Collaboration

 

Collaboration

Creating a Culture of Collaboration in the Intelligence Community

Friday, October 12th, 2007 - 12:02
Posted by: 
Associate Director of National Intelligence for Human CapitalOffice of the Director of National Intelligence

Redefining the Business of Human Resources

Friday, October 12th, 2007 - 11:56
Posted by: 
  Chief Human Capital OfficerU.S. Department of Energy

Connecting People, Systems, and Data in the 21st-Century Air Force

Friday, October 12th, 2007 - 11:50
Posted by: 
Chief of Warfighting Integration and Chief Information OfficerU.S. Air Force

Responding to Ever-Changing Threats to Keep the Country Safe

Friday, October 12th, 2007 - 11:41
Posted by: 
Deputy Secretary, U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Protecting the Nation’s Natural Heritage

Friday, October 12th, 2007 - 11:31
Posted by: 
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Business Management and Wildland FireU.S. Department of the Interior

Expanding Healthcare Services for the Military Community

Friday, October 12th, 2007 - 11:19
Posted by: 
Major General Elder GrangerDeputy Director and Program Executive Officer, TRICARE Management ActivityU.S. Department of Defense

Balancing the Flow of Travel and Trade with Border Security

Friday, October 12th, 2007 - 11:11
Posted by: 
Deputy Commissioner, U.S. Customs and Border ProtectionU.S. Department of Homeland SecurityProfiles in Leadership

A Conversation with Clay Johnson III

Friday, October 12th, 2007 - 10:57
Posted by: 
Deputy Director for ManagementU.S. Office of Management and BudgetA Conversation with Leaders  

A Conversation with the Honorable Timothy M. Kaine

Friday, October 5th, 2007 - 11:03
Posted by: 
Conversation with LeadersA Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia

Dan Blair interview

Friday, August 31st, 2007 - 20:00
Phrase: 
Mr. Blair serves as the first Chairman of the independent Postal Regulatory Commission, the successor agency to the former Postal Rate Commission.
Radio show date: 
Sat, 09/01/2007
Guest: 
Intro text: 
Missions and Programs...
Missions and Programs
Complete transcript: 

Originally Broadcast September 1, 2007

Washington, D.C.

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.

Recent postal reform has provided opportunities to address issues facing the country's Postal Service as it continues its transformation in a more competitive environment, with a variety of electronic alternatives for communications and payments.

With us this morning to discuss his organization and its efforts to facilitate this reform is our special guest, Dan Blair, Chairman of the Postal Regulatory Commission.

Good morning, Dan.

Mr. Blair: Good morning, Al.

Mr. Morales: And joining us in our conversation is Solly Thomas, associate partner in IBM's human capital practice.

Good morning, Solly.

Mr. Thomas: Good morning, Al. Good morning, Dan.

Hotlink Topic 1

Mr. Morales: Dan, let's start off by learning a little bit more about your organization, the Postal Regulatory Commission. Can you give us an overview of the Commission's purpose and its mission?

Mr. Blair: The Commission is a new organization built on the foundation of the former Postal Rate Commission. Last December, the President signed into law the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act. And under that new legislation, the Postal Rate Commission was changed into the Postal Regulatory Commission, with new additional authorities and responsibilities to exercise oversight and regulatory authority over the Postal Service.

Mr. Morales: Can you give us a sense of scale then of this organization? Can you tell us a little bit about how it's organized, its size, its budget and perhaps its geographic footprint, if it has a broader footprint?

Mr. Blair: The organization is a very small organization. I was formerly at the Office of Personnel Management. We were around 5,500 employees -- on a good day with everyone there, 55 employees, but we oversee an entity that generates around $78 billion in revenues that has 850,000 employees, and so it's a big task for a very small organization.

Mr. Morales: $78 billion? That's probably about the size of a Fortune 50 company, if not bigger.

Mr. Blair: Oh, probably larger, probably larger, more like a Fortune 10, and really the depth and scope and breadth of the Postal Service is amazing. It's really the one federal agency that touches everyone almost on a daily basis.

Mr. Thomas: Dan, you've given us a nice broad context of the agency. Can you tell us a little bit about your roles and responsibilities as the Chairman of the Commission?

Mr. Blair: The Chairman of the Commission serves at the pleasure of the President, and is designated chairman from among the five commissioners. We have five Presidentially appointed Senate-confirmed commissioners; we serve terms of six years each; we are located in downtown Washington D.C., at 901 New York Avenue.

As chairman, I'm the administrative head of the agency, and have broad authority over the employees and over the management of the organization. Everything we do though is as a commission, appointment of office heads, organization, all require input of the commissioners, and we work very collegially together. And so I'm very fortunate to be part of a very intelligent, very hard-working group of individuals.

Mr. Morales: Great. Dan, earlier, you mentioned your transition from OPM. Could you describe your career path for our listeners? How did you get started, and what attracted you to leave your senior position at the Office of Personnel Management to become the first Chairman of the Postal Regulatory Commission?

Mr. Blair: I started my career on Capitol Hill working for the former ranking Republican on the old Post Office and Civil Service Committee in the House of Representatives. My issue portfolio included both postal and civil service issues. After the Republicans took over the House in 1994, I had the good fortune to become the Staff Director for then-Chairman John McHugh on the Postal Service Subcommittee. And one of the things that we began on that subcommittee was the Postal reform movement. We conducted a series of hearings on conducting oversight of the Postal Service, and came to the conclusion that the basic business model under which it was operating was broken, the legislation needed fixing. And under Chairman McHugh's leadership, he began the Postal reform movement.

After three years working on the House Government Reform Committee for Chairman McHugh, I moved over to the Senate side and worked for Senator Fred Thompson, who was the Chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs committee at that time. My portfolio changed a little bit -- I got back into the civil service arena, but was also involved in the Postal Service as well, government ethics, budget issues, and it's from that platform that I was able to make the transition to the Office of Personnel Management, where I was appointed the Deputy Director by President Bush and confirmed by the Senate.

Served there for about five years. It was a phenomenal and educational experience for me, working with some really good people, such as one of the interviewers here today, Solly Thomas, but it was really a phenomenal opportunity for me to gain good management experience and insights on how to run an organization. My passion has always been I think on the Postal side, and when this opportunity arose last year to serve the President as Chairman of the Commission and serve on the Commission, I seized it, because I think this is a one-time opportunity to really help change the way the Postal Service operates.

The legislation granted significant new authorities, but also counterbalanced it by empowering a new commission, a regulator in this point, to make sure that the intent of the legislation was being properly carried out. We view ourselves really as the agents of transparency and accountability, and take that very seriously.

Mr. Morales: That's a very broad set of experiences. I'm curious, Dan, how have these experiences prepared you for this current role -- leadership role, and shaped your current approach and leadership style?

Mr. Blair: I think that my work at OPM certainly gave me the management skills that were necessary for running an organization. And they gave me an appreciation for one fundamental concept, and that is that the organization is only as good as the people that you have for it. So I come into the job with a special appreciation for the human capital side of the equation. I also come into with a broad knowledge and background in Postal issues. This is almost an alternate world of sorts in that many of the ways that government functions -- functions just a bit differently when it comes to the Postal side, and I think there is a steep learning curve for some folks, and luckily, I've had a background in that and I've able to negotiate that steep learning curve well.

Mr. Morales: What are the goals and priorities of the Postal Regulatory Commission?

We will ask Dan Blair, Chairman of the Postal Regulatory Commission, 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 Dan Blair, Chairman of the Postal Regulatory Commission.

Also joining us in our conversation is Solly Thomas, associate partner in IBM's human capital practice.

Mr. Morales: Dan, can you give us an overview of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act? What was the impetus for this legislation, and what additional tools does the new law provide the Postal Service to meet the challenges of a changing marketplace?

Mr. Blair: The Postal Accountability Enhancement Act was intended by Congress to give the Postal Service additional flexibility in the way it sets its rates. Right now, the way we set rates for the Postal Service is that they come into the Regulatory Commission, it's a 10-month litigated proceeding at which point we make a recommended decision, which is then considered by the Governors of the Postal Service. This process was clearly broken, it was very adversarial in nature, and I don't think there was anyone who thought that this was a viable model for a 21st Century Postal Authority.

Under the new legislation, we won't be recommending rates, we'll be reviewing the rates, but we'll also be looking at all aspects of Postal operations. The new legislation divided Postal products into two areas: competitive products and market-dominant products. And this is really a watershed in the way that Postal products are viewed and how they'll be regulated.

Mr. Morales: Now, the enactment of this new piece of legislation brought about several changes to the organization itself. Could you describe the fundamental differences between the roles and responsibilities of the predecessor agency?

Mr. Blair: Most fundamental is the name change, and I think that that speaks volumes. We were formerly the Postal Rate Commission, and what we did was recommend rates. As a regulator, we'll be reviewing the rates that the Postal Service sets in the future, but we're also going to be looking at things such as, is there cross-subsidization? Are they keeping rates within the price cap?

The new law has said that the Postal Service could raise rates within each class subject to a price cap, which should be equal to the rate of inflation. But within that, they have great flexibility; we'll be reviewing those rates as well.

Also, the legislation strengthened the complaint process, and it gave the regulator the authority to order corrective action. Now if there's a complaint filed with the Commission, we could only recommend changes. Under the new legislation, we can enforce those changes. We have subpoena authority. So there is significant new authority vested in the regulator to counterbalance the flexibility and additional authorities granted to the Postal Service.

Mr. Thomas: Dan, can you talk some more about the new oversight roles and responsibilities, and to that end, what are your goals and priorities, and how do you plan to accomplish them?

Mr. Blair: Right now, we're multitasking. The legislation gave the Postal Regulatory Commission 18 months from the date of enactment to come up with a new set of regulations governing the new system of ratemaking. In our conference with the Postal Service, I said that I thought it would benefit the system if we had those regulations in place sooner rather than later, and suggested that we might be able to get those regulations up as soon as October of this year, and we're on target to do that. Thus far, we've put out two Notices of Advanced Rulemaking in the Federal Register to receive comments on what this new system would look like. We're engaging the Postal Service in the preliminary stages before full consultation on how to develop new service standards for Postal customers as well with the Postal Service.

But still, we have some clean-up to do under the old act. We issued a decision cleaning up from the rate case that was issued back in February of 2007. We still have a number of smaller cases that are pending. We have negotiated service agreement cases that are pending -- one by Bank of America -- so we're multitasking, we're doing things under the old law, we're trying to get the new law in place, and we're also -- I'm trying to make sure that the organization is prepared to undertake the new responsibilities granted to it by the Congress.

Mr. Thomas: We'd like to give our listeners a better understanding of the relationship between the Commission and the U.S. Postal Service. Can you explain the regulatory role played by the Commission?

Mr. Blair: We have a great relationship thus far with Postal Service. I think it's one of mutual respect and understanding. I've developed a good working relationship with Postmaster General Jack Potter. I think he's done a fine job in his position. Also, Jim Miller, as the Chairman of the Board of Governors, has reached out, and we've established a good working relationship there.

But the legislation definitely empowered the regulator, and we're going to be working to make sure that the regulator fulfills those roles. Part of this will be compliance with the new rate cap, making sure that rates are within the cap that's envisioned by Congress; adherence to new Sarbanes-Oxley reporting requirements.

The Postal Service will be required to develop for the Postal Service new accounting principles for their competitive products category. In addition, we'll be consulting with them later this summer in a formal process on development of service standards, and so it really has given the Commission a new role in helping the Postal Service obtain its missions and objectives.

Mr. Thomas: Given the rather unique nature of the U.S. Postal Service in that it receives no federal funding and operates on its own revenue generation, could you elaborate on this, and how the Commission works to ensure the sustainability of the Postal Service?

Mr. Blair: Under the old law, it was a cost of service pricing system whereby the Postal Service would come in and say that their costs are "X," and the Rate Commission would recommend rates to cover those costs. Under the new regime, the Postal Service will be able to raise rates up to inflation, but will have to manage within that, and so if rate increases in the future will mirror inflation, they're going to have to manage their cost within the allowed framework. It's a substantially new framework for them to operate in.

Congress envisioned more flexibility in ratemaking for the Postal Service under this legislation, but they also said that the overarching considerations were that rate stay within the price cap, and so we'll be making sure the rates within the class -- that the class itself isn't raised higher than the rate of inflation.

Mr. Morales: Dan, you've used the term now "competitive products" and "market-dominant products." Could you describe more specifically what these are for our listeners?

Mr. Blair: The market-dominant products include Postal products such as first class mail, your letters and sealed parcels, post cards, periodicals, magazines, newspapers, standard mail, the mail that you read -- advertising mail, including catalogs, single-piece parcel post, packages that you might sent through the Postal Service and library mail. The competitive products are those areas where the Postal Service finds itself competing against private competitors, and they include products such as priority mail, expedited or express mail, and bulk parcel service for business users.

Mr. Morales: Great. Now, going back to the Postal Regulatory Commission and the Act, one of the most critical requirements of the Act is the establishment of a modern system for regulating rates and classes of market-dominant postal products as you've described, and the law is very clear on the objectives of the system as well as factors for the Commission to consider.

Can you describe these in a little bit more detail for us?

Mr. Blair: Congress granted the Postal Service the ability to raise rates within each Postal class up to the rate of change in the Consumer Price Index. This was done in order to give Postal customers the ability to better predict annual increases, and that was especially important to business mailers. We've seen that under the old cost of service system, some rates were more predictable than others, and that some rates would shoot up based upon their cost, and that would lead to hardship for many businesses. And so a price cap is intended to solve that by introducing an element of predictability and allow businesses to better budget for price increases in the future.

The Act listed objectives and factors by which the rates will be evaluated. The objectives include the value of the Postal services to both the sender and the recipient, making sure that we have regular and effective access to Postal services for all communities, both urban and rural, ensuring that the Postal Service's customers receive reliable delivery, speed and frequency of Postal service, and that they also have objective external performance measures for each of the market-dominant products, and that's what we're working with the Postal Service in the future to develop.

Mr. Morales: On a related matter, can you talk about how the Commission plans to in fact establish this system, and what are your ongoing efforts to outreach to stakeholders, mail users and other government agencies?

Mr. Blair: The first thing we did was we issued a notice in the Federal Register earlier this year, asking stakeholders what this new system rate regulation should look like. We received I believe 30-some-odd responses. Also, those responses were subject to reply responses as well. We also issued another Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. We co-hosted a summit with the Postal Service with over 200 attendees talking about what this new system would look like, and we've also invited comments on service standards and performance measurement for market-dominant products.

But this has all been really Washington-centric, and we wanted to take the message out beyond Washington, and so what we're doing is conducting three field hearings in Wilmington, Los Angeles and Kansas City, in which we're going to hear from different Postal customers as well, and we're inviting written testimony from the public as well as in the Federal Register.

Mr. Morales: Great.

What is the Postal Regulatory Commission's approach to performing its auditing and reporting function?

We will ask Dan Blair, Chairman of the Postal Regulatory Commission, 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 Dan Blair, Chairman of the Postal Regulatory Commission.

Also joining us on our conversation is Solly Thomas, associate partner in IBM's human capital practice.

Dan, with the recent postal rate increase, the Commission also approved the Postal Service's new "Forever" stamp to ease the transition to the new rates. Could you tell us about this new innovative approach, and how does this effort illustrate your collaborative relationship with the Postal Service?

Mr. Blair: Well, I think the adoption of the Forever stamp really evidences the collaborative relationship between the Service and the new Regulatory Commission. It was a proposal by the Postal Service, but it's also grounded in the Commissioner's desire to move forward with something that was very consumer-friendly. We've heard complaints throughout the years of people having old stamps, which they had to go buy the make-up stamps for, if you had a 37-cent stamp, you had to go buy another 2-cent stamp. And so people have rolls and rolls -- odds and ends of old stamps in their desk drawer.

The Forever stamp is intended to be very consumer-friendly, and if you purchase it, it will be good for -- a single piece for a class letter basically forever. But this was an instance where the Commissioners had voiced support for the concept; the Governors of the Postal Service took that and made that a formal recommendation. The Commission adopted it, and it shows you that this can work, that good things can come out of a very collaborative environment. It was a win-win for Postal customers and for the Postal Service.

Mr. Thomas: Dan, under the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, the Commission is also advancing toward performance of its auditing and reporting responsibilities. Can you talk about the actions you plan to undertake at the Commission to carry out these responsibilities?

Mr. Blair: The new Act does require the Commission undertake significant new auditing and reporting responsibilities. Part of that will be involving consultation with the Department of Treasury on recommending appropriate accounting principles in the competitive market areas. We've engaged the Department of Treasury in that area. We're also consulting with the Federal Trade Commission about laws on governing competitive products. And Congress asked us to perform a number of reports in the legislation, which we'll be doing over the next few years, in order to give them an idea of where we stand on implementation of the Act as well as ways that we might be able to improve on the Act in the future.

Mr. Thomas: Dan, you've taken over a relatively small agency that now has new authorities and responsibilities, and surely this is a tall order for any agency, particularly one with limited resources.

What changes do you see are necessary for the Commission to carry out its mission and its new responsibilities?

Mr. Blair: That's where I approach this job maybe little bit differently than my predecessors did. Having come from the Office of Personal Management and helped lead the President's Initiative on the Strategic Management of Human Capital, I have a special appreciation for the people that work in an organization, realizing that the organization is only as good as the people that work for it. And so we want to take a hard look at the Commission to make sure, and do the cross-walk between what our old responsibilities were, what the new responsibilities are, what that difference or delta will be, and make sure that we have staff capable of performing those new tasks.

And if we don't, how are we going to bring the staff up to speed, or what new staff are we going to have to bring in to augment that? Along this course, we've hired some outside experts to conduct a skills gap analysis and recommend some organizational changes. We're looking at succession planning. The Commission, much like rest of the federal government, is facing a retirement wave. I believe that 100 percent of my senior management team will be eligible to retire over the next five years, and so we're taking a look at that, to ensure that we have some good succession planning strategies in place.

One of the new areas in which the Commission hasn't had to focus on before, but the legislation requires it, is in the financial reporting area. For example, the Sarbanes-Oxley reporting review and the new accounting principles. So these are new areas for the Commission, and we'll be working to fulfill our goals and roles in these areas over the next few months.

Mr. Morales: Recently, the Commission made two structural changes: the appointment of the Commission's first Inspector General, and the creation of the Office of Public Affairs and Governmental Relations.

Can you elaborate on why these two changes were made, and what are you looking to accomplish with these new organizations?

Mr. Blair: When I came to the Commission, realizing the Commission's augmented role and profile with regards to its new role as a regulator, one of the things that struck me is that we really need to make sure we have a good external outreach. And so the Commission undertook an effort to develop and create a new Office of Public Affairs and Government Relations.

The Commission has been very fortunate in that we were able to secure the services of a long-time Hill staffer who worked on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Nancy Langley. She's doing an outstanding job in working with our media stakeholders, as well as with our congressional oversight committees and appropriators, to make sure that we're communicating well with them and meeting the expectations of the Act.

The Act also called for the appointment by the agency of a new Inspector General. So that was one of the first actions that we took at the Commission was a creation of this office. And Jack Calendar joined the staff of the Commission as its first Inspector General. Jack came to us as the Chief Postal Counsel from the House Oversight Committee, where he served as Chief Postal Counsel for ranking Republican member Tom Davis.

Also have the good fortune to have join us at the Commission, Ann Fisher, who served as the Deputy Staff Director on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee for Susan Collins. Senator Collins was the chief sponsor, along with Senator Carper, of the reform bill in the Senate, and helped shepherd that legislation through the Senate and through its enactments. So we have some really good new staff joining the Commission as well.

Mr. Morales: With the Commission's changed role, do you see the need to undergo further changes in the Commission's organizational structure, its workforce size, skill mix, staff expertise, or perhaps in the policies and procedures? And can you talk about what you think these changes might be?

Mr. Blair: Again, we've brought in an outside consultant to help us better focus on what we need to do differently in order to be successful in meeting the mandates of the new Act. We want to make sure that our organizational structure is best-suited and aligned to this new role. So one of things we're going to have to do is develop a strategic plan.

And we're also moving in several directions at one time, which makes it just a little bit more interesting, if not more complicated, by wrapping up the old rate case and soliciting comments on the new system, reviewing a new negotiated service agreement case, along with the possibility of another rate case being filed before December, which is the last date in which the Postal Service can file for an old cost of service rate increase under the old law.

Mr. Morales: So it's fair to say that the organization is still under a state of transition?

Mr. Blair: We're very much under transition, and we're working forward to making sure that we have the right people onboard in order to carry out the duties of the new Act.

Mr. Thomas: Dan, as a follow-up to your discussion on your role as chairman of the agency, can you also describe your business interactions with the other Commissioners within the agency?

Mr. Blair: As I said early, the Commission's comprised of five Presidentially-appointed Senate-confirmed Commissioners. The President designates the Chairman. The Chairman is the administrative head of the agency. However, all the decisions that are rendered by the Commission, including the employment of office heads, are done on the basis of majority vote of the Commission. Decisions that we've rendered since I've been there, we've been fortunate in that they've all being unanimous decisions, which I think shows you how well and collegially the five Commissioners work together.

We come from divergent backgrounds, with different points of view and different political philosophies. But I think it's a testament to the way that the Commission works is that rather than emphasizing our differences, we've emphasized where we have our commonalities, where we share common beliefs and common strengths and we're able to work out any differences. And so I think that it speaks well for the Commission and strengthens the Commission that we're able to work in that kind of fashion.

Mr. Thomas: Dan, given the regulatory nature of the Commission, can you describe to our listeners the deliberative process that is in place at the Agency?

Mr. Blair: Right now, under the current rate regime, the Postal Service comes into the Commission with a request to raise rates, and that is a fully-litigated case in which parties hire representation and counsel. We have briefs filed, we have cross-examination of witnesses, and it's an adversarial quasi-judicial proceeding. At the end of ten months, the Commission issues a recommendation to the Governors.

That will be changing, however. Since the Postal Service will be given the flexibility to determine it its own rate increases subject to a 45-day review of the Commission, our quasi-judicial role will really be taking a background to our regulatory and oversight role, which will be reviewing how those rates were set, whether or not they are in compliance with the cap as established, and other issues that might come up regarding compliance with the law.

Mr. Morales: 45 days certainly sounds more efficient than 10 months.

Mr. Blair: That's why the Congress enacted it

Mr. Morales: Great. What does the future hold for the Postal Regulatory Commission?

We will ask Dan Blair, Chairman of the Postal Regulatory Commission, 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 Dan Blair, Chairman of the Postal Regulatory Commission.

Also joining us in our conversation is Solly Thomas, associate partner in IBM's human capital practice.

Dan, we don't often see many federal employees with your type of background, particularly one who has held senior positions in both the legislative and the executive branches. Can you tell us what some of the major differences, or perhaps similarities, there are between life in the legislative and life in the executive branches?

Mr. Blair: I think life in the legislative branch allows you the opportunity to conduct the oversight and to get to know government broadly, and to get know the agencies in which you can exercise oversight. The flip side is actually being in the agency where the oversight's conducted and you see the operational challenges and the daily activities, and you gain an appreciation for what it actually takes to make the trains to run on time.

I've been able to come full circle. I've been on both sides. I helped initiate with Chairman McHugh a fundamental reform movement of our largest domestic federal agency, the Postal Service, and saw that to fruition -- from the legislative branch through my work with Senator Thompson, then working for the executive branch when the President signed it into law; now, I'm chairing the Commission which was a key component of that legislative reform effort, and making sure that the intent of Congress is carried out through the regulatory oversight that the Commission will be conducting.

That's a full plate, but it's interesting to see how that has come full circle. I come from a government oversight background. I worked for both the House Government Reform Committee and the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee. So I have a full appreciation for the efforts involved on both the legislative and executive branches of good governance. I helped lead while I was at OPM the President's Strategic Management of Human Capital Initiative, and saw how important it was for agencies to have the right people with the right skills in place, and for agencies having strategies in place to bring that about as well.

I also saw the efforts of good government acts such as Clinger-Cohen and the Government's Performance and Results Act and the CFO Act, and how important that is to management initiatives within the federal sector. And so I have a keen appreciation for the way that federal government works, in an effort for transparency and accountability to the public and to Congress.

Mr. Thomas: Dan, in your last position as the Deputy Director of the Office of Personnel Management, you led a number of government-wide initiatives to address human capital challenges, such as recruitment, succession planning, leadership development, and performance management.

We'd like our listeners to get your broad prospective on what you see as the biggest issues facing the federal government as a whole.

Mr. Blair: You know, it's on several fronts. One I think is making sure that we have a workforce that meets the talent requirements of the federal agencies, making sure that we have good talent onboard, and that we can bring that good onboard quickly rather than having them languishing over periods and months in which you have to go through a hiring process. We've made gains in that area, but I think there's still a lot of ways that we can go on in that area.

I think addressing the security background backlog -- OPM is working hard to do that, but I think that as we continue in the War on Terror, I think bringing people into government with credible suitability backgrounds is going to be ever more important in making sure that we can conduct those backgrounds on a timely basis, will always be an effort on the part of OPM, which does about 90 percent of those background checks, and other agencies as well.

The retirement wave -- I look at the retirement wave in two aspects. One, it certainly is a challenge, because you don't want to have your key staff leave; at the same time, it's a tremendous opportunity to bring new staff on and to grow staff. And so that's why you need to have systems in place to bring younger people on -- people in mid-career on. At OPM, I was able to be part of some initiatives where we looked at mid-career hiring. And so I think that having a well-balanced workforce is a key to success in the succession strategy planning of the future.

So I think those are things that have to be done -- you look at the big picture, but you also have to look at the little picture -- making sure that the workforce that you have in place is meeting your goals and expectations. You need to align workforce performance goals with that of the agency and make sure that's cascaded down to the people who are in the mailroom understand as well as the top executives what the mission of the agency is, and how what they do every day, and how their jobs contribute to the overall success and mission of the agency.

Mr. Morales: Dan, given all the changes, what do you see as your vision and goals over the next five years for the Postal Service?

Mr. Blair: Clearly, we have to get a new regulatory regime in place, as envisioned by the Act, and the Act does lay out specific reporting requirements as well. But overall, I think that our measure of success is to the degree to which we have a vibrant Postal system in the United States. Clearly, the viability and sustainability of the U.S. Postal Service is important, but so is the importance of the competitive nature of the system, and the competitors making sure that there's no cross-subsidization, ensuring fair competition, but also making sure that businesses are being well-served, that individuals are being well-served by the Postal Service, and that the Postal-dependent businesses, be they small or large, that the system itself is vital and that we have done everything we can to encourage the vibrancy of that.

Mr. Morales: So that it continues to provide growth for this country?

Mr. Blair: Absolutely.

Mr. Morales: Dan, you've had a very broad and diverse set of experiences with your career, and you've been very successful.

What advice would you give to a person who perhaps is considering a career in public service, or perhaps in the federal government?

Mr. Blair: I think it's an incredibly important calling to be able to say that you can put yourself out -- there is a key speech by President Theodore Roosevelt about The Man in the Arena. When you get battered about in the press or you've had a bad Congressional hearing, or you've had just a generally bad day in which people are second- and third-guessing everything you are doing, you have to remember that you're putting yourself out there on a line and you have to do the best you can everyday.

I think public service is a very noble calling. It may not be for everyone, but you know what? It doesn't have to be for everyone. And anyone who picks up that mantle to engage in public service, it's not something they have to do for a career either. It's turned out to be a career for me, but for others, it can be a period of a couple of years, five years, a short time or a long time, but I do think public service is very important, and I think we need to create an environment in which public service is recognized and appreciated.

Mr. Morales: Dan, that's a fantastic prospective. Unfortunately, we have reached the end of our time together.

I want to thank you for fitting us into your busy schedule. But more importantly, Solly and I would like to thank you for your dedicated service to our country across your federal career.

Mr. Blair: Thank you Al, I appreciate that. And thank you, Solly. I also want to thank the folks who helped me prepare for today's session, and that includes Nancy Langley, Jeremy Sermons, Ann Fisher as well as Judy Grady.

Mr. Morales: Great. And thank you, Dan.

This has been The Business of Government Hour, featuring a conversation with Dan Blair, Chairman of the Postal Regulatory Commission.

My co-host has been Solly Thomas, associate partner in IBM's human capital practice.

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 can't 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.

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.

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