, at some point I'm going to have to make that decision, but for right now, I'm a public servant, and that's what I'm doing.

Mr. Lawrence: Are there any special nuances working in an organization, running an organization where you're surrounded by highly educated, credentialed individuals, economists, lawyers, and accountants? � Does that affect how you manage the organization versus some places where they might not have as much schooling or as much specialization?

Ms. Morgan: I feel that it's very important to bring all the skills into the room when you're trying to make the right decision, and I am not shy about bringing someone in who knows more than I do on a particular matter and make sure that I ask all the questions that I need to ask, starting with the basics if necessary to get me to a place that I need to be so that I can make the right decision. � And coming from a congressional staff position, I was actually quite comfortable with that, because as a staffer on the Hill, you spend a lot of time with people who know a lot more than you about their particular area. � But I feel that everyone has a role in the ultimate decision-making process, so I'm very, very focused on bringing everyone in who needs to be in, in a team-like setting as we move through the process.

Mr. Lawrence: That's a good stopping point. � Rejoin us in a few minutes as we continue our conversation with Linda Morgan of the Surface Transportation Board. �

Whatever happened to the Interstate Commerce Commission? � We'll ask Linda when The Business of Government Hour returns. �

(Intermission)

Mr. Lawrence: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. �I'm Paul Lawrence, a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, and today's conversation is with Linda Morgan, chairman, Surface Transportation Board. � Joining us in our conversation is another PwC partner, Dave Abel.

Linda, what role does the federal government play in the regulatory oversight of railroad, trucking, and the bus industries? �

Ms. Morgan: Well, again, as I mentioned earlier, for the freight rail industry, the regulatory scheme is pervasive in that we do touch all elements of the business of freight railroads: rates, service, restructuring, whether it be mergers, line sales, or abandonments.

With respect to the trucking industry, our main focus is in the rate area, and even there, it's a limited oversight. � With respect to buses, it's principally mergers of inner city bus companies. � Then with respect to pipelines, it's rate review. � With respect to noncontiguous domestic water trade, that's also rate review.

Some would say it sounds as though the freight rail industry is regulated more pervasively than some of these other modes; why is that? � I think first of all we need to go back into history a little bit. � The freight rail industry regularly scheme has been reformed. � In 1980, Congress passed the Staggers Rail Act, which I as a staff person actually worked on, and that law did significantly reform the regulatory scheme applicable to the freight railroads.

What remains is regulation where the market is imperfect, because you have to remember, with the freight rail industry, entry is not as easy as in other modes. � To build a new rail line obviously takes time and money, unlike, say, in the trucking industry, where a trucker can go buy a truck and enter a market with really low entry costs. � So there's a recognition that since entry is not as easy, that there are places where the market does not provide for the perfect competition in the marketplace. �

But, again, the regulatory scheme is much less than it used to be. � Prior to 1980, regulation was very heavy and burdensome. � As a matter of fact, the freight rail industry was in financial decay and as a whole was about to go bankrupt. � So government stepped in and essentially peeled back the regulations. � So now what we do is focus on that small segment of the market that needs a little extra oversight from some sort of regulatory body.

The other thing about the freight rail industry that's very important is that we have preemption in our statute, which means that states and localities can only affect the operations of the freight rail network in a limited way, because, obviously, you don't want to burden interstate commerce unnecessarily. � So having a regulatory scheme in place that in essence preempts the field, if you will, of economic regulation ensures that the freight railroads can continue to do their business without unnecessary interference.

Mr. Abel: Linda, what's the history of the Board? � How did the Board assume the regulatory responsibility for these modes of transportation?

Ms. Morgan: Of course, you had the Interstate Commerce Commission in existence since 1887. � It was the first independent regulatory body created. � It oversaw railroads and then got into other modes of transportation over its history. � Then as I told you, there were some deregulatory laws passed, not only the Staggers Rail Act, but also the Motor Carrier Act of 1980, the Bus Act of -- I think it was 1982, and then some more trucking reform in 1994.

Congress reached a point where it decided that the Interstate Commerce Commission as an agency was no longer serving a needed function, and so there was discussion of eliminating the agency as we knew it at that time. � After some debate in Congress, it was determined that there were functions, particularly in the rail area, that needed to be continued. � So they needed to find a place for those continued functions, and they also needed to continue some sort of independent forum. � The determination in Congress was made that we needed to have some sort of independent adjudicative body to handle these rail issues that needed oversight.

So they eliminated the ICC as part of the ICC Termination Act of 1995, but then as part of that, they created the Surface Transportation Board, which came into existence in 1996. � The Board assumed in essence all of the responsibilities in the freight rail area that the ICC had had; the motor carrier arena was deregulated further, and what was left of that was split between the Board and the Department of Transportation, which now has safety-related truck and bus functions.

Mr. Lawrence: You were part of the ICC, and now you're part of the Surface Transportation Board. � One went away, another was sort of born in some limited context. � What were the management challenges involved in closing an organization and setting up a new one? style='font-weight:

Ms. Morgan: There were actually several challenges. � Some of them were internal, and some of them were external. � The external challenges were that while Congress had indicated that it wanted to eliminate the ICC, the law making that happen did not really pass until after the appropriations bill that was implementing what the Congress wanted to do was passed. � So I had a funding bill, in essence, that told me how much in funds I would have available before I actually had the implementing law in place. � So I ended up having to figure out how many people could remain with the funds that I would have available, rather than figuring out what the functions were going to be, figuring out how many people I needed to do the functions, and then figuring out how much money would be available.

It's no criticism of the process, it's just that sometimes in Congress, things happen that way. � So that was the first challenge, is how to figure out how many people I would need given the money that I knew I was going to have available. �

The second challenge was that I closed the ICC at the same time that the Congress and the White House were in battle over the famous government shutdown. � If you recall, in 1995, there was quite a battle going on about appropriations for the government in total. � So I was having to worry about the broader issues of shutting an agency down and trying to seek help on that. � At the same time, I knew that my agency was also going to shut down in any event. � As you know, there are personnel requirements that you must fulfill in terms of notifying employees of when they might be terminated, and the requirements were different depending upon whether it was about shutting the agency down or about some sort of furlough associated with a government shutdown. � So it was a very complex challenge.

I think the third challenge, which is the internal challenge, is how do you keep your work going, and how do you keep the morale of people up when they know that some will be laid off and some will not be laid off? � That was really a script that I wrote that no one else had written before me, how to keep the work going and how to keep the morale up. �

What I would say if I were advising somebody in that situation, first of all, be honest with your employees about what you know and what you don't know in terms of what's going to happen to them, be very visible, be working very hard on the pending matters so that they see you caring about what's going on in terms of the substance, and just providing the kind of honest leadership that's necessary in a difficult time like that. � I ended up actually separating employees over the Christmas holidays of that particular year, which was a very difficult process. �

But I'm happy to say that employees who were separated have come back to see me, and the one thing that they have said is that while we lost our job in this process, you were always fair, you were always open, you were always available, you always showed that you cared about what was happening to us in this process. � So I think that's a lesson for everyone. � And I've also been told by people in Congress that they appreciated the fact that the work continued to somehow get done despite the difficult situation that was presented to the ICC.

Mr. Abel: Linda, we've seen the start-up of a new agency in DOT, the Transportation Security Administration. � There's been a lot of talk about it being financed by user fees.

Ms. Morgan: Yes.

Mr. Abel: The Board is partially financed by user fees. � What type of fees is it that the Board collects, and how does that fit into the overall budget of the organization?

Ms. Morgan: First of all, we have a budget of about $17 million, and of that, one million comes from user fees. � The fees are collected from various types of filings. � For example, if someone seeks a merger authority, they file an application, and with that they file a fee. � If someone complains about a rate being too high, they file a complaint, and they file a fee with that.

This whole notion of fees came about a number of years ago. � This is not unique to the Board or the ICC before it. � There was a move several years ago to begin to collect from the recipients of government service some sort of fee to cover the cost, and the ICC joined in that effort, if you will. � But I will say that since that decision was made, there continues to be concern raised about whether at an independent adjudicative body, there should be any kind of fees at all.

Mr. Lawrence: That's a good stopping point for a break. � Come back in a few minutes as we continue our conversation about management with Linda Morgan of the Surface Transportation Board. �

This is The Business of Government Hour.

(Intermission)

Mr. Lawrence: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. � I'm Paul Lawrence, a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, and today's conversation is with Linda Morgan, chairman, Surface Transportation Board. �

Joining us in our conversation is Dave Abel, another PwC partner. �

Linda, how does the adjudication process work? � Could you describe some of the cases you've handled during your time on the Board?

Ms. Morgan: First of all, in terms of the process itself, all decisions in an adjudicative body must be made on a record that is compiled by all of the parties who participate in a particular proceeding. � So someone files something with us to initiate the proceeding. � Then we have a series of filings and replies and further comments. � All of the letters that we receive on particular proceedings go into the record. � We may hold hearings. � All of that is part of the record.

But the important thing to remember is that the ultimate decision must be based on the evidence that is presented formally to the agency on the record. � So conversations outside the record, newspaper articles that are not in the record, all of that is not relevant to the decision-maker in the ultimate decision. � That's very important because, as you might imagine, when we make decisions, obviously not everyone is happy with the decisions that we make because decisions come to us with dispute inherent in them. � Proceedings are about disputes that people have regarding particular matters, and people need to remember that decisions are based on the record. � So if you have a problem with something, you need to make sure that you bring it to our attention so that it is before us as we make our decision.

In terms of the cases that we have had before us, I've had some easy cases, and I've had some hard cases. � I always say that the hard cases are the ones that I'm really paid to decide upon, because those are the ones where the record is not crystal clear, where you have people supporting something and you have people not supporting something, and then you must take the statute and you must look at the record and you must make a decision based on the statute and the record before you, even if the record presents somewhat of a conflicting viewpoint out there.

For example, I've made a couple of decisions on important rail mergers over the last couple of years. � One rail merger in particular was the merger of the Union Pacific and the Southern Pacific, both freight railroad carriers in the western part of the country, and that was a controversial merger. � You had people who were for it, you had people who were not for it. � I had customers who were for it, I had customers who were against it. � I had states and localities for it, I had states and localities against it. � I had employees for it, rail employees, and rail employees against it. � And so it was not a clear-cut decision. � I ultimately voted to approve the merger for a lot of reasons. � But, again, that was a very difficult case, a very controversial case, but one that I think adjudicators are supposed to be about in terms of carrying out their responsibilities.

Mr. Lawrence: Can you give us an order of magnitude of the type of work around such a case? � How many people would be involved? � How long would it take to actually work that all the way through?

Ms. Morgan: Well, again, in terms of cases, it depends on the type of case as to how long it will take. � We have statutory deadlines for just about all of our cases. � Then we superimpose internally deadlines to make sure that we meet the statutory deadline, if not get it out sooner than the statutory deadline.

In terms of a merger case in particular, we have a team, a merger team, and that is a floating number of people, but can be upwards of 10 people working on a particular merger, and that team again reflects the kind of expertise that I discussed earlier, lawyers, economists, transportation analysts, environmental specialists, and so forth. � We've had merger cases that we've decided in 6 months, in 9 months, in a year. � So, again, it depends on the case and the deadline that we put on ourselves.

Mr. Abel: Linda, adjudication is one of many roles you've described. � In organizations that have a diverse number of roles, it can often be very difficult to define who your customer is. � Who does the Board see as being their customers? � And what are their expectations of you? � What do they expect for you to do?

Ms. Morgan: Well, I think the customer for the Board is the public. � The public is obviously a broad term, but everybody is impacted in some way or another by our decisions. � Whether it's a carrier or a shipper or an employee or a community or an individual person, all of those pieces of the public are impacted.

In terms of what people expect of us, I think people expect us to be expeditious and fair in resolving the issues before us. � I think they expect an ease of access to our process and to the procedures that we have available, and also the information that we have available. � So I think it's how we handle our cases, and also how we make ourselves available to the public in general.

Mr. Lawrence: When you described the rail merger that you had to decide on, I began to think about a process that had lots of people, lots of paper, lots of information floating around. � So I'm curious how technology is being used by the Board to make it easier for customers through this process.

Ms. Morgan: Well, we have focused a lot of energies since the Board's creation in 1996 on a website that we're very proud of, and frankly, we have gotten a lot of good comments on. � That website has all of our decisions on it, press releases, important other information about the Board. � Right now, in significant cases, it has all of the filings in a particular proceeding. � So throughout the process of a proceeding, somebody can tap into the website and have access to all the documentation.

We are now working on a project whereby all of the filings in all of the cases will be available on the website so everybody will be able to access everything that comes in. � We scan all of those documents and put them on the website. � We also are working on a project for the future whereby people will actually be able to file electronically all of the material, so that hopefully will be another phase.

You have to be careful with this, however, because not everybody is technologically at the same level of advancement. � So because we are an adjudicative body, needing to be available to not only entities but individuals, we need to make sure that we do not get so advanced that we leave people behind. � So that's why we have to take it in stages.

Mr. Abel: Linda, you were actually nominated in the previous administration by President Clinton. � What challenges have you had working across the administrations?

Ms. Morgan: Well, I really haven't felt uncomfortable or felt unusually challenged. � I think my philosophy in terms of running the Board was well known to the prior administration and to the current administration. � The current administration, at least for the time being, has been comfortable with how I have been conducting the affairs of the Board. � You must also remember that an adjudicative body like the Board is really focused on resolving matters that come to us. � We are not focused the way Executive Branch agencies are on setting new broad policies that need to be implemented. � We're more taking a statute and then applying that statute to matters that come before us, then looking at the record developed and then making a decision.

Mr. Abel: We know that passenger rail in the U.S., Amtrak, is struggling. � We read about it often in the paper. � What impact is this having on freight rail operations through the country? � Is there a relationship between the two, and how is the Amtrak circumstance impacting freight rail?

Ms. Morgan: First of all, in terms of the Board's jurisdiction over Amtrak, we get involved with Amtrak issues as a regular matter because Amtrak runs over the tracks of the freight railroads, and Amtrak and the freight railroads must enter into agreements as to the terms of those operations. � Occasionally, those discussions break down, and so cases are brought to us and we must make a determination about the disputes between Amtrak and a particular freight railroad and decide on the terms, which usually involve compensation issues.

Now, in terms of the present circumstance, Amtrak affects the freight railroads, particularly where Amtrak owns the track. � The Northeast corridor, for example, is owned by Amtrak. � If Amtrak ceases to operate, then those other carriers that operate over the Northeast corridor are at a disadvantage because they are using the resources of Amtrak. And this is true not only for the freight railroads that operate in the Northeast, but also the commuters that operate in the Northeast.

There is a piece of legislation pending in the House. � It was introduced by Chairman Young, the House Transportation Infrastructure Committee, that would give the Board clear authority to direct service, direct freight and commuter service, over the Northeast corridor in the event that Amtrak ceases to operate.

Mr. Lawrence: That's a good stopping point. � Rejoin us in a few minutes as we continue our conversation about management with Linda Morgan of the Surface Transportation Board. �

What will the regulatory framework look like in the future? � We'll ask Linda for her thoughts when The Business of Government Hour returns.

(Intermission)

Mr. Lawrence: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. � I'm Paul Lawrence, a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, and today's conversation is with Linda Morgan, chairman, Surface Transportation Board. �

Joining us in our conversation is Dave Abel, another PwC partner.

Mr. Abel: Linda, for the Board, how do you manage success?

Ms. Morgan: Well, I think first of all, I look at the timeliness of our resolution of the cases before us. � I think that's critically important to all the parties, that we handle their matter expeditiously. � I also look at whether we are being fair, we're being professional, and we're being accessible. � I measure that by what I hear from the outside, what I see when I'm watching employees deal with the public, how I conduct myself when I am out talking to people and testifying on the Hill. � So I think in terms of success, it's really how we do our business, and are we responsive and are we being professional.

Mr. Lawrence: What do you think the regulatory landscape in the United States will look like 10 years from now?

Ms. Morgan: Well, I think the challenge for all regulatory bodies is the same today as it will be 10 years from now, and that is, how do you make sure you have the right level of regulatory oversight? � Right now, we're in one of those periods where there is some unhappiness about how deregulation has worked, whether it's in communications or the electric utility industry or the airline industry. � So when you have those kinds of discussions going on, there's a tendency to start looking broadly at all the regulatory schemes and perhaps determining that we need to make some changes. � So I think the challenge is to make sure that you don't make changes that perhaps might not be in the best interests of the public long-term, because you're reacting to concerns of today. � And I think that's a challenge for all regulation and all regulatory bodies.

I think the second challenge for regulatory organizations is taking the statute that the particular organization has and then using it wisely. � There are times when regulation is the appropriate response, regulatory oversight is the appropriate response; sometimes the better response is to bring parties together in the private sector and get them to work out a resolution, with the agency encouraging the process. �

A lot of what I have done at the Board has been really to focus on using my position to encourage private parties to resolve their differences outside of the governmental process, because my own view is that when parties agree to something on their own, they have a vested interest in its success, they feel better about the result because they've been part of it, it's not like somebody has told them this is what's going to happen, and then perhaps they have gotten more out of it for themselves than government could have given them, because government is constrained in response by what its statute allows it to do. � So, again, I think the creative use of government is a challenge that I think faces all of us in the regulatory business.

Mr. Abel: Linda, you have some unique experience, closing down the Interstate Commerce Commission, creating the Surface Transportation Board, you have some very interesting lessons learned. � What of those lessons learned would you share with forming the Department of Homeland Security as it tries to organize itself?

Ms. Morgan: Well, I guess first of all, there must be strong leadership through a transition of any kind. � So whoever is at the top has a special responsibility to take strong hold of the operation through transition, because when people are trying to do their job and trying to adjust to a new organizational structure, they can become distracted away from the substance and naturally focused on the organizational change. � That's natural, and a leader has to remember that that's going on. �

From my own experience, I think just staying in touch with the employees, being clear about what the mission of the new organization is from a substantive perspective, making sure that people are not being distracted unnecessarily by the organizational transition, make sure you have people who are working on the organizational transition so that the people who should be doing the substance are doing the substance and not being confused by the organizational transition.

When we were closing down the ICC and starting up the Board, I had one person who had a team of people, a small team, who essentially mapped out for the entire transition period what was going to happen when organizationally, and that was that person's responsibility. � No one else was distracted by that. � And I made it perfectly clear that that was not their responsibility; their responsibility was to continue to do the work. � So strong leadership, sending a clear message about what the mission of the organization was going to be, clear organizational authority given to a group of people who would be working specifically on organizational transition, and then finally, making sure you're in touch with all the employees and the outside community so there's not this feeling that you have lost your way in the transitional period.

Mr. Lawrence: We hear a lot about the coming wave of government retirements and the expected impact it might have on federal agencies. � I'm curious as to what kind of challenges this presents to the Board. � As you were describing the adjudication process and the body of knowledge people must know to really be good at their jobs, I couldn't help but think that a lot of that is on-the-job experience, and I wonder who's coming behind them. � So I'm curious as to how this might play out for the Board.

Ms. Morgan: Well, I think, first of all, this issue of retirements is probably the biggest challenge that the government as a whole faces, so the Board is not unique in that challenge. � I will say the Board is unique in a related respect, and that is that when we terminated the ICC and eliminated 50 percent of the employees at the time of the termination, obviously, you lose a lot of younger employees, because the way the governmental reduction-in-force process works, you separate those who have fewer years of service. � So what the Board has is a lot of senior people, so we are faced with this in a very stark way. �

What I have been doing for the last couple of years is actually going out and finding employees with the skills that we need to come in and be there before retirements occur. � So I go out and I look for a transportation analyst who can come in, work with an existing transportation analyst before that analyst retires so that you have a transition period of sharing of expertise. � I've been working on this now for a couple of years and have been very focused on this, because this is a very important part of continuing to make sure we do the job that we're supposed to be doing.

In terms of attracting people to government, which I think is the other challenge that we all in government face, what I've tried to do is to make people realize that government service, first of all, is fun service. � You get to do a lot of interesting things for the public, and that's a good experience to have, and you need to try your hand at it. � Also, a smaller agency can be a very good experience, because you get responsibility very quickly, and the way we operate, we're basically like a team rather than layers of bureaucracy. � So you come in and you're immediately part of a team and you have an important role to play. � So recruiting is important, and I've focused a lot of energy on that part of it as well.

Mr. Lawrence: Let me take you back one more time and ask you about how you go about making decisions. � I thought it was interesting when you described the purpose of people style='mso-bidi-font-weight: appearing before you is because there is a dispute, and Dave asked about customers and what they expect. � You also have stakeholders, Congress, other folks all engaged. � How does one weigh all the different points of view around these to come up with a decision?

Ms. Morgan: Well, it is a delicate balancing, but our statute is one of balance. � It directs us to balance a lot of different interests. � I think the important for all parties to remember is that as far as we're concerned, whatever is filed is important, and it will be given important weight, no matter whether you're an individual or a mayor or a member of Congress. � You are all parties to us, and you're important parties, and we weigh what you have to say in the balance.

Obviously, some cases are more difficult, as I described the one that was challenging. � But after looking at all that's in the record, you come to the best decision that you can make. � I always know when I come to a decision and make it, why I'm making it, and feel very comfortable with justifying it, which I've had to do on a number of occasions. � But it's a balancing, and each case is different, and the balancing in each case is different.

Mr. Lawrence: Linda, I'm afraid we're out of time. � Dave and I want to thank you for being with us this morning.

Ms. Morgan: Thank you for having me. � I've enjoyed the conversation. �

Mr. Lawrence: This has been The Business of Government Hour, featuring a conversation with Linda Morgan, chairman, Surface Transportation Board. �

Be sure and visit us on the web at endowment.pwcglobal.com. � There, you can learn more about our programs and research into new approaches to improving government effectiveness. � You can also get a transcript of today's very interesting conversation. � Again, that's endowment.pwcglobal.com. �

This is Paul Lawrence. � See you next week.

Linda Morgan interview
08/03/2002
Linda Morgan

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