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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Major General Charles Williams, Retired interview

Friday, December 24th, 2004 - 20:00
Phrase: 
"We are taking a very different approach for building new embassies . . We’re building small 10 acre campuses. It’s not on main-street and we have to move it out to the developing quarter. We enclose the embassy in a very secure blast resistance wall."
Radio show date: 
Sat, 12/25/2004
Intro text: 
Major General Charles Williams, Retired

 

Magazine profile: 
Complete transcript: 

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Arlington, Virginia

Mr. Lawrence: Good morning and welcome to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence, partner in charge of the IBM Center for The Business of Government. We created The Center 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 www.businessofgoverment.org.

The Business of Government Hour features a conversation about management with a government executive who is changing the way government does business. Our special guest this morning is Major General, retired, Charles Williams, Director of Overseas Building Operations at the U.S. Department of State.

Good morning, General Williams.

Gen. Williams: Good morning, Paul.

Mr. Lawrence: Joining us in our conversation, also from IBM, is Kim Hintzman.

Good morning, Kim.

Ms. Hintzman: Good morning, Paul.

Mr. Lawrence: Well, General Williams, let's start by learning more about the Overseas Building Operations. Could you tell us about the office and when and why it was created?

Gen. Williams: The office was created in order to provide leadership and oversight over the property management in the State Department. The Overseas Building Operation, which has been basically named over the last 3-1/2 years, was put in place in order to provide a sharper focus to the mission and function I just described.

Mr. Lawrence: Can you give us a sense of the approximate value of the owned and leased property under the control of OBO?

General Williams: The portfolio today is about $12 million.

Mr. Lawrence: And the numbers and people who work with you on your team.

General Williams: Well, the number of people that we serve are massive, quite frankly, 40,000 people or so are stationed around the world, 260 separate locations, cities that we serve. We have over 16,000 properties in that whole mass of responsibility.

Mr. Lawrence: And what's the annual operation and management budget to keep these properties?

General Williams: Today, it's slightly under $500 million.

Ms. Hintzman: General Williams, what are your responsibilities and duties as the director of the Overseas Building Operations?

General Williams: That's a good question, because this is a massive responsibility. As I mentioned before, we have 260 locations around the world where we have facilities. My specific responsibility in broad strokes is to manage the property portfolio around buying, selling, leasing, designing, building, and maintaining the facilities that I've just described, and I mentioned that is 16,000.

Ms. Hintzman: So can you describe your organization's relationship with other agencies and organizations?

General Williams: That's a very important point, Kim, and I appreciate the question, because it is often misunderstood that the State Department facility or facilities and the individuals who work in the facilities are not all State Department people. We serve a multitude of agencies. I like to view the facility as a platform; it's a platform from which the U.S. government can project its foreign policy, and that entails the housing of many agencies and activities.

Ms. Hintzman: You've had an honorable career in the Army, and you were retired prior to accepting this position. Can you describe your previous experiences before becoming the director of OBO, and talk about what it was like to go back into the work force?

General Williams: Kim, that's very interesting because I am a recycle, if you will. I kid sometimes with my boss, Secretary Powell, both of us are the same. My previous background, quite frankly, prepared me quite well for this. I was fortunate to have a nice blend of about 30 years in the military, serving in the Army Corps of Engineers, doing exactly what I'm doing now, just a little different spin.

I built a lot of things, managed huge projects. And then, of course, while in the private sector, I was wonderfully blessed to have the opportunity to be chosen to run a very large school program in New York City, a very tough location to do the work; and then, of course, to manage and build the first private toll road in the state of Virginia, the Greenway.

So a combination of these two experiences, and having the opportunity to blend the management concepts of both I think prepared me quite well for this delicate function.

Mr. Lawrence: You went through your background and you talked to us about your different project management experiences. I'm curious how you would compare undertaking large projects in the military and in the private sector.

General Williams: Well, naturally, Paul, they are different, but they are connected in several ways. Project management is project management; you're basically controlling the outcome of a project. The private sector has a sharper closure to its projects because it's more results-based than I would say the time that I served in the military. But having the combination of both and have gone through each one of the experiences, I could see where there's strengths on both sides. The government is very methodical and processed in it. The private sector is more results-based, and of course, durations and time lines are shorter. A combination of all of that makes for a better manager once you have had the experience of going through them.

Mr. Lawrence: How about the decision-making process in both in terms of speed and crispness; how would you compare those?

General Williams: It's interesting, because while in the government, it's process-driven, and the process is a little bit more, I wouldn't say convoluted, but it is crowded. In the private sector, the organization has more of a flat structure, pinpointing responsibility and management sales a little bit easier to connect to the responsible director or leader, and that would be the sharpest contrast. Decision-making in the private sector is quicker, and obviously, the lines are shorter. On the government side, it's a little bit more process-driven and obviously takes a little longer.

Mr. Lawrence: What drew you back to public service?

General Williams: A call from a very dear friend named Colin L. Powell. And if you've not been on the other end of a telephone call when this gentleman calls you, you have no idea what I'm talking about.

Mr. Lawrence: Well, fill us in, what's the line that persuaded you to return?

General Williams: Well, first of all, he is a person that I admire not only as an individual, but as a servant of our country. Paul, he's done an enormous job for our country. I know him; I know his style. It was just a unique situation that he's a few years senior to me in the military, and he had always, for whatever reason, I had always been somewhat associated with things that he either managed or he had been associated with.

When he was Corps commander in Germany, I had the responsibility as a colonel to retrofit all of the new firing ranges in Germany. This was arranged to accommodate our new family of vehicles that was engaged in the Gulf War. So Secretary Powell, then-Lieutenant General Powell, knew of my work at that point. Then, of course, when I was in my division command responsibility, upstate New York, Fort Drum, I had the opportunity to build a complete city. This was a small mini-city, if you will, post, as we call it in the military. The commander who inherited that responsibility was now-Secretary Powell, once again in a position where he could observe exactly what I had done.

And then, of course, when I retired and went back to the private sector, I was in New York City building schools; had a $4 billion budget, lots of schools to rebuild and rehabilitate. One of those schools was in South Bronx, and it was Morris High School. And one of the distinguished graduates of Morris High School was Colin L. Powell.

So I often say this when I'm engaged in discussions like this and interviews or whatever, is that this man probably knows more about what I have done and what I cannot do than anyone. So a long story, to give you sort of an answer as to why he may have called, but I'm proud he did. Mr. Lawrence: Judging from your career, in addition to Secretary Powell, I'm assuming you've been around lots of other really strong leaders, and I'm curious, what makes a leader effective, from your perspective?

General Williams: I think, Paul, this is very good, because I spend a lot of time thinking about leadership, and that's the real foundation I think to making an organization go. An effective leader is a leader that knows how to select people to work with him or her, understand that in order to get the maximum from a subordinate, there has to be mutual trust and respect. In other words, you have to trust a subordinate; you have to cut the subordinate loose and let them run, let them be creative, let them work.

Secretary Powell has a lot of secret leadership traits, but one that is very profound, as far as I'm concerned: he gives one big responsibilities, and then he steps back and allows the manager that he has hired or entrusted with that to do his or her job. And I don't have to go to him and say, boss, can I do this? He doesn't want me to do that. He wants me to make it happen and then he holds me accountable for the results. That's what makes Colin Powell effective, and that's my construct of a effective leader, and I try to practice that.

Mr. Lawrence: Interesting point, especially about the cutting loose.

The State Department is undertaking a large-scale overseas construction project. What have we learned and why are we doing this? We'll ask General Charles Williams of the U.S. State Department to tell us about this when The Business of Government Hour returns.

(Intermission)

Mr. Lawrence: Good morning. Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence. And today's conversation is with Major General, retired, Charles Williams, Director of the Overseas Building Operations at the U.S. Department of State.

Joining us in our conversation is Kim Hintzman.

Well, General Williams, the need for substantial investment in secure overseas facilities was tragically demonstrated in August 1998 by terrorist attacks on our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. How did this experience change the way OBO provides safe and functional facilities for employees and their families abroad?

General Williams: Paul,that is a very interesting question. The horrific incident that occurred that you made reference to woke all of us up to the fact that we had to do things different from the standpoint of standing up our facilities.

We started with hardening the skin, what I call the skin of the building, that is the building structure itself, coupled with providing several layers of perimeter defense arrangements, and this way, this allowed every building that we now are putting in the system to be safer. And I think that made a tremendous difference in the quality of life of our people.

Ms. Hintzman: In the past, U.S. embassies were traditionally focused on consular activities for Americans working and traveling abroad. How has this role changed, and how does this impact the way that OBO provides services to U.S. employees and their families abroad?

General Williams: Well, I think that, too, Kim, is a very good question, because this allows me the opportunity to explain exactly what we are building. Yes, it is a building, but the building is a diplomatic building which houses many functions, not just a consular operation, but many other functions, like the Department of Agriculture, for an example, that might -- USAID, for an example, who's in a very important role: the CDC, looking at disease and so on. So we have a real collaborative arrangement of concerns and equities now in our building.

Ms. Hintzman: As you mentioned, the embassies are now used as a platform for activities for multiple agencies. I understand that the Capitol Security cost-sharing program is an attempt to pull the resources of agencies to improve the embassy facilities. Can you describe this program, and who's involved in it, and what are the expected outcomes?

General Williams: Good, Kim. I think we have embarked on, with good support from the administration, OMB, and all, on a program that will ultimately get us right in terms of having the resources to correct this major deficiency we have in buildings. By having a cost-sharing arrangement, this allows all of the tenants and partners that I just spoke about that operate and use our platform, for all of us to come together for a short period of time, maybe 10 or 12 years, put our shoulders to the plow, if you will, and provide resources so that we can build quicker.

We have demonstrated I think successfully over the last three years that we have a construct or a management scheme in place now where we can produce facilities quicker and more efficiently. So now is the time for everyone who is involved in this platform that I speak about to come together, and we all push hard. And we can sunset this thing in about 12 years and we'll have the work done.

Mr. Lawrence: Let me take you into some of the decision-making surrounding that. I imagine the CDC, the Department of Agriculture, others, I mean there's probably some sense about, you know, some different opinions about the priorities of the request, the specifications, their security needs; how do you work through that?

General Williams: Well, first of all, we try to do our work up front, the Overseas Building Operation. We came up with standard embassy design templates so that we would take away all of the "we" and the "they" and this type of thing. We made certain that we connected this, going back to my private sector training, to good industry standards. We picked office building standards in the U.S., and so we sized all of our facilities against that standard.

So if you are in CDC or if you are in Agriculture or if you are in the State Department, small issues like room size and conference rooms and this type thing, they're all standard. So by getting everybody on the same page, we then could say that this is not just a State Department building. We have responsibility for running it for the government, but this is our building, and you can see this by looking at things that look alike. So this was the first way of getting everybody on the same page. And from that standpoint, it's working well; this allows us to build the facilities quicker. These standard design products are on the shelf, they are generically designed so that we can pull them off, site adapt them to a particular region around the world, and we cut off months and even years in terms of execution. So we had to demonstrate several things before we could even begin to talk to a tenant about cost-sharing: how quickly can I get it, are you going to be sluggish, will I have the same as you would have? So we eliminated those things up front.

Mr. Lawrence: Let me ask you a question then about the security needs, because I'm imagining some organizations as your tenants would like to have a great deal of interaction with the public, others would prefer none, almost by definition. How do you work through those differences?

General Williams: Well, good question, Paul. I chair a facilities council, and this meets on a periodic basis, where we bring all the tenants in, some 30 or 40 people in a room at one time, and we educate them on the ongoing activities of the program. This is what we're building, this is what's coming next. We give them an opportunity to participate and provide input, ask questions, et cetera.

So this is our way of communicating to those who want information and would like to be involved in the way of input, and offer to those who may not have an interest, so that's our vehicle for that.

Ms. Hintzman: The OBO is embarking on a large-scale overseas construction program; what are the scope and budget for this endeavor; and how does the evolving role of the overseas embassies and the terrorist events impact the execution of these plans?

General Williams: Kim, the program today is robust. 3-1/2 years ago, when Secretary Powell and I came on board, we were looking at sort of a program in the total that produced maybe one embassy new start a year. Over the last 3-1/2 years, with good support from our Congress and OMB, we have now moved that from one to 12 to 15. It's been gigantic progress over the period of time. We are now starting over 10 new embassy compounds per year, and we are cutting ribbons or opening about eight a year.

I think this is sending a very strong signal to those who would want to create problems for us, that we are very serious about taking care of this program. But the most important thing, what it does for our people. I think our people know who serve overseas; they know that we are trying to do our very best to eliminate this problem.

Mr. Lawrence: As you describe the openings and closings, I couldn't help but think that the embassies and the consulates around the world, many must have aged beyond their life expectancy, so I'm curious sort how that came to be just in terms of a management question. And also, are the new buildings being constructed and maintained differently to extend their life spans?

General Williams: Paul, yes, the first question is, we didn't do a good job, and I mean, we, the government, didn't do a good job of watching our portfolio in the past. Our buildings of existing structures are about 40 years old. The useful life of a building almost anyplace is pretty much over at that period of time.

If you compare that to anything else that the U.S. might own overseas, that is about 20 years older than the rest of it, so we have an aging problem, coupled with facilities that did not and do not meet security standards. We are currently expending over -- and plan to spend over a billion dollars a year to build these new facilities and build them quicker and faster.

Mr. Lawrence: You talked earlier about some of the variances or metrics you got from the private sector to sort of influence your thinking. I'm curious in terms of sort of other countries, are they dealing with similar problems with their embassies or are we just very unique?

General Williams: I think we're unique, Paul, from the standpoint of being more vigilant and concerned about this whole matter of secure facilities. We've been hit hard and we know if we do not secure the facilities, what will happen. Our colleagues around the world, and we have good interaction with several of them; they come and visit with us a few times a year, and we do the same. I don't know precisely what they're doing, but we are probably the leader in this secure facilities business at the moment. That's my belief.

Mr. Lawrence: OBO is working to becoming a results-based organization; what is this and how does one become such an organization? We'll ask General Charles Williams from the State Department to tell us about his plans and visions when The Business of Government Hour continues.

(Intermission)

Mr. Lawrence: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence. And this morning's conversation is with Major General, retired, Charles Williams, Director of Overseas Building Operations at the U.S. Department of State.

And joining us in our conversation is Kim Hintzman.

Ms. Hintzman: General Williams, upon taking a director position of OBO, you launched a major reorganization; what was your vision of this reorganization?

General Williams: Well, Kim, what we wanted in this new organization was a different focus. We had to build these new facilities very quickly and we had to use a different management technique, and the organizational structure that was in place was not, in my judgment, appropriate for that. Results-based, in broad strokes, means performance and accountability, and having a very flat organization with delineated management cells that would perform certain specific functions; that was the grand scheme of this reorganization.

Ms. Hintzman: So I hear that some of the business drivers are around speed of building and the performance-based, results-based organization; can you describe some of those functions that those cells perform?

General Williams: Yes. For an example, the organization didn't have a robust planning element. Planning is so critical in this business, because we have to plan basically five years ahead, we had to develop and put in place a long-range strategic plan which sort of laid out what we're going to be touching and building over the next five years, and of course, have clearly defined responsibilities for each of the managers.

And we set this up somewhat on a hybrid of what is used in the private sector. My senior managers are managing directors, meaning that each one of the senior persons under me have a management responsibility so that we could capture the accountability and move forward. This is where the combination of my government and private sector experience blended together. I'm using the managing director a la vice president business unit concept from the private sector, and then I'm linking this to a governmental process to build embassies.

Mr. Lawrence: OBO is described as a results-based organization. You've talked to us about the importance of results and accountability. Let's use an example. What does this mean in terms of embassy construction, for example?

General Williams: Paul, what is means is that we are taking a very different approach for building new embassies now. We're not just building an embassy that is a building, we're building compounds, or I like to call them small campuses, because it's built on a 10-acre site; we procure a site that is basically a green site that's not been disturbed or used before; it's not on Main Street, this is a big break from the tradition. This concept will not work downtown; we have to move it out to, in many cases, what is the developing corridor in and around a particular city. We put all of the operating structures that's needed to run an embassy function on this acreage enclosed in a very secure blast-resistant wall, and this is where we end up.

Mr. Lawrence: How are countries reacting to our new approach?

General Williams: Well, they are shocked, obviously, when we start negotiating about property. When we start asking for a minimum of 10 acres, they look very strange because normally, they associate an embassy with one building. But I must admit that we have worked this concept very effectively now for the last three years. We have 27 of these new compounds under construction, soon to have 38, because we have another 11 that we're in the process of putting out as we speak, and this is the new way of doing it.

Using the combination of the standard embassy designs that I described earlier, this is allowing us to basically build one of these campuses in two years versus four and a half years.

Mr. Lawrence: Interesting. Let's go back to the OBO and the results-based organization part of our conversation. What are some of the performance measures you're using to determine if your office is meeting the objectives?

General Williams: Well, one that is used externally is used by the OMB. OMB has a program assessment rating tool called PART. This is where -- it's a very effective tool. It's based, quite frankly, on the results, or said in another way, did you do what you planned to do or what you said you would do? I must say that it is a very tough evaluation arrangement. OBO enjoyed this last rating period on its new facilities, the ones we just finished speaking about, a 97 percent rating. This is one of the highest in the government for performance and effectiveness. And for an organization that was basically in the ditch, if you will, 3-1/2 years ago, we are quite proud of this. And it shows I think once again the importance of the restructuring, the reorganization, and some of the new approaches that we're taking.

Mr. Lawrence: Are there other measures of success besides the PART scores?

General Williams: Well, yes; we have put in place, which I think is, again, the blend of the private sector and the government experience. I have an industry advisory panel. This panel is made up of nine members from industry, very senior members. They meet with me quarterly and my senior staff and they basically advise and sanction any new approach that we're taking.

So once we launch a new program, a new direction, we know that this program will stand the test of industry, such as our standards dealing with the cost-sharing mechanism and this type of thing. So this industry advisory panel, too, has been a winner for best practices, it's been cited by Gallop and others as being one of the most effective advisory apparatuses in the Washington area.

Ms. Hintzman: General Williams, you've talked about a leader holding their people accountable, and we've also been talking a lot about performance measures. In this kind of geographically diverse organization, how do you instill accountability and reward performance?

General Williams: Well, Kim, you hit the nail on the head. You must demand results, but you also -- and this is where the effective leader comes in -- you must reward those who participate. We're big on awards, as we are on results. We take time to set aside twice a year an awards recognition time where we bring all of the persons in who have gone over and above what we expect them, and we make awards.

We tie all of the ratings and the performance evaluations to performance. Our performance measures flow from the managing office down to the division down to the branch, so there's no misunderstanding about what we all mean. For an example, everyone in the organization knows that the time on the clock for delivery of one of the compounds that I've just described is 24 months. We advertise that, we even tell the contractors and all of the private sector partners who work with us. There is no secret, nothing magic about our work. It's all about performing and delivering. So not only does my organization know it, even the private sector partners as well. And that is very effective, and we have a very strong awards program that integrates that.

Ms. Hintzman: It's been very interesting hearing you talk about the new compounds. Now, what are some of the other unique challenges that you face in trying to buy, lease, or build, and maintain U.S. properties in foreign countries?

General Williams: Kim, this is tough work, you know, working in every region in the world. I have personally visited over 100 of these locations myself. It's very difficult, because in many of the countries, the rules for doing business are sometimes not fully developed, so we have to work in that sort of situation. In other countries they are different from what we use here in the United States.

But our people have been exposed and trained in such a way that we now understand how to operate and deal in those particular countries. We still have hard work pushing, zoning, and the acquisition of property and the like through, but we know that it's hard work, so we give ourselves sufficient time and work through it. I can't tell you that it's easy, because it's not. It is very difficult. It compares to nothing that we do here in the United States.

As you know, I managed the construction of the Greenway, and we had 47 land owners, for example, that we had to do real estate business with, very sophisticated Northern Virginia-type land owners, but none of that would even begin to approach the level of complication that we deal with in these foreign countries, because as I said, in many cases, the lines are not clear and the rules are not yet fully vetted.

Mr. Lawrence: It's interesting, especially the part about going to 100 other compounds. We're glad you could join us then.

What has State been doing in Iraq now that a diplomatic presence has been established? We'll ask General Charles Williams to enlighten us, update us, when The Business of Government Hour continues.

(Intermission)

Mr. Lawrence: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence. And today's conversation is with Major General, retired, Charles Williams, Director, Overseas Building Operations at the U.S. Department of State.

Joining us in our conversation is Kim Hintzman.

Well, General Williams, what has OBO done to stand up an interim facility in Iraq since diplomatic relationships have been established there?

General Williams: Well, what we have done, we have put in place several facilities to handle the interim responsibilities. These were stood up very quickly, which allowed our new ambassador and his staff to be ready to take over on the 1st of July of this year.

Mr. Lawrence: How about a permanent facility?

General Williams: A permanent facility is being planned. We are in the process now of looking at properties. It will be a property that will be sufficiently sized to allow us to build a diplomatic community along the same lines that I've described earlier in my interaction here with you. This, we are hopeful, could be launched as early as next year. And once again, we would have a very short duration for completing it.

Ms. Hintzman: General Williams, what other embassies or U.S. facilities in the world are considered to be in high risk areas, and how does the OBO address such security threats?

General Williams: Well, first of all, the identification of what is in a high risk area or what needs to be dealt with from a security point of view is adjudicated by another element in the Department of Diplomatic Security. So we are the doers once the identification of the problem has been cited by diplomatic security.

Ms. Hintzman: And so what is it that you do once they identify those areas where there are high risks?

General Williams: Well, Kim, what we do, first of all, is, our protocol calls for a survey. We survey the particular facility, and as I have mentioned, we have a very standard process in place which allows us to move very quickly to put this particular facility in our strategic plan, and if it's an urgent facility, the plan is flexible enough to move it from the back to the front, et cetera, and then make the presentation through the approval levels, OMB and Congress, and once funding is secured, then we launch the construction.

Ms. Hintzman: We've talked a little bit about the challenges of maintaining buildings around the world; can you tell us a little bit more about some of the benefits and challenges of the Department of State's model of managing its own real estate?

General Williams: Kim, we think we have a very unique method of managing real estate. It's a combination of using the private sector and government; once again blending that experience that I gained by being in both arenas. We have a site search team; it's a global team, international real estate firm, well-heeled in dealing with real estate in these countries. We have a stable of these kind of firms. That's the first part.

The second step would be then to bring in my special real estate team. We have credentialed people on staff, 30 or 40 of them, in real estate, to go in and draw on what the first set of eyes, or the private sector global firm, has found. They isolate around one or two of these, working with the particular embassy post concerns, and come away with a preference of one or number two: bring this back, we make a final decision based on the technical capabilities of the particular site, and then we move to acquire and negotiate the real estate.

We do an appraisal, we do everything that happens here in the United States around price; we negotiate very hard, and end up with, in our opinion, protecting the government quite well.

Ms. Hintzman: We've talked about the industry advisory panel that advises you on a number of different best practices; do you think this is something that you would recommend to other agencies, implementing similar kinds of advisory panels?

General Williams: Kim, I feel so strongly about this particular practice that I would say an organization like the one I'm involved with, I don't believe going forward in the future could survive without this. This has been just a breath of fresh air. These individuals roll up their sleeves; it's pro bono, they are not paid, they are there because they want to be there, they believe in their country, they are happy to support us, they put it all on the line, and quite frankly, help me work through issues. The best way to describe it, it's a big staff meeting. We roll up our sleeves, we brainstorm, and we coalesce around a particular solution, and they go out and support it. I call them my nine ambassadors of the Overseas Building program, because they support it quite well.

Mr. Lawrence: The last couple questions here will draw on your experience. Thinking about your lessons learned in your current role, what advice do you have for other federal leaders who manage large-scale international projects?

General Williams: First of all, the international business is a little tricky, and you have to have an appreciation for the host country's unique rules and the like, and have to find a way to understand that they all will be different. There's some patience we have to be sensitive to, and then, of course, you have to deal in very straightforward business terms to make certain that the end result can be what it should be.

And sort of a summary of all of that is that be very knowledgeable through whatever means and methods you can about the particular region of the country that you're going to attempt to do business. Don't go in cold. Have the right team and the right help, and in many cases, this requires you to draw on well-heeled private sector firms that have been working in the international arena for quite some time to help you work through the maze.

Mr. Lawrence: And while you're giving advice, what advice would you offer to someone just beginning their career in public service?

General Williams: Well, first of all, public service is unique. I frankly think being a person of the background that I have, all should seek to somehow give some time to the public, but that's more of a personal view about it. But for someone who's interested, and I do have an opportunity to talk to several groups from time to time, be very serious and focused before you launch, because in the public service, you will touch things and you will engage in activities that affect people, and so it's serious business; it's not something to just sort of try and not be very serious.

It can be tremendously rewarding if you are interested in really coming away with some notion as to how government works, and this is a wonderful place to do it. And just to put a specific plug in for my organization, I don't think there is a place for an individual who has the skill sets that we promote in our organization, there's a better place anywhere to work. You get a global view of the world, you get an opportunity to travel and do useful things, you can operate pretty much like you would do in the private sector. And the buying, the selling, disposing, the leasing, the maintaining, and building facilities, to me, is a dream of any architect, engineer, planner any place, and it allows you to serve and improve the quality of life for your colleagues and our country at the same time.

What better way for anyone to serve?

Mr. Lawrence: General Williams, thank you. We're out of time. Kim, I want to thank you for squeezing us in your very busy schedule.

General Williams: It's been delightful. I really, really enjoyed that. And I just wanted to say one other thing, on the 13th of October, we have an industry day. It will be in the Ronald Reagan building. We're inviting everyone to come. Right now we have about 400 people signed up, and if you don't remember anything else that I've said today, remember there is an industry day October 13th, Ronald Reagan building, downtown Washington, D.C., sponsored by the Overseas Building Operation, and we want you there.

Mr. Lawrence: Thank you, General Williams.

This has been The Business of Government Hour, featuring a conversation with Major General, retired, Charles Williams, Director, Overseas Building Operations at the U.S. Department of State.

Be sure and visit us on the web at businessofgovernment.org. There, you can learn more about our programs and research and get a transcript of today's very interesting conversation. Once again, it's businessofgovernment.org.

This is Paul Lawrence. Thank you for listening.

Major General Charles Williams, Retired interview
12/25/2004
"We are taking a very different approach for building new embassies . . We’re building small 10 acre campuses. It’s not on main-street and we have to move it out to the developing quarter. We enclose the embassy in a very secure blast resistance wall."

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