IT security


IT security

A Vision of IT Consolidation in the Federal Government

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011 - 11:50
Wednesday, January 26, 2011 - 10:12
Faster, better decision-making is needed through reduced learning curves and creating a collaborative environment. These goals have led to the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative (or DCCI, February 26, 2010).  Near-term projects will focus on reducing cost, improving IT security, and shifting investments into more efficient computing platforms and technologies.

Dr. Robert Childs interview

Friday, September 4th, 2009 - 20:00
National Defense University
Radio show date: 
Sat, 09/05/2009
Intro text: 
Conversation with Leaders: A Conversation with Dr. Robert D. Childs Senior Director, Information Resources Management College, National Defense University
Magazine profile: 
Complete transcript: 
Full Radio Interview Transcript

Robert Childs
Senior Director
IRM College

Originally Broadcast July 11, 2009
Washington, DC


Mr. Morales: Welcome to another edition of the Business of Government Hour. I'm Albert Morales, your host and managing partner of the IBM Center for the Business of Government. Both in the corporate world and throughout the government community, information remains a highly valuable asset. Information resource management for today's society requires talented, informed, and effective leaders who will overcome economic and political pressures, adjust with the changes of national security, and leverage enterprise information technologies.

With us today to discuss his efforts in this area is our very special guest, Dr. Robert Childs, Senior Director at the Information Resource Management College within the National Defense University.

Dr. Childs, welcome to our show. It's a pleasure having you.

Dr. Childs: I'm very happy to be here today.

Mr. Morales: Also, joining us today is Jonathan Breul, Executive Director of the IBM Center for Business of Government. Jonathan, welcome back. Good to have you.

Mr. Breul: Thanks, Al.

Mr. Morales: Dr. Childs, or may I call you Bob?

Dr. Childs: Yes.

Mr. Morales: Bob, let's start by providing our listeners with some context about your organization. Can you take a few minutes and provide us an overview of the history and mission of the Information Resources Management College at NDU and how does it support the overarching mission of the National Defense University?

Dr. Childs: What I'd like to do is take you back in history and give a context, but I want to start in the future.

I want to start right now and we've just completed celebrating our 20th anniversary this last September and it made us think about a lot of things that have gone on in the past with the history of the college and it's very much paralleled society and what's gone on there. We started thinking about what we really do and we came up with the line, "Shaping the Future." We put that in our catalog and then we talked more about what does, "Shaping the Future" mean? What do we really do with our classes and our programs? We discovered that what we're really doing is crossing boundaries--interagency boundaries, international boundaries, and boundaries with the private sector. Building communities of likeminded people was the second thing that we figured out that we do. And by doing these things, we actually transform organizations.

Now, let's flash back in history. Why was National Defense University formed?

Back in 1976, the University was formed and the idea was to bring together senior leaders, primarily military leaders at the time and, since that has grown to the interagency, about 25 percent of the students at National Defense University are interagency.

In 1982, Lieutenant General Pustay had the vision and the idea that someday computers would be central to everything that we were doing and leaders needed to know something about computers and he thought, to prepare leaders, he needed something like this and, at the time, there was the Department of Defense Computer Institute and he said, "I think I'll bring that under the auspices of National Defense University." And he did this.

Flash ahead to 1988. Robert Helms, at that time, was taking a look at the systems within the Federal government and automated information systems were costing billions of dollars and software was becoming prevalent and it was commonplace both in the private and public sector. So the question became, "What kind of skills sets do people need in information technology?" and "What type of management and leadership challenges and competencies did these individuals need to lead what was going on within the information world as yet fairly well undefined?"

Then, what happened is, under Lieutenant General Brad Hausner, the University took the Department of Defense Computer Institute and decided to upgrade the faculty to go from people that were technicians to, more or less, people that were practitioners, managers, and leaders within the information fields. They wanted to reorient the curriculum, make it more graduate level than more technical. They wanted to relocated from the Navy Yard and bring the expertise over to National Defense University where all of the other students from the National War College and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces were located. And they wanted to rename the institution. So that's how it all started.

Mr. Morales: Around some more specifics, how big is the Information Resources Management College? Can you give us a sense of the size of the budget and perhaps the number of full-time employees there?

Dr. Childs: Certainly. The number of employees varies between filling on hires and military deployments and everything, but it's around eighty-five. Fifty faculty members, thirty-five staff members doing different things. We're organized to really be flexible, innovative, creative, and be a hothouse for ideas and address concerns that leaders in the information age have.

I was part of the group back in 1988 that considered moving the college and then I came over as the Academic Dean in 1991, so I've been with the college since its inception, more or less. But at the very beginning, we set out to do four things that were important then and they're important today.

The first was be a distinctive institution. Be unique.

The way we did that, we went out and benchmarked against other colleges, other universities, other institutes. The London School of Economics. I went to Singapore, I went to different institutions in Europe, and I was trying to learn how we could take their practices and use them. What I found out is we were very unique already and, halfway through the conversations, they were turning to me saying, well, what else are you thinking about doing? It seems that you're doing these things."

Point Two. Focus on the customer and the customer is either individuals or organizations. I look at both that way because sometimes individuals will come to us, sometimes we go to larger organizations like FAA or EPA or state departments.

The third point is secure and sustain the allegiance of DOD in the Federal community. If you don't have allegiance, if you don't have money coming in, you can't sustain your programs and since then, we've added the private sector in international.

And the last one, which is interesting, it's achieve national and international recognition. Some people say, "Well, why are you concerned about that?" Well, it's the fastest way to get attention and to let other people know what you have and what you can contribute.

Mr. Morales: That's great. You mentioned that about 25 percent of the population enrolled, I believe you said, are interagency, so who exactly is eligible to enroll in the college?

Dr. Childs: Okay. As far as the interagency goes, this is a mid-level to senior leader program, so we're talking about TS12, majors, and above.

I might mention about our population, we're 70 percent DOD and 30 percent, as of today, the 100 percent of DOD, 70 percent of those are civilian versus military which is a mirror image of the National War College in the Industrial College. That has expanded and we're trying to push the limits on getting private sector students in also because, just take Afghanistan and Iraq, for example, half the people over there are private sector. They're contractors. And I think we need to educate these people with the government people at the same time. Also, interagency is big, as you know, and the concept of the national security professional is coming into play and the skills that we teach, the competencies we teach are really not skills just for Chief Information Officers, they're skills for anybody who is a manager or a leader today.

Mr. Breul: Bob, with this overview, could you tell us a bit more about your role as the Senior Director of the IRM College? What are you specific responsibilities and duties?

Dr. Childs: Well, obviously, to run a quality institution. That's first and foremost. I turn the academic programs over to my academic team, Dr. Elizabeth McDaniel, who does an exceptional job in that area. We have a number of different programs, but my job is to push the boundaries.

The areas I'm working on most right now are the international area because we have coalition partners, allies, friendly countries and it's a type of soft power. When you can help your allies and friends, when you can work on things that have to do with interoperability and make their processes and procedures better, you're not only helping them, you're helping this country in the national security arena, too. Also, the private sector. I'm spending a lot of time and energy with the private sector right now because, as you know, Jonathan, in our labs, the private sector is donating and loaning a lot of equipment which Federal employees wouldn't get to see otherwise and we can put it in our information labs, our technology labs, our information assurance labs, our crisis management labs, and it's kind of one-stop shopping. The other part of what I do, I'm supposed to be the cheerleader. I'm out there enthusiasm, pushing, going, "Get on the bandwagon, we've got something good to offer," and I'm the salesman doing it.

Mr. Breul: With all these responsibilities in front of you, what are your top three challenges that you face in your position and how are you addressing them?

Dr. Childs: The top one is sense and respond to the environment. You have to sense that environment and find out what's going on. Like we've migrated, for example, from resident programs to a distributed learning program so we could get people into our program. It's about access; it's not about scalability in the case of distributed learning. We do education in context where we will design programs for different agencies. We believe in reusable code. In other words, we may have different programs. FAA may come to us and say, "Hey, I need a jumpstart program for some of our future leaders. What can you pull from your process improvement, from your organizational development courses, from your emerging technologies and design a special course for us?"

The private sector, that's a great opportunity. Like I said, I'd rather look at things as opportunities. The private sector, they're in the business area, but I've found that a lot of the attitude of, "How can I help the country?" the private sector is just looking for ways to help out also and I can't speak enough of that of the help that the private sector has added to the college and made it what it is today as far as the latest technologies and best practices and they're always wide opened to our students going out and making either local visits or our Advanced Management Program actually travels for a week and goes around the country to different agencies and they open their arms and they share everything with us and I think that's extremely important.

Mr. Morales: Now, Bob, you're clearly very passionate about IRM and what you do. I'm curious, how did you get started and, as you reflect over the years that you've spent at the college, how has your management and leadership style perhaps changed?

Dr. Childs: To use a clich�, it was almost "the perfect storm." I went through the MAT program at Duke and then I got a Doctorate degree from the University of Denver and these were in the areas of teaching and educational management. Then, I went through the Duke Fuqua School, the Advanced Management Program and, there, I was with a lot of industry people. From there, starting my military career, I was chief of an instructor training branch, I learned about lifelong learning there and how important it was, continuing education. I was part of the initial group that built an institution at the Community College of the Air Force so I learned a little bit about institutional building. I worked military personnel policy, the education side. I was involved in seeing what went on with the development and the founding of the National Defense University back in 1976. From that moment on, I said, "Boy, this is an institution that can have a profound impact on this country." Later, I was a student at the National War College, a senior research fellow there. I became Director of Planning and Programs at the National Defense University.

The most significant experience I ever had was with the American Council and Education. I had a fellowship with them for one year and it was a program to learn how to be a college president or a college dean. I had the opportunity to work for Dr. George Johnson, who was a president, and he literally took George Mason from a little known community college to an incredible institution that has world renowned programs in some areas and many of the practices that I use at the IRM College, I learned from Dr. Johnson. I can't give him enough credit.

So all of these things coming together and my passion for building teams and being successful and, to be quite blunt, wanting to be the best, drives me daily. I want the institution to be the best; I want people who are passionate about their work; and I want the college to contribute to national security.

Mr. Morales: How has the IRM College evolved to become a recognized global learning community? We will ask Dr. Robert Childs, Senor Director at the Information and Resources Management College within NDU to share with us when the conversation about management continues on the Business of Government hour.


Mr. Morales: Welcome back to the Business of Government hour. I'm your host, Albert Morales and today's conversation is with Dr. Robert Childs, Senior Director at the Information and Resources Management College within the National Defense University. Also joining us today from IBM is Jonathan Brule.

Despite its traditional hierarchical structure which is based on command-and-control systems and culture, the U.S. Department of Defense is committed to becoming a net centric environment.

Now, higher education is another very tradition bound institution. Bob, first, would you tell us more about net centricity and it's applicability to higher education and, second, how does net centric capabilities allow the IRM college to sense and respond to students, stakeholders, and practitioners interests and needs?

Dr. Childs: Well, first of all, as far as higher education, historically, it's been a tradition-bound, slow-moving organization. It's kind of like an organization that wants to do something, but it's got a lot of constituencies and there has to be buy-in from the different constituencies and that always slows things down. The Department of Defense, also, has an ingrained cultural need and bias for a hierarchical structure, so we can't discount those things.

We can take a look at some laws that have happened. Goldwater-Nichols in 1986 was required and it came into being because the Congress thought that the services needed to work together better, they needed to be one voice, they needed to be integrated.

What is net centricity? A lot of people have different definitions of that and I think what I like best is, "The objective is to find and exploit information," but the network is only one of the ways to do this thing. Let me talk about what Defense is trying to do and then I'll try to change to what the college is trying to do.

What Defense is trying to do is provide needed information in a timely manner to those that need to make the decisions and, the better the information, the faster the information, the better the decision they could make. How do I provide data and information to the decision-maker? Supply chain management is a perfect example. If you look at the private sector and, often, the military and the government turns to the private sector to see how companies use information technology and use a net centric operation. The Department of Defense have been working and pushing this concept and it's a good concept, but implementing it, it's not really an overall network. It is truly a network of networks where you plug-and-play and you can come into it where you need to get to it. That leads to the question, "What can we do in government in net centricity?"

I'd like to drop the word net centricity for a minute and talk about things like communities of practice which we've had for a long time where likeminded individuals can get together and share information and the other things that are going on, the wikis, the blogs, Facebook.

Now, the problem is separating the personal from the business. I think you need a corporate strategy to use it. How the corporate, how is is the organization going to use it for mutual benefit? I think reaching out to other institutions for awareness and everything is incredibly important.

What we have done at the IRM College, we're working with a number of groups like the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association. They're very good in connections between industry and DOD. The Industry Advisory Council and the American Council on Technology are very good industry-to-government in general. There are many academic partners that we have and we have many partners in the private sector.

So when you talk about net centricity, I like to think of a hub. The new vision of the IRM College is the global hub for educating, informing, and connecting people. Net centricity, to me, is connecting people with the information and other people when and where they need it.

Mr. Morales: As a follow up, how has this type of sense and respond approach enabled you to take what was arguably a little known institution of four hundred students in the early '90s to the institution that you have today and what have been some of the lessons learned along that path?

Dr. Childs: The lessons learned are have a lot of friends and a lot of partners. Let me give you a couple vignettes of things that happened. The National War College and the Industrial College students will attend our elective programs at the IRM College. We had some students from Romania. They really liked what we were doing and they came back to us after their 10-month program at National War College was completed and they said, "We need an academy that deals with chief information officer competencies in our country. Can you help us?" We talked to OSD and they encouraged us to do this, so we helped those people set up a CIO academy. Well, there are other people in Europe that go to that academy and, all of a sudden, we're now getting students from Bulgaria, Georgia, the Czech Republic, and the list goes on and on that way.

The same thing happened with Sweden. We had a student that came over, went through our 14-week Advanced Management Program and he convinced their government that there were areas that we teach in information assurance that were absolutely critical to Sweden. Consequently, I have a team of four faculty members that are teaching over in Sweden.

Singapore. We've had a number of students from Singapore. They talked to other people, and now, we're hearing from Japan, we're hearing from South Korea. Once somebody finds out about us, it tends to spread like wildfire, but it's person-to-person.

Singapore. We've had a number of students from Singapore. They talked to other people, and now, we're hearing from Japan, we're hearing from South Korea. Once somebody finds out about us, it tends to spread like wildfire, but it's person-to-person.

So it kind of works that way. It's a little bit hit-and-miss, to be quite honest with you.

Mr. Breul: Tell us more about the Chief Financial Officer's Academy. How does that seek to inform students to learn most effectively and efficiently how to use government resources and work across boundaries, particularly to achieve national security goals and who is eligible to participate in this program?

Dr. Childs: The CFO Academy, I'd like to tell the story on that because the history of the IRM College is individual faculty members going out and doing things, making connections, and using their expertise. In this case, Dr. Jay Alden went out and he talked to Linda Combs and Linda Combs suggested that CFOs needed many of the strategic leadership concepts that the IRM College was teaching. We then went to Tina Jonas who was the Comptroller at the time and Tina was very interested in establishing a CFO Academy and, lo' and behold, when you look at the competencies, you know, you overlay the competencies of a CIO and a CFO and many are very the same, probably 65 percent, somewhere in that range. What they were looking for is, there are plenty of budgeting schools and schools that teach the budgeting function, but there was no place where Chief Financial Officers could go and understand how to use information and information technology and how to become strategic leaders. In other words, don't give me the budget, sit down and be part of the strategic planning team. And what better place and meet and learn what CIOs are thinking about and CFOs are thinking about than putting them together in classes and letting them work together and think about these things?

That's how it came together and, once again, I'm back to one of those principles, crossing boundaries. We just crossed a big boundary there. The program seems to be getting legs and it seems to be generating a lot of interest.

Mr. Morales: So it's more than just the technical aspects of their work, but how their work fits into the broader context of the organization and its mission?

Dr. Childs: It's about strategic leading is what it's about. Technology is only a small part of it, but obviously, in the job, using and moving information is critical. I mean, if you look at your companies, your insurance companies and your banking companies, for example, they're huge in using information, information technology, and information assurance because they have to or they're dead in the water, so they have to become strategic thinkers.

Mr. Morales: Now, some have referred to your Advanced Management Program as a three-and-a-half month learning boot camp. Could you elaborate on this program and its method of teaching and what competencies does this program seek to bestow on its students?

Dr. Childs: The Advanced Management Program is a 14-week program and that was going to be out main program, but changing with the times, agencies couldn't give up that many people for that long a period of time so that's when we started breaking it up, the different competencies, into intensive weeklong courses. The program was modeled after your typical executive program at Harvard or Duke or Stanford or someplace like that.

What we're trying to do is it's a seminar environment that is crossing boundaries, once again. You'll have somebody with the State Department, EPA, FAA, Department of Defense, a few international students. In fact, I might mention that the class normally has about thirty-two students now and about 25 percent of those are international. As a sideline, it's fascinating because a number of these countries, originally when we opened to the international students, we thought we were going to get the UK and France and Italy and Japan, but it's Romania, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Malaysia, places like that because a lot of these countries see the use of information and information technology as a way to leapfrog the industrial age. They don't have to hardwire everything, they can go to wireless and they can become world competitors, whether it's in business or whether it's in military, by using these techniques.

That program was a leadership program. Our concern from the very beginning was the military is exceptionally good in educating their people from going out from squadron level to command and staff to the senior levels, the national war colleges, the colleges that the Army and the Air Force run, but there is no similar program for civilians. Our thought was, okay, the civilians not only provide the continuity, but need to provide the leadership, so what kind of leadership program can we put in place for civilians to come to?

That was the purpose of that program and it's fulfilling that very well today.

Mr. Morales: That's great. What is cloud computing and how is IRM College leading DOD in operating in virtual environments? We will ask Dr. Robert Childs, Senor Director at the Information and Resources Management College when the conversation about management continues on the Business of Government hour.


Mr. Morales: Welcome back to the Business of Government hour. I'm your host, Albert Morales, and today's conversation is with Dr. Robert Childs, Senior Director at the Information and Resources Management College within the National Defense University. Also joining us today from IBM is Jonathan Brule.

Bob, I understand that the IRM College is leading DOD in operating in virtual environments. For those who may not know, what is a virtual world and what are virtual world technologies? More specifically, if I may, how is that technology being used at DOD?

Dr. Childs: Let me talk about how we got into this business. Way back in 1996, we had what we called a virtual reality center. We called it "driver," D-R-I-V-R, Decision Room Incorporating Virtual Reality. We were ahead of our time. In fact, I actually let that be dissembled after about 2000 and it's kind of fascinating the way it came back. We had a faculty member, Dr. Paulette Robinson, that met with out four folks in 2007 in the summer. They put on a small conference later that year and the small conference quickly grew, by the spring, to two hundred people and over two thousand in-world. What we're talking about here, these are simulated worlds with lots of media rich stimuli. You have avatars, which are creatures, creations, that you make up. The big one you hear about most of the time is Second Life because, literally, you can go have a second life. There are many ways that these things can be used. You really can depict the real world; you can have simulations with multi players; but these have to be rule-based, they have to have actions and the big deal, I think, for government is the community that takes place within these virtual worlds. But it's a synthetic environment where you're totally immersed.

I'll give three quick examples. The Navy Undersea Warfare Center is using it. They have an electronic library in there and they have underwater exhibits. TRADOC is using it in their Virtual Warrior University and they're using Active Worlds which is another world. And the Air Force is using something called My Base and it's an environment where they plan to have the future of all their education and training. Those are a couple of examples.

Mr. Morales: Aside from virtual environments, we also hear a lot these days about cloud computing. What precisely is cloud computing and, from your perspective, to what extent would be every bit as transformative as the Web itself?

Dr. Childs: Well, cloud computing is not necessarily new. In fact, I had been pushed by my faculty for the last fifteen months to put on a symposium about cloud computing and I resisted. I wasn't sure what it was. Since then, you can't pick up a magazine or a publication without talking about cloud computing.

What cloud computing claims to offer from a remote server is an Internet connection, and that's all you need, and you can go in and literally computing becomes like a utility. Right now, you have your desk, you have a hard drive, and you're now using all that capacity, so the idea is, one, you'll go in and buy capacity. It can either be hosted by your organization in a private cloud or it can be in a public cloud. To my way of thinking, it compartmentalizes services, applications, social media, and it allows you, if we want to use the word "thin client," you can literally deliver all these services anywhere as long as you have a common access card. You could be on a plane, you could be at home. As long you have your common access, you have access to the data in the applications.

The concern has to do with security. Who is controlling it? It also has to do with bandwidth and is it going to be public, private, or a hybrid? For example, DISA is running their RACE program which is very good. It gets into supply chain management.

Mr. Breul: Bob, tell us a bit about the college's Information Leaders Program. What are the topics that are covered? Who do you invite to speak? What are the benefits of hosting these kinds of events and, should someone be interested, how are going to find out more information?

Dr. Childs: The Information Leadership Symposium actually grew out of our 20th anniversary and our thought there was, "How can we highlight our faculty in the topics that we're very good at? How can we highlight our expertise? How can we address issues that many people want to know about, but they don't want to go to a formal class and go through a formal program that's accredited to get that information?" Last year, we picked three areas. We picked "Cyber Security, The Privacy Aspect of IT," "Virtual Worlds," and we are, in fact, leading a consortium in Virtual Worlds for the Federal government of over a thousand people at this time; and "Web 2.0" and, Jonathan, I believe you attended that.

What we did is we looked out and we said, okay, who is doing something in these areas? And we always try to get a blend of some of our people that are experts working with private sector and bringing in the public sector that show the best practices that are going on, so you have a blend of the three. So far, we haven't really done anything internationally on that, but we expect to in the future.

Mr. Breul: Let's talk a bit about the rise of the so-called net generation. These are the younger workers who grew up on the Web and digital gadgets. How are you integrating this generation with the established culture of senior leadership which didn't grow up on such a digital environment?

Dr. Childs: Well, obviously, the net generation knows how to use these gadgets, so the question is, "How can we accommodate these people that have really good ideas, but in many cases, have no concern about security, no concern about time, not wanting to show up at an office, wanting to work from home when face-to-face is often better? How do we do all these things?" The older generation, I don't want to discount them, there are many people that are "older" that are very good in these areas, too, and they can blend practices, experience, and technology, so I don't want to totally discount them.

How do we do it at the college? Well, we have 10 research assistants and these people are college students ranging from undergraduate to PhD students who come in and show us how to use the latest and greatest technologies. Obviously, we learn from them and get ideas from them.

Faculty members, I look for people that like technology. You really don't go out and hire a PhD in social media, you get somebody who may--I've got some lawyers, for examples, that are very good in these areas because they use them all the time. We have a group called eSolutions, eLearning, and these people look at the technologies and they use your Facebook, they use your Twitter, they use these things all the time.

I think the larger question is, "How do we capture these technologies in a strategy versus just incidental use and leverage that somehow?" And, obviously, groups like the Industry Advisory Group and AFCE and other groups like that are taking a look at this because they have senior membership and the senior people across the Federal government as well as industry have to be concerned.

I mean, if you want an eye-opening experience, go visit Google. You're out there and these people come in with their fleece jacket on, riding their bike, they just have their laptop, they plug it in, they don't have an office, they're very casual about things, but they're very smart. In many cases, they're allowed to pursue the areas that interest them. They don't have a defined job; they may have a defined area to work in. So I think this is an issue that faces all of us and, if you look at the conferences, a multi-generational group will draw a lot of attention at conferences.

Mr. Breul: Tell us more about your Education and Context Program and the additional learning activities outside the traditional classroom setting. How do these programs connect the IRM faculty and the students with real world practice?

Dr. Childs: Okay. We have a number of areas where we've done that. As I mentioned in the beginning, we started out with only resident programs, we added distributed learning, and our attitude used to be, "Here's the program. Take it the way it is." That was fine administratively. That was nice that most organizations, most educational institutions are tradition bound and, you know, day classes, this is the way it works. Here is how many hours there are.

Well, we started having agencies come to us--EPA, FAA, GAO--and they said, "Hey, we need some of the things you're offering, but we don't want them in a one-week program or an eight course program. We need a jumpstart program for our younger potential leaders. We need some stuff in enterprise architecture but we don't want a course." What we did, to put it in software terms, we started doing reusable code. We took a look at our programs and we'd pull a couple hours from here, a couple hours from there, and we could tailor programs so we called "education in context" and we would put on the program and design it for what the customer wanted. If you go back to one of my principles, focus on the customer and what they want. We're doing a lot with the various combatant commands around the world, the U.S. combatant commands, and telepresence is actually going to help us project faculty expertise from our college out there.

Getting back to the education and context, they're telling us what their requirements are and we're pulling that from things that we're very, very good at.

Mr. Morales: Bob, we've only got about a minute-and-a-half left and you've spent some time talking about your work internationally, but I'm curious, are you looking to expand internationally and what might that look like?

Dr. Childs: Yes, we are looking to expand internationally. It's a connected world and we have to do things together and we're approaching a very aggressive outreach program. We plan to offer conferences in the Middle East and in Asia during this coming twelve months. We're working with OSD in this area, areas that of interest to them.

The tricky part is trying, if we put something on in the Far East, how can we get government employees in, in the combatant commands, say, Paycom, as well as, say, South Korea and Japan and Singapore, if they're interested, or in the Middle East, where do we hold a conference, do we hold it in Bahrain, do we hold it in Dubai and who do we bring in to that?

By the way, when you look around in those countries, I was just in Dubai and I'm driving down the street and I see Cisco and HP and IBM and these people all know technology, but their companies want the employees to start thinking strategically, so what topics do I pick and how do I pull it together? Mr. Morales: What does the future hold for the Information and Resources Management College? We will ask Dr. Robert Childs, Senor Director at the IRM College to share with us when the conversation about management continues on the Business of Government hour.

Mr. Morales: What does the future hold for the Information and Resources Management College? We will ask Dr. Robert Childs, Senor Director at the IRM College to share with us when the conversation about management continues on the Business of Government hour.


Mr. Morales: Welcome back to our final segment of the Business of Government hour. I'm your host, Albert Morales and today's conversation is with Dr. Robert Childs, Senior Director at the Information and Resources Management College within the National Defense University. Also joining us today from IBM is Jonathan Brule.

Bob, as technology continues to evolve, it's important to look ahead and anticipate the innovations. Could you tell us more about how you do trend spotting, specifically, how advantageous is it to monitor consumer technology trends for their applicable use in government? Could you provide some examples of where this has been successful?

Dr. Childs: That's a very interesting question. I think it was about five years ago that COMDEX stopped having a conference. I may be off by a year or two on that. I was at a security conference in Las Vegas and tied into the security conference was a consumer electronics convention which has about 140,000 people attending it and it's got every electronic device, every major company. Corporations spend, I've heard, as high as a million dollars on displays on the floor; they're huge demonstrations. I was overwhelmed. The first time I went, I couldn't even figure out how to get around the place, you know, but I knew it was important and I went back.

Also, it brought in the guest speakers. This is where Bill Gates would speak and unveil what Microsoft was going to do and the latest technologies; John Chambers from Cisco would come out and talk about what was going on; HP; all the top executives would speak and they'd unveil what was happening. And the fascinating part was they would bring people from entertainment, from the Federal government, from the movie making industry and talk about how technology was affecting their areas.

Well, I started looking at things like that and I said, "Wow! The impact to the consumer is going to be great."

Now, a little vignette that goes with that. Tony Seiko (phonetic), who was the Chief Information Officer at the GAO a few years back, we were at a Gartner Luncheon and he was talking, this was quite a few years back, he was talking about Blackberries and he said, there's this new device people are using and we're wondering whether we should support it within the enterprise. Well, this is a perfect example of how the consumer or, in this case, the government employee taking an electronic device and changing the way government operates.

Nobody today would argue that the Blackberry has changed the way we do business and the way we think about things. Well, there are other technologies that we've run into and it actually ties into our labs in a number of things that we're trying to do. Telepresence is one. Telepresence is such an improvement over VTC. You really can be there and see somebody. There's a lot of advertisements on TV and we're going to use telepresence to project our faculty expertise to these conferences we're going to put on and the courses we're going to offer around the world. There is a number of things that cloud computing is going to do. The concept of plug-and-play wherever you are. The technologies are going to change the workplace. We talked about net generation people. They're not going to have an office. There's going to be a space that they come to.

I recently had faculty down at Duke University and we had our NDU librarian down there with us and, really, it's more like a Starbuck's environment. You come in, you can have a drink, you can sit down, you can plug in your computer, you can collaborate these things, or you don't even have to plug in, there are wireless areas, too. So there is a number of things that are going on that way.

Some other things that we've run into that were important is the ultra mobile personal computers. These are small computers that have tremendous power that you can hold in one hand and these are really important for unmanned vehicles and submarines. We started working with a group called OKEO to do that.

Voice translation, which is being used in Iraq, that was one of the biggest problems that we had when you're encountering somebody that you don't have somebody that speaks that language, these voice translators can do it for you. It's fascinating how they work. That was a technology.

Nine to ten years ago, PDAs weren't that big a deal, so I think we have to look at all these things that are coming out and they will have a dramatic impact tying into the new generation that uses that, tying into the mobility that it gives us, tying into the workplace of the future and telework. All these technologies are incredibly important. This is a big convention out there that shows all those technologies.

Mr. Morales: How does this impact the classroom of the future?

Dr. Childs: Well, I think the classroom of the future and the workplace of the future are almost one and the same thing. I'm facing a situation right now where we're expanding and I don't have office space to go into so we're thinking about, okay, you don't have an office space, Al, you know, or Jonathan or me, there's an area that we come to and, by the way, we may be in for a couple days this week, we're not going to be in for five days, we're not going to be in at 6:00 in the morning, but we may be here on weekends, we may be here at night, and you have to tie the lifestyle that people want and you have to give them the collaboration tools so they can do their jobs.

We have people who are teaching distributed learning and this is a real live case. I had a faculty member on the beaches in Hawaii conducting his distributive learning classes, I mean, why does he have to be in a classroom or in an office to do that? He's got his computer, he's got his students connected, that's all he needs. So it's kind of going to be anywhere.

Mr. Morales: I'm sure in that situation the students would like to be with him on the beach.

Dr. Childs: Yeah, I'm sure they would, too.

Mr. Breul: Well, Bob, let's switch the discussion to you. You've recently been honored as one of the Federal 100 award winners for your outstanding leadership to the CIO community and for innovative and progressive programs at the college. You were also honored with the 2009 Eagle Award for being a pioneer in distance learning. Could you tell us about each award and, importantly, what does it mean to be recognized by your peers?

Dr. Childs: Obviously, when you're recognized by your peers, you feel very good, but also, as a leader, I'd be the first to recognize that, a lot of times, a leader gets the award that the organization has earned. I'm proud to have gotten the award, but I recognize it's through the hard work of many other people.

The college, going back to my point at the very beginning, achieve national and international recognition, I think receiving recognition like this when you tie it to the institution help publicize your institution and, to be honest, that's the important part for me.

This interview is the same kind of thing. I can talk about the college and what the college is doing and maybe some of your listeners will be interested in what we're doing in context. We've received a number of awards, the Distributed Learning Award, we were one of the first ones.

We worked with Blackboard and helped them become DOD compliant and the rest of Defense did that. We're very proud of that work and, actually, it was a former student that put us in for that. We had no idea this award was coming.

Recently, we were also a finalist for the Management of Change Shop Information Solutions Award for what Paulette Robinson had done with Virtual Worlds Consortium.

Elizabeth McDaniel, our academic dean, had gotten an award for the college in telework in our policies. We allow our faculty, as I mentioned, to telework. They all don't get to go to Hawaii to do that, but they do that.

And we've received a number of corporate university awards for innovation and best practices.

Awards, it's kind of like you go into a restaurant and you look up on the wall and it says, "Best Italian Food," it doesn't necessarily say when it happened, but it recognized you for being good, I think recognition is important for an institution.  

Dr. Childs: I don't know, I guess it's been three or four years that we started talking about partnerships, but for many years, as the academic dean, I was encapsulated and focused on programs and we started with academic partnerships and it's like anything else, the more people you're connected to, the better you can do. Partnerships is central to what we're doing. In the private sector, we have over thirty partners now.

Now, I would say on partnerships, it's hard. Building a relationship, like a marriage, takes a lot of work on both sides. There have to be mutual interests, you have to put time into it, and I think the rewards are unbelievable and it spreads, you know, to use your term, Al, the virus. One partner leads to another partner leads to another partner and, when you have a number of smart faculty members out making connections -- I use the Kay Alden and Linda Combs thing for the CFO Academy -- the big thing for me is to contain that within the purpose of the college and decide what partnerships are worth our time and how much energy to put into it. Obviously, the areas that we're pushing is interagency, international, and private. The DOD connections we have, although we are now reaching out to the CoComms more than we ever have because we feel there's a need there and we want to fulfill that need, building teams is a lot of fun.

And I'll just mention this one. Mr. Grimes, when he was Assistant Secretary at NII, had suggested that we take a look at this company, TIBCO, out in the West Coast which is into predictive intelligence. We started working with them and they suggested that we might want to put our conference on in the Far East because there was a lot of interest there, and so, all of a sudden, we now have TIBCO bringing in partners and interest that way.

And then, TIBCO says, by the way, IBM is doing certain things in this area and working in virtual worlds and we know you're interested, so all of a sudden, it all ties together, but managing it is unbelievable and I'm having to bring more staff on to do that. It just mushrooms.

Mr. Morales: Along this train of thought, what is your vision for the college? What direction will you take the college within, say, the next three to four years? How do plan to educate, inform, and connect information age leaders?

Dr. Childs: I want to read a quote. We had a history written up here and I was asked the question, "If I could diagram my vision for the future," and I'm quoting this now. I described it as,

"A series of at least 10 interconnecting crossroads all meeting at the hub of an English-style roundabout. The titles of the roads were Defense, Policy, Economics, Government, Private Sector, International, Interagency, Business Processes, Best Practices, and Emerging Technologies. Every road was chocked full of speeding and honking traffic and numerous potential for collision or collaboration. I was the cheerleading cop at the middle of that traffic circle swinging my arms, shaking my body, and blowing the whistle. I had total confidence I was about to orchestrate a world class symphony and I can't blame the diagram on exuberance of youth because it happened just a few years ago."

Well, there's a lot going on and my job is to create that environment so the creative faculty and staff I have can bring these things together.

How do I see the future? I think it's going to be totally mobile, incredibly compact, ridiculously nano tiny, and eye-watering powerful. And everything around you that you see will become hyperized, socialized, networkized, and virtualized.

Mr. Morales: That's a great visual, just a wonderful visual. Bob, I have one last question and, obviously, you're very passionate about your work and you've been very, very successful, but what advice might you give to someone out there who perhaps is considering a career in public service as you have undertaken?

Dr. Childs: I would say, number one, you want to do the best that you can do. You want to be the best. You want to follow your passion. You need to take risks, but they have to be reasonable risks. You have to do the right thing, but sometimes you have to push the boundaries a little bit. You have to develop partners and friendships. If you don't, those are the things that get you through the hard times and help you along and make it fun and, as my wife likes to say, "Enjoy the journey because every step of the journey is the journey."

We climb mountains and the interesting thing is you think your objective is to get to the summit, but the fun is really planning it and working to get there. Once you achieve it, it's almost anti-climatic. It's the journey that you have to enjoy.

Mr. Morales: That's a wonderful perspective. Thank you. Unfortunately, we have reached the end of our time now. I do want to thank you for fitting us into your busy schedule, but more importantly, Jonathan, I would like to thank you for your dedicated service to our country.

Dr. Childs: Well, thank you very much. The last thing that I have to offer is, anybody who is interested in the IRM College, contact me at and we do have the cloud symposium coming up, 15 July, it's on our Web site. Just look up and you can sign up for it. It's free.

Mr. Morales: That's great. Thank you.

This has been the Business of Government hour featuring a conversation with Dr. Robert Childs, Senior Director at the Information and Resources Management College within the National Defense University. My co-host has been Jonathan Brule, Executive Director at the IBM Center for the Business of Government.

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

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

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


Tom Pyke interview

Friday, February 8th, 2008 - 20:00
The Office of CIO provides advice and assistance to the secretary of Energy and other senior managers on how to best use information technology resources and ensuring that the investments in technology are sound.
Radio show date: 
Sat, 02/09/2008
Intro text: 
Tom Pyke
Complete transcript: 

Originally Broadcast February 9, 2008

Washington, D.C.

Voice-Over: 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

And now, The Business of Government Hour.

Mr. Morales: Good morning. This is Albert Morales, your host, and managing partner of the IBM Center for The Business of Government.

Today, U.S. Department of Energy stands at the forefront of advancing the national, economic, and energy security of the United States, while promoting scientific and technological innovation. In doing so, it relies heavily on the use of advanced information technologies.

With us this morning to discuss the Department of Energy's IT strategy is our special guest, Tom Pyke, chief information officer at the U.S. Department of Energy.

Good morning, Tom.

Mr. Pyke: Good morning, Albert.

Mr. Morales: Also joining us in our conversation is Pete Boyer, director in IBM's federal civilian industry practice.

Good morning, Pete.

Mr. Boyer: Good morning, Al.

Mr. Morales: Tom, I always like to start by providing our listeners some context about the organization, in this case, the Department of Energy. Can you take a few minutes to give us an overview of Energy's history and its mission?

Mr. Pyke: The Department of Energy's mission is to advance the nation's energy and nuclear security. We also work to strengthen the nation's capability to make scientific discoveries. And as a result, we strengthen economic competitiveness through scientific and technological innovation.

As a part of this mission, we ensure that our nation has reliable nuclear weapons as a deterrent if we ever need them, and we lead international nuclear non-proliferation efforts. We also protect the environment by providing a responsible solution to the environmental legacy of nuclear weapons production.

The Department recognizes that energy helps drive the U.S. economy, as well as the global economy. Energy has a significant impact on our quality of life and the health of our people. So the Department is focused on diversifying America's energy supply, improving our energy efficiency, modernizing our country's energy infrastructure and addressing environmental and climate change.

Our programs support the diversification of energy supply, moving toward alternate sources such as nuclear and hydrogen, as well as renewable resources such as biomass, wind, and solar energy. We do this by supporting the development of economically competitive fuels and technologies.

Much of the Department's mission requires cutting-edge technologies and world-class science, both of which are important to U.S. global economic competitiveness. DOE makes major strategic investments in the nature of future competitiveness by providing over half of the federal funding of physical sciences research. This includes support of basic energy sciences, biological and environmental sciences, and advanced computational sciences through its leadership-class high performance computing.

A key part of DOE's nuclear security mission is our nuclear stockpile stewardship program, which evolves from the Manhattan Project and that race to develop an atomic bomb during World War II. I think the Department of Energy is very exciting, and I'm very pleased to be a part of the DOE team.

Mr. Morales: Great. Now Tom, this is a very critical and a broad subject area, energy. So can you provide us a sense of the scale over at the Department? Could you tell us how it's organized, the size of the budget, as well as number of full-time federal employees as well as contractors?

Mr. Pyke: The Department has a budget of about $24 billion, and we have about 14,000 federal employees and over 100,000 scientists, engineers and other staff at the DOE national laboratories. And all of these contractual employees are supporting our DOE mission.

DOE headquarters here in Washington provides the programmatic oversight for carrying out all parts of our mission. Secretary Sam Bodman and Deputy Secretary Clay Sell guide the entire Department, assisted by three Under Secretaries who manage DOE's nuclear security, energy security, and science programs.

The programs are carried out largely by contractors through our 27 national laboratories as well as at manufacturing and process plants and other facilities across the country. We have a number of headquarters staff offices, including the Office of the Chief Information Officer.

Mr. Boyer: Tom, now that you've provided us with a sense of the larger organization, perhaps you could tell us more about your area and role within the Department. Specifically, what are your responsibilities and duties as the chief information officer, and could you tell us about the areas under your purview, how you're organized, the size of your staff and budget?

Mr. Pyke: As the CIO, I'm responsible for ensuring that DOE has the best information technology in place to improve the way we carry out our mission, and to do so at the lowest cost. I oversee the IT capital investment control process, enterprise architecture, IT operations for the federal side of DOE, and especially important these days, cyber security. I serve as the IT or information technology advisor to the Secretary and the Deputy Secretary.

Mr. Boyer: Great. Now, regarding your responsibilities and duties, what are the top three challenges that you face in your position, and how do you address those challenges?

Mr. Pyke: Our top challenges are improving cyber security protection of our systems and data, improving the way we manage our IT capital investments, and improving the way we serve our IT customers.

We have in place a comprehensive cyber security program that provides a management and technical foundation for protecting the Department's IT systems, our networks, and our information against well over a million cyber attacks every day. We have strengthened the DOE cyber security program over the last two years, with new DOE-wide policies, stronger defense and depth and stronger DOE-wide cyber security instant handling capabilities.

We have also strengthened our IT capital investment control processes, with increased systematic use of Earned Value Management and quarterly internal reviews of all projects. For the last two years, I'm pleased to report that the Office of Management and Budget has determined that all our IT business cases are acceptable by their review standards, and none of our projects are on OMB's watch-list.

We consider this a major achievement. We employ our enterprise architecture process as we managed our IT investment portfolio, and OMB again has assigned DOE a high maturity score for our enterprise architecture, including the way we use it to manage IT in the Department. We have also improved our service to our DOE IT customers, those who receive desk-type support, and data center support for applications, e-mail, and internet access.

We have much stronger cyber security in place for our users, and we have benefited from an independent survey of customer satisfaction conducted last year that showed our customer service was well above average -- in some cases, almost world-class -- but it also provided us information on things that we could improve.

Mr. Morales: That's a great accomplishment. Tom, you spent over 30 years in federal service across a few departments. So I'm curious, could you tell us a little bit about how you got started and what brought you over to DOE?

Mr. Pyke: I began my career at the National Bureau of Standards, now known as the National Institute of Standards and Technology. I began my work there right out of high school before I even was an undergraduate at Carnegie Tech, now Carnegie Mellon University, and I worked summers as a student, while going to Carnegie Tech and while I was working on my bachelor's degree in electrical engineering, and also while I worked towards my master's degree at the University of Pennsylvania.

I led the development of operating system software; I designed computer hardware and performed research, including research on computer network performance measurement. I also led the development of federal information processing standards, and led consulting services on the effective application of IT for other federal agencies.

I'd like to note here that I was involved in the early days of the ARPANET, which evolved into the internet, as a member of the group that developed the network protocols that made that network work. You could say that the folks in that room had a little part in inventing the internet.

After several years leading research projects, developing standards and consulting, I became director of the then-Bureau of Standards Center for Computer Systems Engineering, and later, director of the Center for Programming Science and Technology.

I moved to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, as assistant administrator for satellite and information services. I led the nation's weather satellite program, the LANDSAT program and NOAA's environmental data centers. While at NOAA, I created and led NOAA's high performance computing and communications program, and I became NOAA's first chief information officer.

I also created and led an international science and education program for students called Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment, or GLOBE. The GLOBE program is currently in place in over 20,000 schools in 109 countries, where students are learning about the environment through hands-on measurement, and using the internet to share their data with each other and with professional scientists.

Six years ago, I became CIO of the Department of Commerce. That Department includes both NISC and NOAA. A little over two years ago, I came to the Department of Energy as the CIO. I came to DOE because of the excitement of its world-class science and scientists, the importance of its mission, and because I was very impressed by its leadership, especially Secretary Bodman.

I've especially enjoyed meeting our scientists and science leaders at DOE's national laboratories and learning firsthand about their work. They're among the best and the brightest in the world, and they carry out very important scientific discovery efforts.

Mr. Morales: Tom, that's a very rich set of experiences. I'm curious, as you reflect back on those experiences, how have they prepared you for your current leadership role and shaped your current management style and way of thinking?

Mr. Pyke: Beginning my career at a research institution, the National Bureau of Standards, I've a basic tendency to trust folks and to take a collegial approach to getting work done. Over the years, I've modified my behavior so that I can provide strong direction as appropriate and take strong actions if that direction isn't followed.

But I'm still basically a trusting soul, and I think that works well at DOE. My style is to apply just enough organization, just enough discipline, to get the job done. My personal style is one of motivating and cheerleading, but in a firm way.

My broad technical background I believe is very important to me to function effectively as CIO. The field of information technology is so complex, and our organization, the Department of Energy, is so diverse, it's so large and it's so complex, it's important to have a firm understanding of what is being done with regard to the use of information technology and plans for its future use, and to be able to understand that, to be able to manage it well. That doesn't mean micromanaging, but it does mean being fully prepared to dig into the details, if necessary.

Mr. Morales: That's a great balance.

What about Energy's IT strategy? We will ask Tom Pyke, Chief Information Officer at the U.S. Department of Energy to share with us, when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.


Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm your host, Albert Morales, and this morning's conversation is with Tom Pyke, Chief Information Officer at the U.S. Department of Energy.

Also joining us in our conversation from IBM is Pete Boyer.

Tom, I'd like to learn a little more about the IT strategy over at Energy, specifically how have you sought to modernize and standardize the use of technology so that it benefits both the Department and the constituents it serves as well as aligning resources across the Department's strategic goals?

Mr. Pyke: Al, let me begin by speaking for a bit about how I managed that at the Commerce Department before I came to DOE.

While leading IT at the Commerce Department, I developed approaches that worked in a federated environment, with the use of Department-wide standards and guidance, by giving each organization, each bureau or administration within the Department adequate flexibility to adapt common guidance to their missions. And that is a good starter when addressing IT management at the Department of Energy, I believe.

But after I arrived at DOE, I learned what a true federated organization is. Each major DOE program has its priorities and management style, and in some cases -- for example, for the National Nuclear Security Administration -- a special legislative mandate that gives it a high degree of independence.

I also learned firsthand about how world-class science is carried out on contract by DOE's 27 national laboratories, and how Nobel Prize winners or prospective Nobel Prize winners considered unnecessary discipline in the management of IT as an impediment for them to accomplish their programmatic goals. And I understand that and appreciate it. I should mention that indeed we're proud of the fact that over 82 individuals associated with the Department have Nobel prizes already.

I visited many of our laboratories and met with the leaders of the labs, and I've heard firsthand about the importance of research they're conducting, and I've been very impressed. I've also been impressed by the highly capable CIOs that each of the labs has, and how well each of them is doing and managing IT, both on their own and following policies and guidance from DOE.

The key to managing IT at DOE is to insist on just enough DOE-wide common direction or policy, and just enough discipline to ensure that IT capital investment is managed well on both the federal and contractor sides, and to ensure that sufficient attention is paid to cyber security management, technical and operational controls protecting all systems and data, and in other key areas.

One way to do this is by applying our DOE enterprise architecture, which is the blueprint for IT acquisition and management in the Department. The enterprise architecture is fully aligned to the DOE strategic plan, including our strategic goals.

Mr. Morales: Tom, I'd like to explore this area a bit more, because as you described in the last segment, Energy's mission - obviously, it's very complex, very diverse. So I'd like to learn a little bit more on how you foster this enterprise view of technology versus a stovepipe view of IT, which again, given the diversity, would seem like it would be very easy to fall into that mode.

Mr. Pyke: We're guided by our enterprise architecture, and we have identified what needs to be done in the same way across our large diverse Department and what can be managed on a -- let me call it one-size-doesn't-fit-all basis. We have standardized on our primary administrative functions to an implementation of a set of common administrative services in a package called I-MANAGE.

Our office has established nine enterprise-wide software license agreements that have resulted in lower costs Department-wide. We have an IT Council comprised of the IT leaders of every DOE program area. And we have empowered this Council to oversee certain DOE-wide management tasks, such as reviewing the results of applying earned value management to IT development projects, especially if the results are beginning to get out of line. We have established DOE-wide standards where appropriate, including DOE-wide cyber security requirements that represent the minimum of what needs to be done. Each program is free to add to those but not weaken them.

Mr. Morales: Just to take a balanced view for a moment, could you just quickly describe what might be some of the benefits and possible limitations inherent to this federated IT management approach?

Mr. Pyke: In my opinion, no other approach would work effectively for DOE. I've talked to previous DOE CIOs, including some who have tried to foster a centralized approach to managing IT in DOE, and they wound up being rebuffed by the fundamental nature of the agency, including the fact that by far the majority of the work at DOE as a whole is done by our laboratories, which are as I said before contractor operations.

I've listened to our program leaders at headquarters and in the field and consulted with our talented Office of the CIO staff, and have moved ahead employing a federated approach that I believe is being quite successful.

Based on my experience, I believe that a governance structure has to match the fundamental nature of an organization. There's always room for strong leadership to change the culture, and we're doing so in some ways. But that may not be desirable or effective if there are inherent limitations because of the structure or other fundamental factors associated with the organization itself.

I mentioned earlier the National Nuclear Security Administration, or NNSA, which is a large part of DOE. There's legislation that prohibits anyone other than the Secretary or Deputy Secretary from directing NNSA to do anything. And even they're limited to providing policy direction.

I'm pleased to say, however, that because of enlightened management within NNSA and a cordial productive working relationship between the NNSA management and DOE management, NNSA voluntarily adopts most of the directions and guidance that's mandatory for the rest of the Department, including directions relative to IT capital investment management and cyber security.

Mr. Boyer: Tom, continuing on this theme, your Department spends approximately $2.5 billion a year in information technology. Now, you've mentioned the IT capital investment process and the importance of that.

Would you elaborate on how you strengthened the Department's IT capital investment process to ensure that the investment decisions are mission-aligned and cost-justified, and to what extent have you mapped proposed investments to the agency-wide enterprise architecture strategy?

Mr. Pyke: Our enterprise architecture is the primary guidance that we use every day in the Department, and we continue to strengthen it, including strengthening how we use it.

The IT capital investment management process is guided by the architecture, and it uses the architecture as we review the individual project of plants and as we review the performance against each of the plants.

We carry out earned value management activities associated with the large development projects, and we use the architecture to guide that, and we use the architecture to help make sure we're pointed in the right direction and keep on-target against our high-level goals.

We have provided strong encouragement throughout the Department to use the capital investment business cases as management tools so that we're in fact managing our portfolio - investments as a portfolio, with good results.

Mr. Boyer: Now, the e-Government initiative is a critical component of the President's Management Agenda. Would you tell us about your Department's efforts in this area? What are some of the challenges you faced, and what remains to be done?

Mr. Pyke: Many of our IT modernization efforts leverage government-wide e-Government initiatives. We're participants in fact in 18 e-Gov initiatives, including e-Rulemaking, Business Gateway,, e-Training, Recruitment One-Stop, e-Travel and e-Authentication. You could say our middle name is E-Gov.

And in fact, we take it very seriously, but we see real benefits to participating as a partner with other agencies in these e-Gov initiatives. We also participate in the financial management line of business, the grants management, human resources, geospatial and information system security lines of business. Through participating in these initiatives and these lines of business, we support both the President's Management Agenda and we improve DOE IT operations.

One of the initial challenges we faced was to identify those legacy investments within our IT portfolio that should be aligned for migration to an e-Government solution. Any migration or replacement initiative can indeed be challenging. But when you factor in IT solutions that are being developed and managed by other federal organizations, the migration process becomes critical.

I believe we have made good progress in this area for many of the e-Government initiatives, and that we're receiving the benefits of our participation in the e-Gov initiatives and in turn contributing to the overall government-wide benefit.

Mr. Boyer: Terrific. Tom, given the complexity and importance of DOE's numerous unique multimillion dollar projects, from an IT operations perspective, how has your Department's sought to improve its project management discipline for monitoring project performance?

Mr. Pyke: We have encouraged the culture of project management by professionals. Our project managers are required to be certified, to have substantial training to the extent that are certified as project managers, and to employ the expertise they have developed in that process to give a great deal of attention to both the big picture and the details in managing each project.

I've already referred to our quarterly reviews of all IT capital investment projects, and I referred to the use of the tool known as earned value management for projects of significant size or risk, and to the oversight by our DOE IT Council that helps when projects may at the very beginning stages be getting out of line.

My staff in the Office of the CIO pays a great deal of attention to each project during the quarterly reviews that we conduct, and in fact, we even have an internal score card that we provide to the various programs in the Department based on their progress and their performance in IT capital investment, management, as well as in other areas such as enterprise architecture and cyber security.

So it's a combination of all these tools applied on a continuing basis that have I believe led to having the investment management process on a project-by-project basis be accepted across the entire Department, and to have it internalized to the point at which the documentation associated with the projects, the processes that we have imposed and in some cases were imposed on us are really leading to better management of the project themselves.

Mr. Morales: Tom, I'd imagine that one of the keys to success of operating one of these federated models is helping the staff recognize that they're in fact part of a much broader enterprise. So I'm curious, to this end, what are some of the push-backs that you encounter as a CIO?

Mr. Pyke: I'm glad you asked that, Al.

In the very important area -- cyber security, for example, almost everything we do to protect our systems and data interferes in some way with the performance of our scientific programs. You may recall I mentioned earlier that we have these wonderful scientists in our laboratories who are intent on doing their job, and to them, imposing discipline to manage IT, which is only one component of the world they live in, has the potential to interfere with that next Nobel Prize that they're working on.

When I as CIO imposed longer passwords, or the use of something called two-factor authentication, where we take into account something you know and something you have before providing access to a system or network, it's an imposition on these folks.

When we demand that everyone have extensive awareness training in cyber security, to sensitize them to the importance of not clicking on e-mail attachments, or not clicking on internet addresses or URLs in an e-mail or any e-mail that might in any way be suspect, that's an imposition on folks. We're taking their time, we're taking their energy; we're slowing down their ability to get their job done. And to make things worse, it costs the programs and it costs the labs to implement a lot of the things that we say are essential from a cyber security standpoint.

So we have a lot of selling to do. It's not just telling, it's also selling to help people understand why it is that we need to take all of these protective measures, and why it's in everyone's own good and in the good of their programs and their projects to take these steps. So bringing leadership at all levels on board in cyber security and other areas is important, and helping them to understand the importance of cyber security and how it will help them get their job done better.

For example, I've been talking with scientists about how adequate cyber security helps protect the integrity of the science process; it helps them provide better results that they in turn share with other scientists, and as well as protecting extremely sensitive information that they may be working with as they perform their job. We have found that outreach and open communications can go a long way toward bringing people along to follow direction and guidance.

For example, the DOE Office of Science has conducted cyber security site assistance visits to the science laboratories, providing help in applying good cyber security management practices. This help was welcomed by the labs, and in fact in my visits there, they were enthusiastic about this help from Washington that was really helpful.

And they really appreciated it, and for those labs that I visited who hadn't had their visits yet, they were looking forward to those visits. In my opinion, those visits helped result in significant improvements in cyber security at those laboratories.

And on another front, we've had a great deal of success in our efforts to centralize IT support for the federal side of DOE. This began as an A-76 effort to consolidate deskside and other IT support on the federal side. The winner in the competition was an innovative team that combined federal and contractual resources.

As you might imagine, the field wasn't exactly excited about having Washington manage their IT operations for them, or at least that's how they perceived this centralized operation of IT services. But the team has rolled out its support for most of DOE headquarters, and it's now beginning rolling the support in the field. There are over 8,000 seats of IT support at headquarters and the filed supported in this way, and this has resulted in a documented cost-avoidance of $80 million over the last few years, and that number will increase over time.

The Under Secretary-level program managers have made business decisions to expand the application of this centralized IT support based on their evaluation of performance and cost, and outreach to the field is bringing many of these folks around to understand the benefits of this approach.

So it's not just about imposing the will of the CIO or other senior agency officials, it's about selling people on the benefits of following direction. It's motivating people -- as Secretary Bodman, Secretary Of Energy Bodman says -- motivating people to do the right thing.

Mr. Morales: What about Energy's cyber security efforts?

We will ask Tom Pyke, Chief Information Officer at the U.S. Department of Energy, to share with us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.


Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm your host, Albert Morales, and this morning's conversation is with Tom Pyke, Chief Information Officer at the U.S. Department of Energy.

Also joining us on our conversation from IBM is Pete Boyer. Tom, the information-based technologies that support Energy's scientific, defense, energy, and environmental missions have made the Department and its labs an increasingly attractive target for those who seek its technologies and the national security information.

Could you elaborate on some of the critical security threats and challenges facing your Department and the IT infrastructure?

Mr. Pyke: As I mentioned earlier, Al, we're attacked in one place or the other across the country in the DOE complex by hackers millions of times every day. Some of these attacks are simply scans, the absolute minimum intrusiveness in terms of the nature of the scan or the nature of the attack. Others of the attacks are very sophisticated.

We have a defense-in-depth in place, including firewalls and intrusion detection systems, and even special sensors outside our firewalls that help us defend against these attackers. We also use commercial virus detection software and other commercial software that helps us identify and protect against a very large percentage of these attacks.

Fortunately, most of these attacks are not very sophisticated, and our defenses deal with them easily many times a day. But the most sophisticated attackers have the potential to get through and to compromise our systems and data.

So we have to be vigilant, working hard to keep ahead of attackers as they get even better at what they do day by day and week by week. We have teams of cyber security experts at our various sites across the country, and we have a Department-wide cyber forensics task force that works to analyze and deflect the most complex attacks that we receive.

Mr. Morales: Secretary Bodman has also gone on record as saying, "Revitalizing DOE's cyber security program is the best way to ensure that we continue to protect our Department's assets and the nation."

So with this, how has DOE, your cyber security revitalization plan, enabled your Department to strengthen its cyber security protocols and better secure the Department's infrastructure?

Mr. Pyke: When I arrived at DOE two years ago, I found that a lot of the basics of cyber security were in place, and that we had a lot of very bright people at headquarters, and especially in the field, helping us protect our systems and data. But we were not organized to marshal the forces to put all the pieces together into a comprehensive effective program. So we stepped back and we created a cyber security revitalization plan, as we called it, which enabled us to involve everyone in cyber security.

Everyone, including the Secretary, the Deputy Secretary, each Under Secretary, accepted a leadership goal to improve the way cyber security is managed across the Department. Each Under Secretary has a special role and accepts the responsibility for managing cyber security within that Under Secretary's organization based on risk, and subject to certain common ingredients that cut across cyber security across the Department, some of which cut across government-wide.

We developed a new cyber security policy in over 20 policy guidance documents covering every aspect of cyber security. We issued a new, very much updated national security systems manual, which substantially strengthened the protection required for our classified systems and information. We took steps to improve risk based Department-wide certification and accreditation processes for systems, using newly issued guidance and through the site assistance visits that I mentioned earlier.

I should mention that as of this last September, in the last cyber security report prepared by DOE's Inspector General, the quality of our certification and accreditation processes were determined to have reached a satisfactory level for the first time ever. We enhanced the defense-in-depth of our DOE systems and networks, including taking such steps as segmenting or separating parts of our networks, adding still more intrusion detection systems, and replacing older, more vulnerable system software.

We created the DOE-wide cyber forensics team that I mentioned earlier, a team that focuses on the most serious cyber threats and attacks that we face, analyzing them in great depth and improving our protection on the fly day by day. We created special guidance and reporting processes to give protection for sensitive and classified information, including personally identifiable information.

The Department's cyber security posture is much stronger than it was two years ago, but we still have a long way to go, in part, because as I like to say, the bad guys are continually getting badder, and our defenses have to be continually improved. It's kind of a cat-and-mouse game, and we can't afford to lose, because we have so much sensitive information that we must protect and protect well.

Mr. Boyer: Tom, that's very impressive. On a kind of a similar line, but a little bit of a change of subject, would you elaborate on your efforts to make DOE a model within federal government for energy efficiency, and to what extent does this involve movement toward green computing?

Mr. Pyke: We have for a long time at the Department of Energy acquired energy efficient IT equipment. And we operate it in an energy efficient way. For example, we turn off all our PCs at night, and if individuals don't turn them off, we turn them off for them. And we configure them while they're on to use as little energy as possible.

We received during the past year three awards for going green with DOE IT. The DOE Headquarters' Green Team received a White House Award for its acquisition of energy efficient equipment, for our energy efficient IT operations, and for disposing of IT equipment in an environmentally sound way.

We're now beginning a pilot at DOE Headquarters for the use of what is called Thin-Client Technology. This is technology in which the PC disappears and basically makes its way to the backroom. We believe that this technology has the potential to reduce significantly the amount of energy consumed, and at the same time to improve our cyber security protection. We're also looking at the future use of fuel cell technology for our data center, which we believe will make possible substantial reduction of energy use for powering data center equipment and the associated air conditioning systems.

Mr. Boyer: As a follow-up, could you tell us more about your efforts to move toward a Thin Client ,and maybe a little more of a description on the Thin-Client Technology, how it differs from your current operating environment, but also elaborate on the benefits of going in this direction and the status of this program at DOE?

Mr. Pyke: Thin-client computing takes the computing that now occurs in a user's office in his or her PC and moves it to the backroom, to the data center. The user still has a monitor and a keyboard and a mouse; we would be lost without them. But instead of having a PC, there is a little box that conducts through the network to a server computer in the data center. Each server computer can support many hundreds of users in this way, providing the same level or performance as each user currently experiences.

A 60-watt PC is replaced by a 6-watt thin-client box. The server in the data center and the equipment around it may use a few more watts than it otherwise would. So the net energy savings is substantial, and we will be substantial beneficiaries in terms of the overall energy consumption as a result of using this technology if it proves to work as advertised and as we believe it will work.

Most of the cyber attacks that we receive are at least partially successful or targeted toward individual PCs. If the PC isn't there, it can't be attacked. The server computer back in the data center can have stronger defenses, which minimizes the likelihood of a successful attack.

We're well-along planning a pilot of this technology, and we expect to have at least 50 Thin Clients in use as a part of a pilot within the next few months. If the pilot is successful, we will roll out this technology more broadly to our thousands of users in the Washington area and beyond.

Mr. Boyer: Excellent. Now, continuing on the technology theme, the Department is expanding the capability of world-class scientific research through advances in high-performance computing, and the application of computers capable of many trillions of operations per second.

Would you elaborate on DOE's efforts around high-performance computing, specifically, how's the Department making use of these advances, and what role does your office play in assisting the DOE's Office of Science?

Mr. Pyke: Well, Pete, I think this is one of the most exciting things about the Department of Energy, and of course, my middle name is high-performance computing, or supercomputers. I've spent some of my years working in this area.

Mr. Boyer: I didn't see that on your bio.

Mr. Pyke: In support of our mission, the Department of Energy operates 6 of the 11 most powerful supercomputers in the world, including the very highest-performing computer BlueGene/L, located at our Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Our scientists have been quite successful applying these machines to advanced scientific tasks, including modeling climate change and modeling the performance of nuclear weapons sufficiently well to eliminate the need to actually test the physical weapons themselves.

The scientific results have been so significant that our science leaders believe that major advances in science in many areas will now be achieved by a combination of theory, laboratory experimentation, and computer modeling. The high-performance computer is already playing a very significant role in scientific discovery.

Mr. Morales: Tom, under the National Nuclear Security Administration, you mentioned earlier that DOE is responsible for the maintenance, certification and reliability of our nuclear weapons stockpile.

Given the importance and complexity of your Department's role in ensuring the vitality of the nuclear stockpile, from an IT perspective, how does your office work with the NNSA, and to what extent does it assist the NNSA with this critical mission?

Mr. Pyke: NNSA is a very important part of the Department, and our office works very closely with NNSA, its senior management, including its CIO. NNSA participates with the rest of the Department in IT capital investment management, enterprise architecture, and cyber security management.

And I'd like to point out that with regard to high-performance computing, a number of these very high-performance computers are in NNSA and NNSA labs, and an increasing number of them are in this Office of Science labs. And our office plays a role in helping to coordinate overall high-performance computing activities across the Department, and looking for opportunities to improve the way we manage our computers and the way we share the computers themselves and the expertise associated with the computers.

Mr. Morales: Now, earlier, Tom, you had described to us when you were describing the overall organization at DOE, I believe you mentioned 14,000 federal employees and I think it was 100,000 contract employees.

Could you tell us how federal managers can effectively manage this ever-increasing blended workforce, composed of both contractors and federal workers?

Mr. Pyke: We need to have a clear understanding of the roles and responsibilities of each of the players: the government leaders and government organizations and the contractors and contractor employees. We obviously need good contractors, but that's not enough.

Consistent with ethical and contractual propriety, we have established and need to continue working on effective partnerships for the government leaders, the government employees, to work as partners with our contractors and contract employees, to be able to get our entire mission accomplished.

This is not easy to do, especially since 90 percent of DOE is in the field and 90 percent of our work is performed by contractors. It's further complicated by the fact that our wonderful laboratories are quite independent in their outlook. That's really a virtue in my opinion, but it also complicates the way in which we have to manage -- again with just enough discipline, just enough organization.

Much of the work is performed by brilliant, very dedicated scientists, who by the nature of their work need to function as independently as possible. So for us to be able to accomplish our work, including the proper care and feeding of all of these brilliant scientists, we need to find the right balance of government oversight, federal oversight, and contractor performance in a way that meets everyone's expectations.

Mr. Morales: It certainly is a delicate balance.

What does the future hold for the U.S. Department of Energy's IT function? We will ask Tom Pyke, Chief Information Officer of the U.S. Department of Energy, to share with us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.


Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm your host, Albert Morales, and this morning's conversation is with Tom Pyke, Chief Information Officer at the U.S. Department of Energy.

Also joining us in our conversation from IBM is Pete Boyer.

Tom, given the critical role information technology plays in mission and program delivery, could you give us a view of how the role of the CIO has been evolving, and what are the key characteristics of a successful CIO in the future?

Mr. Pyke: Let me go back to the mid '90s, when there were no CIOs, certainly no federal CIOs. This was an idea that the federal government adopted from the private sector, and in my opinion has put to good use -- where agencies have taken maximum of advantage of having a CIO has been those cases where, as we do at DOE, where the CIO is a player, a member of the senior management team, and reports directly to the Secretary and the Deputy Secretary and has a seat at the table.

So CIOs, IT management has gone from the mid '90s when we had staff-level IT resource managers, to CIOs who are truly organizational managers -- partners with the program managers in each organization. I believe a CIO can function best if he or she functions as a leader, not just a manager.

I believe a CIO needs a strong technology base -- yes, I'm a little biased on that front -- but I really think it helps to be able to understand and appreciate what we're doing both in terms of the current technology that we're applying as well as evaluating new technology that we're considering the future use of.

It's very important to have well-developed communication skills, including interpersonal communication skills. I believe it's very important to be able to motivate people, and it's also important to be able to compromise, and to be willing to compromise when appropriate, yet be firm when necessary.

Mr. Boyer: Tom, continuing our focus on the future, can you give us a sense of some of the key issues that will affect CIOs government-wide over the next couple of years? Specifically, what emerging technologies hold the most promise for improving federal IT, and what advice would you've for the next administration in this area?

Mr. Pyke: Across the government, we will be facing changing program requirements, as we have in the past. Some of these will be as a result of new legislative mandates; some of them will result from priorities, new priorities of the new administration.

We will be attempting to improve the way IT is used to help agencies perform their mission, or their newly re-defined mission in some cases, and we will continue to be attempting to work together in a way that makes sense within agencies and across agencies to make sure that we don't reinvent the wheel unnecessarily or duplicate effort with individual agency applications.

This is where enterprise architecture fits in. This is where the current e-Gov efforts fit in, the government-wide e-Gov efforts. There, attempts to minimize duplication of effort for us each to be able to focus on what should be common, and to give special attention to the things that are unique in terms of each agency function.

I believe agencies will continue to struggle with major system development efforts, for many of the same reasons that they have struggled in the past. Requirements may not be adequately defined at the beginning. There may be requirements creep during the development process: over-ambitious efforts try to do too much at one time.

So it's imperative that CIOs and the folks supporting them be guided by an overarching enterprise architecture, and that for every IT project that be a strong configuration control process that guides changes in a way that minimize adverse impacts of those changes.

All federal CIOs have to be on the lookout for signs that requirements may be changing or may be creeping in, and that they need to take control or push back in order to assure that things stay on track.

I'd advise future government-wide IT leaders to look carefully at past federal government experience, as well as private sector experience, to look at the fundamental nature of managing IT in the federal environment and what's unique about it, so as to try to stimulate continuing improvements that work well for federal agencies.

I think the current processes in place to oversee IT project management in the federal government are good. And I think that the efforts to insist on solid enterprise architectures across the government are meeting with increasing success, and I believe they should continue to be accorded high priority.

Mr. Boyer: Great. Tom, more specifically, what are some of the major opportunities and challenges your organization at DOE will encounter in the future, and how do you envision your office will evolve over the next five years?

Mr. Pyke: I predict that we will continue to wrestle with cyber security, and that's an easy prediction. The bad guys will continue to get badder, or if you like smarter. New software that we're very dependent on to carry our mission will continue to come with built-in vulnerabilities that will only be found and corrected one at a time over the lifetime of the software no matter how much initial testing has been done. It's the nature of the beast, unfortunately.

Our defenses will be stronger yet, and they will have to be. We in the federal government will be working together within each Department, including across the entire DOE and across the government, so that we're able to better defend against increasingly more sophisticated threats. New technology will provide us new opportunities as well as new challenges to select and deploy it in a way that leads to improved service to customers at reduced cost.

We will be challenged by fast-moving technology, and even more -- let's call it ubiquitous computing. Computing already is everywhere, but you ain't seen nothing yet. Everything about what we do and how we do it at work and at home will have computing involved in some way or another, and we need to face that; and in the federal environment, we need to manage that.

Over the next five years, we'll be moving to still another level of maturity in our ability to manage new technology in an evolutionary way, I believe, without disrupting services and by introducing new capabilities in an evolutionary way, rather than all of a sudden switching to a new system in a way that causes everyone to have to get totally retrained or reoriented. We will continue to stay on top of IT capital investment management, and be even in a better position to exploit our enterprise architecture as the driving force for making key program and IT decisions.

Mr. Morales: Tom, we haven't touched upon this yet, but if we look into the near future, we typically ask our guests about the government employee pending retirement wave.

How are you handling the pending retirement wave, and what's your organization doing to ensure that you've the right mix to meet some of the challenges that you described?

Mr. Pyke: We have been giving a lot of attention to succession planning, in addition to recruiting new blood to be prepared to step in as some of us who have been around for a while decide to leave the workforce. We need to continue to give this a high priority. We need to use training and developmental assignments to make sure that we have good people who are well-prepared to meet our future needs.

Mr. Morales: Tom, given your extensive career in the public sector, I'm curious what advice might you give a person who is out there and may be considering a career in public service, perhaps in information technology.

Mr. Pyke: Well, the federal government is a challenging environment, and I personally have found that it's very exciting. I've been in multiple agencies. I've had a number of different jobs, perhaps one every four to five years or so as I've moved up and moved over, and I think that folks out there who are considering a career and career choices or a sub-career, because as I understand, in the coming ages, each of us will probably have many careers -- either serial or in parallel -- over a lifetime.

I believe that it's a great way to spend a lifetime devoted to things that really matter to this country by serving in the federal government, and to have a lot of fun. At the same time, a lot of self-fulfillment, and to be directly involved in leading a large number of tasks that involve the latest technology. It's an opportunity to be on the leading edge and to do something very worthwhile.

Based on my experience, I'd recommend a career or a sub-career to folks, a career in the federal service and the federal government as one that would have a great deal of personal satisfaction.

Mr. Morales: Tom, that's a wonderful perspective. Unfortunately, we have reached the end of our time. I want to thank you for fitting us into your busy schedule. But more importantly, Pete and I'd like to thank you for your dedicated service to our country over the 30-plus years you've had in federal service.

Mr. Pyke: Thank you very much, Al and Pete. And I appreciate the opportunity to speak with you here this morning. I'd like to invite your listeners to visit the Department of Energy at, our very fine website, and I hope that as individuals read about us on the web and learn more about DOE in the future, that they will be just as excited about the importance of what we're doing at DOE and how well we're doing it, as I am.

Mr. Morales: That's great. Thank you.

This has been The Business of Government Hour, featuring a conversation with Tom Pyke, Chief Information Officer at the U.S. Department of Energy. My co-host has been Pete Boyer, director in IBM's federal civilian industry 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 may not be able to hear this morning's show on how we're improving their government, but who deserve our unconditional respect and support. For The Business of Government Hour, I'm Albert Morales. Thank you for listening.

Voice-Over: 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 There, you can learn more about our program and get a transcript of today's conversation.

Until next week, it's

Patrick Pizzella interview

Friday, January 11th, 2008 - 20:00
Managing for Performance and Results; Financial Management; Leadership; Collaboration: Networks and Partnerships; Strategic Thinking; Human Capital Management...
Radio show date: 
Sat, 01/12/2008
Intro text: 
Managing for Performance and Results; Financial Management; Leadership; Collaboration: Networks and Partnerships; Strategic Thinking; Human Capital Management...
Managing for Performance and Results; Financial Management; Leadership; Collaboration: Networks and Partnerships; Strategic Thinking; Human Capital Management
Complete transcript: 


Originally Broadcast January 12, 2008

Washington, D.C.

Announcer: Welcome to The Business of Government Hour, a conversation about management with a government executive who is changing the way government does business.

The Business of Government Hour is produced by The IBM Center for The Business of Government, which was created in 1998 to encourage discussion and research into new approaches to improving government effectiveness. You can find out more about The Center by visiting us on the web at

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.

Today, the U.S. Department of Labor continues to heed the call that government should be results-oriented and guided not by process, but guided by performance. In the past few years, the Department has become synonymous with high performance, results, accountability in federal government. Labor maintains its dedication to improving performance and ensuring that good government principles inform its day-to-day management and its operations.

With us this morning to discuss his efforts in this area is our special guest, Patrick Pizzella, Assistant Secretary for Administration and Management at the U.S. Department of Labor.

Good morning, Pat.

Mr. Pizzella: Good morning.

Good morning, Steve.

Mr. Sieke: Good morning, Al.

Mr. Morales: Pat, perhaps you could share with our listeners a sense of the history and mission of the U.S. Department of Labor. Can you tell us when it was created, and what's its mission today?

Mr. Pizzella: Sure. The Department of Labor was created by President Taft back in March of 1913, and its mission specified then was to foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners of the United States to improve their working conditions and to advance their opportunities for profitable employment. And the mission has remained relatively unchanged after almost 100 years.

The first Secretary of Labor was William B. Wilson, who the Department just recently inducted into its Labor Hall of Fame. And there were originally four agencies within the Department: the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Bureau of Immigration, the Bureau of Naturalization, and the Children's Bureau. Now, over time, the Bureau of Labor Statistics is still a mainstay at the Department of Labor, but over time, there have been other agencies that have been created by Congress and added, like the employment and training area, the workers' safety area, OSHA and MSHA, and such categories as wage and hour enforcement, and the Office of Labor Management Standards to enforce union democracy. So we're prepared for the 21st century, though we were created at the turn of the last century.

Mr. Morales: That's great. Can you continue to give us a sense of the scale of the operations over at Labor in terms of size of the budget, perhaps number of employees, and the geographic footprint that you cover?

Mr. Pizzella: Well, the Department has a discretionary budget of about a little under $11 billion, and with mandatory spending, it gets to about $50 billion. And we have in the neighborhood of 16,500 or so employees located across the country in a little over 500 locations. The national office, of course, is located on Constitution Avenue in the nation's capital. And the building is named after Francis Perkins, who was the longest-serving Secretary of Labor.

Mr. Sieke: Pat, now that you've provided us with a sense of the larger organization, perhaps you could tell us more about your area and specific role within Labor. What are your specific responsibilities and duties as the Assistant Secretary for Administration and Management and its chief information officer? Could you tell us about the areas under your purview, how your area's organized, and the size of your staff and budget, and how does it support the mission of the Department?

Mr. Pizzella: Certainly. As Assistant Secretary of Labor, I serve as the principal advisor to the Secretary in the administration and management programs of the Department. I wear other hats as the Department's chief information officer and the chief human capital officer and the senior real property officer, to name a few. As such, the portfolio I'm responsible for covers budget, human resources, information technology, procurement facilities management, security and emergency management, and the Department's overall civil rights program. The Office of Administration and Management contains three Deputy Assistant Secretaries: one for budget and performance planning, one for operations, and one for security and emergency management.

We have eight centers that operate out of the national office, and we have six associated regional offices, a little over 700 employees that carry out these functions. And as I mentioned, one of the key functional areas is the chief information officer, and that role requires us to ensure there's compliance by DOL agencies with implementation of the information resources management responsibilities that go with any senior official at the Department of Labor. And we also provide advice and assistance to the Secretary and other senior officials in the area of IT, IT security, and other information resources areas.

Mr. Sieke: So Pat, you certainly have a lot of hats that you wear. So regarding all these responsibilities and duties, what do you see as the top three challenges that you face in your position, and how have you addressed those challenges?

Mr. Pizzella: Well, the way we see it is that good management assists good policy. And if you have a good management infrastructure, it should assist the policy implementers at the Department, and so that's really been our focus since we first arrived there. We want to ensure the Department has a professional workforce that's structured to meet the Department's mission, both now and into the future, and we want to meet the challenges of ever-increasing risks, whether those risks are in the information technology area, physical security area, or continuity of operations, things like pandemic flu planning and so forth. And lastly, we want to maintain an effective support operation that will improve the efficiencies of the Department.

Mr. Morales: Now Pat, you've held various roles across a couple different agencies and departments over the past 25 years. Could you describe your career path for our listeners, and tell us how you got started?

Mr. Pizzella: Well, I began my career in Washington in 1981, and joined the Reagan Administration. And there, I worked as a special assistant to the head of the General Services Administration, which was very good training for someone who's now an Assistant Secretary for Administration and Management. I then served at the U.S. Small Business Administration, and I closed out the era with Pres. Reagan as Deputy Under Secretary for Management at the Department of Education. During that time, I had the opportunity to serve as a member of the Office of Personnel Management's Senior Executive Service Advisory Committee, and also as a member of the President's Council on Management Improvement.

Following that, I served as the chief administrative officer at the Federal Housing Finance Board for about five years. And that's an independent regulatory agency that was created in the aftermath of the S&L crisis, and it oversees the Federal Home Loan Bank system.

In most of the '90s, I was a member of the policy practice group at a Washington state-based law firm here in Washington, D.C., serving as a government affairs counselor.

I arrived at the current administration first as serving as a policy coordinator for the Bush-Cheney General Services Administration transition team. And then on January 20th of '01, I was one of the folks who were in the original landing parties. I was named chief of staff at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. And I stayed there for about eight weeks and went over to the Department of Labor, where I was nominated by the President in April and confirmed by the U.S. Senate in May of 2001, and I've been in this position ever since.

Mr. Morales: That's a fantastic career. So tell me, if you put all this together, how have these experiences prepared you for the current role that you have today and shaped your management approach and your leadership style?

Mr. Pizzella: Well, most of my previous positions, and certainly in the government area, dealt in one aspect or another of the areas of management administration. So the responsibilities now as Assistant Secretary really are a very neat fit for those things, particularly the experiences in OPM and human resources matters, or as they were known earlier on as personnel issues. And issues like the President's Management Agenda of President Bush really dovetail well with the previous experiences I had. And combining the President's Management Agenda with the Government Performance and Results Act that was passed by Congress in the '90s has given us some tools to have a real impact on how government operates, and I found them very useful.

Mr. Morales: Great.

What about Labor's information technology strategy? We will ask Patrick Pizzella, Assistant Secretary for Administration and Management at the U.S. Department of Labor, to share with us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.


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

Also joining us in our conversation from IBM is Steve Sieke.

Pat, could you tell us a bit more about the IT strategic plan at Labor? How does it address having multiple diverse programs that operate within a heterogeneous IT environment? And to what extent does the plan increase the outcome orientation of DOL's long-term measures and opportunities in the coming years?

Mr. Pizzella: Sure. Let me begin by saying that recently, or actually now it's been a couple of years, in October of '05, we updated our IT strategic plan that covers the years 2005 to 2009 to incorporate and align with DOL's mission, its agencies' requirements and the President's Management Agenda. And we wanted to link it to the federal enterprise architecture and federal government strategies.

In seeking the best IT strategy for the Department, there were several challenges that we were faced with. One was that the IT program operates in a very complex structure where we've got varieties of missions and business environments within the Department's 25 agencies, bureaus, and offices. We have obviously consideration and cooperation with both presidential, legislative, OMB, and other key sort of stakeholder directives that continually modify our IT strategy. And then, of course, we have to balance the appropriate IT resources that we have with the goal to achieve some results-driven performance.

First is the e government. We want to ensure that the IT initiatives and investments are really customer-focused and results-oriented, market-based, and cost-effective. Then we look at the enterprise architecture and we want to develop and maintain an enterprise architecture that is reliable and adaptable and it's driven by business and technology requirements, not just by technology

We're very cognizant of the IT management and governance structure in which we operate at the Department, and we try to promote the cost-effective IT solutions by sharing and implementing best practices, both across the Department as well as across government. Security has been in the forefront of issues that we really focus on, because in this particular age, providing a secure IT infrastructure that ensures the integrity and confidentiality of the data and information systems is vital for both the Department and for its customers.

And finally is the area of human capital, where you've got to develop and maintain high-quality in a competitive IT workforce.

Our Department's IT strategy calls for sort of leveraging and coordinating those goals and being sure that we are inclusive rather than exclusive at the Department of Labor so that we involve all the agencies in trying to achieve these objectives.

Mr. Morales: So Pat, it's been my experience that in the area of information technology, we tend to see things such as turf battles and proprietary views. Could you elaborate on your efforts to foster an enterprise view and break down these silos? And how are you revamping the Department's IT decision-making process?

Mr. Pizzella: Well, I think one of the keys to our ability to break down the silos has really been our success in capitalizing on the President's Management Agenda, particularly the e government initiative in that agenda. Our IT governing structure really fosters enterprise-wide thinking and collaboration at the Department. We have regular meetings with senior IT officials from all our agencies and bureaus and offices to really vet the issues that are before us and figure out what is the best solution when a Department solution is required.

We early on, very early on, tackled the -- what now seems rather funny in retrospect, the problem of having a variety of e mail systems serving one department. And we really made that an early test case where we wanted to get to one common e-mail system, and it took us 18 months. We started in '01. It was something that early on popped on the radar screen. But that experience, one, it showed us as a department we could work together; and two, it demonstrated that you can produce a common solution that works to everyone's benefit.

The story behind all that is that one of my fellow Assistant Secretaries was meeting with the Secretary one afternoon. And upon arriving at the Secretary's office, the Secretary asked her, I hadn't heard a response to the e-mail I sent you this morning. When do you think I'll get that? And the Assistant Secretary said I don't think I got your e-mail. And so of course, as the CIO, I was called into this discussion, and it turned out the reason it took so long for the Secretary's e mail to reach the Assistant Secretary, who only worked about 100 yards or so down the hall, was that we were on sort of two different e-mail systems. And we decided right then and there we were going to correct that situation, and very glad that we did.

Mr. Sieke: Pat, you talked about e-gov as one of your strategic initiatives. And we know that e gov initiatives are continuing to improve and expand services to citizens, businesses, and agencies alike. Would you tell us about your Department's efforts in this area, and what about the role your Unified DOL Technology Infrastructure, the UDTI initiative, has played in making your efforts successful?

Mr. Pizzella: Sure. One of the things that from a Department-wide standpoint we're looking at right now is something that the Secretary directed, which is a DOL enterprise communications initiative that includes all of our Internet, Intranet, our call center, our e-correspondence, language translation services. We want to get a common approach that gives us a convenient and secure access to DOL information and services, not just us, but our customers, with a consistent look and feel for clarity. So we'd be in the process of the centralization of web services, and this is, again, an effort where we're trying to break down the silos and stovepiping and working with all the agencies. And we're in the midst of that right now, and it's moving along quite successfully.

And in the area of the Unified Technology Infrastructure Initiative, we began that in late Fiscal Year 2004, and it really dovetails nicely with OMB's IT infrastructure line of business. We've already begun some consolidation of various agency networks into a single departmental network, and so we've achieved some savings through that right now. And we expect to save much more through consolidation, and we expect to improve the overall efficiency of our IT network through this infrastructure initiative.

Mr. Sieke: That's terrific. Now, last year, was recognized as one of the top 50 most innovative government programs in the Innovations in American Government Award program given by the Ash Institute and Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. Could you tell us more about this program and your Department's role in its success? And how does it more effectively connect citizens to government?

Mr. Pizzella: Sure. We're very proud to be named a top 50 program, and one reason for our success is our collaborative and interagency partnership. We happen to be the lead agency or the managing partner of We've worked with our fellow agencies, 15 partner agencies to be specific, in getting this program up and running. It was one of the earlier e gov initiatives of the Bush Administration. And as a result, today,, it's a comprehensive, user-friendly benefit information source that features over 1,000 government benefit programs.

And what makes it so useful for the citizen is that we have a powerful prescreening questionnaire that allows citizens to come to the govbenefits website and answer some questions that will help determine their possible eligibility for the variety of federal programs out there. So rather than citizens having to sort of shop through pages and pages of information, by answering some questions, the prescreening questionnaire is able to help eliminate those programs of which they would have no eligibility for. And it's been one of the projects we've been very proud of.

Mr. Sieke: Well, congratulations on what has really been a successful program for you. Let me turn now to another topic. OMB has launched a budget formulation and execution line of business, which seeks to improve budget processes government-wide. Could you tell us more about this effort, and more specifically, what is DOL's E-Budgeting System, or DEBS, and to what extent has it influenced the framework development around this budget formulation and execution line of business?

Mr. Pizzella: Sure. Most agencies currently do not have an integrated budget environment to automate their budgeting activities. Instead, they depend on basic desktop office software to prepare and justify multi-billion-dollar budgets. The budget formulation and execution line of business was created by a group of pioneering agencies, including DOL, to identify a solution that linked budget formulation, execution, planning, performance, and financial information. And it also has the additional benefit of improving the human capital component of the budget community.

So working closely with the line of business, we delivered a budget system we call DEBS, it's the Departmental e-budgeting system, to all 18 agency components, comprising over 300 users at the Department of Labor. DEBS automates and integrates budget data. And the immediate benefits of DEBS are, one, it's the centralized management of the budget and performance information for improved decision-making; the near-elimination of document preparation tasks, sort of the tedious pagination and header/footer manipulation, that's virtually gone; numbers are consistently displayed throughout documents. It's easy now to electronically route documents for decision-making; and we cut down on errors with numbers and decimal points missing their particular place.

In the future, we'd like to see DEBS provide an electronic transmission of budget data for the Fiscal Year '10 President's budget. And we're looking to provide end-to-end automation of budget formulation and execution. So there are components and things that will happen down the road, but in the meantime, certainly at the Department of Labor, people are a little relieved in not having to go through the very tedious process that they've gone through for years.

And incidentally, as an aside, the DEBS project manager was recently recognized as a young leader in government information technology by Federal Computer Week, with a Rising Star Award.

Mr. Morales: That's fantastic. Now, Pat, technology has enhanced the ability to share information, and it also has made organizations more vulnerable to unlawful and destructive penetration, which you touched upon a bit earlier. But could you elaborate on your Department's efforts to improve your IT security and your controls?

Mr. Pizzella: Well, achieving a common security posture for the Department, you know, has been a challenge, but it's like other challenges we face, it's something where we've had to work together within the Department. Particularly, we built an effective working relationship with the Department's Office of Inspector General, all our agencies, and we work hard to make managers more aware of IT security concerns, because we consider it a key part of everyday business. It's just not something you look at once a year or once a quarter.

This positive relationship I think is evident in the consistent reporting of our FISMA report, the Federal Information Security Management Act report that's required annually. We paid close attention to our implementation of security controls that are outlined in guidance provided by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. And through a phased approach, our systems were upgraded to meet NIST's set of security controls.

We have made security sort of second nature to the IT professionals. And we have included a very comprehensive security training program for all our employees. You really have to develop a culture of security, and that has been one of our prime objectives.

Mr. Morales: So along those lines, Pat, can you tell me a little bit more about specifically some of the steps you've taken to create or cultivate this culture of accountability and protection of sensitive IT data?

Mr. Pizzella: You know, since 2006, it's no secret there's been events reported in the media that have underscored the potentially serious consequences of lapses in maintaining security, particularly of what's known as personally identifiable information -- PII for the shorthand term. And at DOL, we've really approached that in a very, again, comprehensive and coordinated way, where communications to all employees are filled with reminders about the responsibility of senior managers in this area, because it's not something that just the CIO is responsible for. Managers and employees are responsible because they're often entrusted with PII, and therefore, they have a responsibility to protect that.

We have an annual Departmental PII review and reporting process that requires agency head certification of the adequacy of their agency's protection of PII. We have currently a Social Security number reduction task force charged with reviewing the Department's PII collections that determine candidates for elimination. I mentioned earlier we have a strong computer security awareness and role-based training program.

And in those instances where we find there has been a lapse and some PII has been exposed, we have a systematic effort where we alert folks to the possibility that some of their information could have been compromised. And I'm glad to say we have not run into situations where any we have any proof of anything actually being compromised, but we've always been alert not only to be sure that our employees are aware of this, but to be sure that those people whose information might have been exposed are alerted so that they can take their own personal precautions.

Mr. Morales: So it sounds like you have layers and programs and activities that sort of drive that message home with employees.

Mr. Pizzella: We do.

Mr. Morales: That's great.

What about Labor's success with implementing the President's Management Agenda? We will ask Pat Pizzella, Assistant Secretary for Administration and Management at the U.S. Department of Labor, to share with us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.


Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm your host, Albert Morales, and this morning's conversation is with Pat Pizzella, Assistant Secretary for Administration and Management at the U.S. Department of Labor.

Also joining us in our conversation is Steve Sieke, director in IBM's federal civilian industry practice.

Pat, we talked earlier about the PMA, and since its inception in 2001, it remains the key strategy for improving the management and performance of the federal government. Now, your Department has the honor of being the first Executive Branch department or agency to achieve and retain a green status score in all five government-wide PMA areas. Could you elaborate on how your Department has been so successful with the PMA? And more specifically, could you give us a sense of how DOL leadership sought to manage and approach the PMA from the beginning, how you got to green, and what were some of the critical lessons that you learned through this effort?

Mr. Pizzella: Sure. When the President's Management Agenda was launched in the summer of 2001, we knew this aggressive strategy for improving the management of federal government would be a challenge. First and foremost in our success has been the attention paid to it by Sec. Chao and the agency heads at the Department.

One of the key elements to help us along with implementing the PMA was the establishment of the Management Review Board by Sec. Chao in August of 2001, and it's still going on. This board meets for one hour once a month, and we just focus on management issues. And it provides the Department-wide forum for any and all of the cross-cutting management issues, whether they're in the PMA or not. I chair that board, and the membership includes all the major agency heads, the Department's chief of staff, and the Deputy Secretary of Labor.

The chief of the labor branch at the Office of Management Budget attends the monthly MRB meetings, and that's allowed us to maintain a good line of communication with OMB and to share information and ideas, particularly on budget administration initiatives. And it also, of course, helps build that transparency between ourselves and OMB in this key area.

We also from time to time invite outside guests to speak to the Management Review Board on the issues of the day. We've had obviously Clay Johnson, the Deputy Director for Management, has spoken to us. And John Mercer, who helped author the Government Performance and Results Act, has been someone who has addressed the Management Review Board, as has Maurice McTeague of the Government Accountability Project at George Mason University.

So the MRB was a perfect vehicle to serve as a launching pad for not only the PMA, but other DOL initiatives. As a matter of fact, the last time we spoke here at IBM, the PMA was just getting off the ground. That was in 2002. And the former president of the National Academy of Public Administration remarked that the DOL was off to a good start because we had yellow scores. Well, I'm proud to say, as you've referenced earlier, of those on the five government-wide management challenges that the President gave to the federal government, four of those are the responsibility of my office, and the improved financial performance initiative rests with the chief financial officer. But we were able to, in a coordinated effort, have the Department reach a green status and green progress in all those government-wide initiatives in June of '05. And like most departments since that time it's not easy being green, as someone once said. But we're glad in the last scorecard that just was issued at the end of Fiscal Year '07, we were able to begin all green on status scores for these government-wide initiatives.

We saw the PMA as really a way not only to implement a management agenda, but to engage career employees in what I'll call sort of a healthy competition amongst themselves and other agencies on how to achieve success and reach a goal. And I think the Department of Labor employees really rose to that task, and they were recognized. In December of '04, we received two President Quality Awards: one for the strategic management of human capital, and one for budget and performance integration. And we received two other President's Quality Awards: one in '05 and one in '06.

One of the things we did early on is the Secretary's a firm believer that personnel is policy. And we focused at the beginning on the strategic management of human capital, one of those five PMA initiatives, because we really felt if we were able to get that right, if we were able to get human capital right, it would help us achieve the other initiatives. And I think that really was one of the cornerstones of our success was how we focused early on human capital, and how it did spill over into the other initiatives.

Mr. Morales: Well, that certainly is a phenomenal success, and you all should be very proud of that progress. So in a related area, Pat, OMB's Program Assessment Rating Tool, or the PART, was developed to assess and improve programs' positive impact on outcomes that matter to the public. Now, to date, some 35 DOL programs have been assessed using the PART. Could you elaborate on DOL's overall PART performance? And more importantly, to what extent have these assessments enhanced accountability and program performance?

Mr. Pizzella: Of the 35 DOL programs assessed through the PART, more than 75 percent demonstrated positive results. Some programs with notable performance include the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and two programs that train veterans: the Veterans Employment and Training State Grants and the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program. So we have found the PART is a good tool to analyze and review how a particular program is performing, and then for us to make some adjustments once we have those results. Sometimes the PART will identify inefficiencies, and that'll provide us a key as to where we need to maybe focus a little more on or provide a -- more or allocated resources in a different way. So the PART is one sort of arrow in our quiver of management tools we use to move forward at the Department of Labor.

Mr. Sieke: So Pat, you mentioned the importance of the DOL human capital strategy, so I want to switch over to one of your other leadership roles and ask you to describe how that strategy aligns and complements the Department's missions, goals, and organizational objectives.

Mr. Pizzella: Well, we touched on this a little earlier on, but the human capital strategic plan that we developed at the Department really brought together where we were going on this by outlining our mission, our vision, our departmental structure, the standards for success we would have. Our major objectives included reducing the competency gaps that existed in the Department, maintaining SES and mid-level management development and training programs to assist us in succession planning, continued improvement of the hiring process, preparing DOL's performance management system for pay-for-performance, and developing and implementing an e learning management system that provides a department-wide architecture for learning management and course development.

And that's really been our focus.

Mr. Sieke: That's great. Now, could you tell us about DOL's efforts to develop and implement a Department-wide performance management system which aligns employee performance expectations with organizational goals and objectives, links awards and recognition to organizational goals, and addresses poor performance?

Mr. Pizzella: Sure. As I mentioned briefly earlier, early on in this administration, the Department began moving towards a DOL-wide performance management system that focused on results. And by October of '03, we placed all our employees under one performance appraisal system. When we first got there, we found there were nine different systems and people were on different cycles. So you had different systems and different cycles amongst all our agencies, and it got to be a little bit confusing. And it was really tough at the end of the year to fairly assess the ratings, because sometimes you were literally looking at apples and oranges and whatnot.

So we continued to make strides in ensuring our performance management system was aligned and results-oriented by amending our policy on performance management and requiring performance elements to reference the Departmental agency or other organizational strategic goals with each is linked. We really like to connect the dots: our performance agreements for employees with our strategic plan for the Department and other department-wide efforts, like our e gov strategic plan or our human capital plan. We like to see things looped together.

We require all employee performance plans to include at least one critical element that makes it possible to hold employees accountable for work results. To address poor performance, DOL management and managers and supervisors should meet at a minimum with their employees at least once formally to conduct a midterm progress review. And to show that this is not a matter we take lightly, agencies must certify to the Department that the midyear progress reviews have been conducted in a timely manner.

We also require that any employee who fails to meet any of his or her performance elements in their performance plan must be placed on a performance improvement plan. So we've tried to build in some good safeguards for ensuring that our performance management system produces some results, and we think we've been successful with that.

Mr. Sieke: It sounds like a great example of kind of the laser focus you've had on performance in the Department. That's great. Now, Pat, would you elaborate for our listeners on DOL's MBA Fellows Program and what is required of the fellows? How does this program fit into DOL's succession planning approach, and what other changes are you making to the recruitment process at DOL?

Mr. Pizzella: I'm glad you raised the MBA Fellows Program because it is one of the success stories we're very proud of at the Department. It's a comprehensive, Department-wide, entry-level employment and career development program that's a key component of our structured approach to succession planning and developing future leaders for the 21st century. It was inspired by the President's Management Agenda and it was launched by Sec. Chao in June of 2002. The Secretary, herself an MBA, was very interested in utilizing this program to help attract individuals with the type of business skills needed to make the government more results-oriented and citizen-centered.

We joke about -- you know, if Nixon can go to China, then the Department of Labor can go to MBA schools. And we've really had quite a success. Early on, the Secretary herself wrote to every MBA school in America, alerting them about this program and seeking applicants for the program, as well as writing to every MBA alumni organization. Because we also wanted to get on the radar screen of MBAs out there who might be seeking career changes, and try to attract them to apply, particularly for our senior executive positions.

But we found that we have 15 MBA fellows a year we hire through this program, and we get a minimum of 300 applications for those 15 slots. We've ranged from 300 to 600 applications each year. As a matter of fact, since the inception of the MBA Fellows Program, we have doubled the percentage of employees with MBAs at the Department. So we're very proud of the program, and it's been very helpful to our overall succession planning effort.


Mr. Morales: That's great. Pat, I want to switch gears here for a moment to competitive sourcing. Now, competitive sourcing is about using competition to enhance business results within government agencies. Could you tell us a little bit about your Department's efforts in this area, and what are some of the challenges faced and what remains to be done in your perspective?

Mr. Pizzella: From 2004 through today, the Department has undertaken 28 competitions, of which 25 have been won by our Department of Labor federal staff. The activities subject to competition are commercial in nature, ranging from printing services to operations of the conference center, library services, claims examiners, facilities management staff. Through competitions, we've been able to streamline and make these activities more efficient.

One measure of the efficiencies gained are the estimated reduced costs over a five-year period of performance. The Department has been able to redeploy $67 million to high-priority program areas directly attributed to our A-76 competitions.

At the same time as we're doing this, and even though the Department is winning the vast majority of these competitions, we've been very mindful and made it a priority to protect the rights and interests of employees by helping DOL employees manage their careers and lives and to adapt to changes by applying various HR flexibilities to assist employees.

Let me give you a few examples. We offer voluntary early retirement on a regular basis, and often, we also offer voluntary separation incentive payments, buyouts, to employees wanting to take advantage of those things. We provide ongoing career transition assistance to employees, and we provide information through training sessions. We provide retirement and financial planning classes for employees who may be faced with a competition and want to know more about their options.

Of the more than 1,000 positions covered by A-76 competitions to date at the Department of Labor, only six employees were involuntarily separated from federal service, and we're very proud of that. So we've been able to minimize as best we can the impact on employees while improving the efficiencies at the Department through the competitions.

Mr. Morales: That's great.

What does the future hold for the U.S. Department of Labor? We will ask Patrick Pizzella, Assistant Secretary for Administration and Management at the U.S. Department of Labor, to share with us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.


Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm your host, Albert Morales, and this morning's conversation is with Pat Pizzella, Assistant Secretary for Administration and Management at the U.S. Department of Labor.

Also joining us in our conversation is Steve Sieke, director in IBM's federal civilian industry practice.

Pat, we talk with many of our guests about collaboration, and you've talked about this yourself in a previous segment. So what kinds of partnerships are you developing now to improve operations or outcomes at Labor? And how many of these partnerships change over time?

Mr. Pizzella: As I mentioned earlier, one of the partnerships we're proudest of is And we're continually seeking out new partners, but the 15 partners we've been working with for the last several years on this have produced I think a first-class website that's beneficial to the citizens. That's

We've also been collaborating with 22 other agencies in providing, a White House New Freedom initiative. And this comprehensive interagency initiative removes barriers and improves online public access to disability-related resources. The DOL Office of Disability Employment Policy is the managing partner for this one-stop interagency web portal.

Also, we have the Department's Safety and Health Information Management system. It's a web-based information management system designed and implemented to comply with federal on-the-job injury and illness reporting requirements. And we've worked with the Transportation Security Administration on that and a variety of other agencies who are literally using our SHIM system, as it's called, because it's very current and it also helps achieve the specific goals that are required under the Act.

Mr. Morales: So, Pat, as you look into the future, can you give us a sense of some of the key issues that will affect CIOs government-wide over the next couple of years? And given this perspective, what emerging technologies hold the most promise for improving federal IT?

Mr. Pizzella: Well, I think the challenges will be the never-ending need to provide IT services in a budget-constrained environment. But that's somewhat minor compared to the major challenge I think will be the security challenge, because that focuses on both physical and technology. And I think many of your listeners are probably familiar with a Homeland Security presidential directive that deals with providing one federal ID card, a common ID card, and we're in the midst of doing that, and that's a several-year process.

What we find is technology can be very helpful, it can be very friendly, but it can also be challenging. And for agencies that are looking to improve efficiencies and truly gain real-time access to the type of management information that will help make every other decision you make a little more accurate and a little more efficient, good technology is the key to that.

Mr. Sieke: So, Pat, on a broader basis across all the roles that you play, what are some of the major opportunities and challenges your organization will encounter in the future? And how do you envision your offices will evolve over the next five years?

Mr. Pizzella: I think, as I mentioned earlier, we're looking forward to the -- really automating the budget formulation and execution process. That will have a Department-wide impact in not only improving efficiency, but improving the instant availability of budget information, which is so crucial to making management decisions. And it's not just the budget information of the moment, but it's historical budget information which can help you put things in perspective.

I touched on the information technology area. And as I mentioned a few moments ago, both the PII challenge there from a security standpoint as well as implementing the HSPD-12 are two areas in the future that you're going to see continued focus on.

And in the human resources management area, we at the Department are transitioning to a shared service center. And I think this is one of the Executive Branch's efforts at a human resources line of business. I think the perfect word to describe what's happening in the human resources community is "evolution," because over the next several years, you're going to see that HR people are going to be sort of shedding things that they might consider irrelevant, and improving upon things like competencies and processes and succession planning that are so important to the future.

Mr. Morales: So along similar lines, Pat, we typically ask our guests about the pending government retirement wave. And so I'm curious, how are you handling this phenomenon within your organization to ensure that you have the right staff mix to meet some of the challenges that you described?

Mr. Pizzella: Well, we pay attention both to what has happened in the past and what has happened currently, including projections for the future. We focus more on -- I like to say the faucet rather than the drain. People worry very much about who's leaving, and what we find is that there are many, many people eligible for regular retirement or early retirement, but very few people retire on the first day they're eligible. At least that's our experience. I'm fond of saying that, you know, many are cold, but few are frozen on this topic. But that doesn't mean you don't prepare for succession planning. And as I mentioned earlier, we have an extensive effort in our MBA outreach and MBA Fellows Program. We've offered some SES candidate development programs several times over the last seven years, and we have a mid-level management development program.

So at the Department of Labor, we hire about 1,100 folks a year. What we see is that when we post an SES job, there's usually no shortage of applicants. Obviously you're always looking for the best-qualified, and you hope you get that. We seem to have been fortunate in that area. That's enabled us to get the right mix, staff mix, to meet the future challenges.

Mr. Morales: Now, Pat, you've had a very long, successful, broad set of experiences in the federal government. So I'm curious, what advice might you give to a person who's considering a career in public service?

someplace in the federal government that you can contribute to. But the federal government, you know, has to compete for the best and brightest with what the private sector has to offer, and that's a challenging task. So federal service is really a special calling, but I would encourage people to take a look at it because it might be right for them.

Mr. Morales: That's great. That's fantastic advice. Pat, unfortunately, we have reached the end of our time. I want to thank you for fitting us into your busy schedule.

But more importantly, Steve and I would like to thank you for your dedicated service to our country across the various roles that you've held in the federal government.

Mr. Pizzella: Well, thank you very much, Al and Steve. It's always a pleasure to join you all.

In closing, I would like to point out something that we're very proud of at the Department of Labor. We talked about a lot of recognition and successes that the Department's achieved, but one of the things that goes unmentioned is that we've achieved that while our budget has actually been reduced over the last seven years. As a matter of fact, the budget that was proposed for Fiscal Year '08 by the President and Sec. Chao for the Department of Labor was the smallest budget proposed in over 10 years. We find that you can achieve successful results, like we have achieved in many areas, and still be fiscally restrained and respectful of taxpayers' dollars.

Sometimes it's not big things, but it's little things. Some of your listeners might be interested to know that over the last seven years, we've reduced the number of toll-free telephone numbers at the Department by 77 percent. When we first got there, there were 425 toll-free telephone numbers, and we're now down to 97. Well, the Internet's been expanding and folks aren't using toll-free numbers as much.

We've reduced the number of cars in our fleet. When we first got there, we found out we had 4,500 cars at the Department, or vehicles at the Department of Labor. It's now we've reduced that by 14 percent. Over the last seven years, we've been able to release over 100,000 square feet of space across the country, largely by closing just over 100 offices when resignations or retirements occurred in these small offices.

So I think it's important for your listeners to know that under Sec. Chao's leadership, we've been getting results in the way of increased worker protections and oversight in those areas, but we've been doing it in a fiscally restrained way that we think the taxpayers can be proud of.

Mr. Morales: That is fantastic, Pat. Thank you.

This has been The Business of Government Hour, featuring a conversation with Pat Pizzella, Assistant Secretary for Administration and Management at the U.S. Department of Labor.

My co-host has been Steve Sieke, director in IBM's federal civilian industry 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.

Announcer: This has been The Business of Government Hour.

Be sure to join us every Saturday at 9:00 a.m., and visit us on the web at There, you can learn more about our programs and get a transcript of today's conversation.

Until next week, it's

Dr. Linda M. Combs interview

Thursday, August 25th, 2005 - 20:00
"In the financial management line of business, one of the things I've learned is whether you're using procurement vehicles, systems implementation, or schedules, make it clear, make it consistent, keep it simple."
Radio show date: 
Fri, 08/26/2005
Intro text: 
Dr. Linda M. Combs
Complete transcript: 

Friday, August 26, 2005

Arlington, Virginia

Mr. Morales: Good morning and welcome to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Albert Morales, your host and managing partner 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

The Business of Government Radio Hour features a conversation about management with a government executive who is changing the way government does business. Our special guest this morning is Linda Combs, controller of the Office of Federal Finance Management at the U.S. Office of Management and Budget. Good morning, Linda.

Ms. Combs: Good morning.

Mr. Morales: And joining us in our conversation, also from IBM, is Debra Cammer. Good morning, Debra.

Ms. Cammer: Good morning, Al.

Mr. Morales: Linda, please begin by telling us about the history and mission of the Office of Management and Budget.

Ms. Combs: The Budget and Accounting Act of 1921 actually created the Bureau of the Budget in the Department of the Treasury. The Bureau of the Budget later moved to the Executive Office of the President in 1939. And the Bureau of the Budget was actually reorganized into OMB in 1970. It serves, actually, a couple of primary roles, Al: the budget itself and management. The budget responsibility of OMB is to assist the president in overseeing the preparation of the federal budget and actually to supervise its administration in the executive branch agencies. And the "M," or the management part, of OMB, is responsible for helping to improve administrative management, such as coordinating many of the administration's procurement, financial management, information systems, and various regulatory policies.

Mr. Morales: Linda, would you tell us about your office within OMB, specifically the Office of Federal Finance Management?

Ms. Combs: The Office of Federal Financial Management, as we call it, OFFM, was created by the Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990. We are responsible for implementing the financial management improvement priorities of the President, carrying out financial management functions of the CFO Act, and overseeing federal financial management policies such as taxpayer dollars not being wasted, making sure that the government books are in order, and making sure that our government decision-makers have access to accurate financial information.

Ms. Cammer: And Linda, you were recently appointed controller. Congratulations.

Ms. Combs: Thank you, Debra.

Ms. Cammer: What are you responsibilities as controller at OMB?

Ms. Combs: I'm actually head of the Office of Federal Financial Management, and the responsibilities entail providing government-wide leadership for strengthening financial management in the federal agencies and programs government-wide. In December of '04, for example, we issued some revised internal control financial reporting requirements relating to the Circular A-123. Now, those are requirements that are similar to requirements of internal controls that many of us have heard about that private or publicly traded companies are required to do through the Sarbanes-Oxley requirements. We also require management to implement a strengthened process for assessing the effectiveness of their own internal controls throughout government over financial reporting. And these are based on widely recognized internal control standards. We also lead the improved financial performance criteria. We have, as our responsibility, an initiative for eliminating improper payments, and a federal real property initiative that's part of the President's management agenda as well.

Now, these specific initiatives set out to improve financial management practices across government, and we're trying to ensure that managers have all the accurate and timely information they need for appropriate decision making. We're setting out to see if we can't reduce the number of improper payments. We actually have $45 billion a year that the federal government makes in improper payments. We hope that we can reduce that by more than half -- by $25 billion -- by 2009. And the real property initiative -- we're trying to see if we can't dispose of excess property that's no longer needed and that would be, of course, costly to maintain. Our projections indicate currently that the size of the federal real property inventory could certainly be decreased by 5 percent, or $15 billion by 2009, so you can see we have some long-term goals that we're shooting for that we believe are very realistic and very doable.

Ms. Cammer: What were your previous positions before becoming a controller?

Ms. Combs: Immediately before becoming controller, I was the assistant secretary for budget and programs, and chief financial officer, at the U.S. Department of Transportation. Prior to that, from 2001 to 2003, I was the chief financial officer at the Environmental Protection Agency. During the first Bush administration, I was the assistant secretary for management at the Department of the Treasury, and in the Reagan administration, I was deputy undersecretary for management at the Department of Education. Before I actually came to the federal government, I was manager of the National Direct Student Loan Division for Wachovia Corporation. Before coming back into government in 2001, my husband and I owned our own company, and I served on some corporate boards and have actually been an elected official back in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, which has been our home for about 30 years.

Mr. Morales: Linda, I noticed in your background that you spent approximately 10 years working at the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School District. Can you share with us your experiences in that role with what you currently do today?

Ms. Combs: You know, I think in every single position that I've been involved in, somehow financial management in one shape or form has come to play in those various positions. And in the school system, while I was beginning as a teacher, when I moved into the administrative roles of assistant principal in the various schools in which I served, it seemed to me that budgets seemed to come my way, or helping to streamline things seemed to fall into my bailiwick. And I truly enjoyed my experience with the school system. And even though that was a very long time ago, I think one of the things that I learned from that experience was that if you can manage a classroom with 26 students, you probably can manage just about any other management role anybody throws at you.

Mr. Morales: Do you find yourself still using some of the techniques from back then?

Ms. Combs: Oh, absolutely. They come in quite handy.

Mr. Morales: That's great. How are shared services changing government operations? We will ask OMB Controller Linda Combs to share with us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.


Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm your host, Albert Morales, and this morning's conversation is with Linda Combs, controller of the Office of Federal Financial Management at OMB. Also joining us in our conversation is Debra Cammer.

Linda, in March 2004, OMB initiated a government-wide analysis of the five lines of business supporting the president's management agenda to expand e-government. Can you give us an overview of the five lines of business and the reasons for undertaking this analysis?

Ms. Combs: I think that the Lines of Business Initiative is a perfect complement to the president's management agenda. This administration certainly sees cost savings in standardization and consolidation of government business processes, and that is the way we feel like it's the most productive way to conduct the people's business. And it's similar to creating a draftsman's blueprint, as I would say, in the way that we are adjusting the blueprint right now to reflect these particular improvements. But the line of business concept is basically built around three premises: all agencies will use common solutions; the solutions focus not just on standardizing business processes -- although that's a huge part of it -- but in making them more efficient, more effective, and of course, more cost-effective as well; and that all of these solutions, the business processes, and the systems, will be developed using common architectural tools. The five distinct lines of business are: human resource management, grants management, federal health architecture, case management, and the one that I'm directly responsible for, financial management.

Mr. Morales: With respect to financial management line of business, what are the specific goals for this LOB?

Ms. Combs: The primary goal is, of course, to assist the agencies in getting to green on the President's management agenda, and of course, what that really means is that the financial management line of business is going to help come into the agencies the standardizing processes, improving those internal controls so that there won't be any negative findings as a result of the annual financial statement audit. I think the other goals would be things like reducing the likelihood that internal control weaknesses exist, because when we start consolidating and using common systems, that makes everybody more sure of what they're doing and being in more control. It also -- one of the goals is making sure that we can compare data across agencies, you know, common business processes, solutions, and common systems. Certainly creating cost savings opportunities for agencies is a primary goal for making it easier for agencies to take advantage of specific common solutions in financial management. We also think a goal is simplifying the procurement process. That, too, reduces the risk that agencies have and allows for greater contractor oversight. But the one primary goal that I think we will also see is the momentum that we're going to create as we continue to standardize and consolidate.

Ms. Cammer: Linda, you often hear people talk about shared services in the same breath with the financial management line of business. Would you define what you think shared services is for our listeners, and then also describe the concept and the history and the benefits of it?

Ms. Combs: You know, I think shared service, to me, means exactly what we've been talking about, where agencies share common systems and common business processes. The ones that we have found to be most effective in the financial management community are based on the concept of economies of scale. I think you go back to the model that's been demonstrated in industry over and over again of gaining process efficiencies through either mass production or through common procedures. That's a proven concept; it's one we need to continue to embrace in the federal government. If that means consolidating services, consolidating productions, and the kinds of work we do -- applying often a heavy dose of technology is important, but a business process that can be done faster and cheaper, regardless of whether it includes hardware, software, or supporting infrastructure, or whether it merely is just a tweaking of a process that somebody has found to be effective from one agency to another -- I think those are the very important things that we have to look forward to. We intend to gain many similar process efficiencies by this standardizing that we're embarking upon in our financial business processes.

Ms. Cammer: Do you reference this coming from private industry as a best practice? In private industry, you understand, the shareholders are motivating it, so for you, what's the big driver in government improving their financial management in this way?

Ms. Combs: Just as the private sector is interested in the motivators, we, too, are interested in getting the best we can for our shareholders, who are the taxpayers -- you and I -- as well as our audience today. We think they deserve these economies of scale. They deserve a situation where, in essence, we can buy once and use many times over, in federal government. Whether we were in our previous private sector enterprises, or whether we're here doing the work that needs to be done for our taxpayer-shareholders, the interests are the same: economies of scale, business processes changes that are productive for the entire enterprise, and our entire enterprise happens to be the entire federal government. We intend to gain these process efficiencies and standardizations for our shareholders as well.

Ms. Cammer: Now, I've also heard about this COE, or centers of excellence, concept in relationship to the financial management line of business. Can you describe that and how it relates, for our listeners?

Ms. Combs: The center of excellence concept allows our government agencies to meet some of the goals that we've set forward in the financial management line of business concept that we've put out. It emphasizes these common business practices, it emphasizes common systems solutions, and it emphasizes what I think is becoming somewhat of a term called "economies of skills" as opposed to, and in conjunction with, I should say, economies of scales. We have some very well trained experience systems accountants, for example, software and hardware technicians, and program managers in specific places in the federal government, but they may not be in the place that we need them to be at all times. So if we look at this shared service concept, we can take better advantage, I believe, of where these skills, these economies of skills, are located. I think we've often looked at hardware service centers or software in terms of economies of scale, we continue to look at the specialization of running one of the CFO council-approved financial systems, and how that is going to work for other departments. But it allows agencies not only to outsource, when they need to, their hardware and software, but I think it opens an opportunity for the centers of excellence to perform agencies' accounting operations. If they do a very, very good job of that, and they're approved as a center of excellence, we need to take full advantage of that and take the competition aspect into each and every department that needs to embark upon changes in their financial management systems.

For example, we have over 50 of our smaller non-CFO -- non-Chief Financial Officer -- Act agencies, of which there are 24 of the largest departments and agencies. But there are 50 smaller non-CFO Act agencies that are currently using centers of excellence. There are four government-managed centers of excellence currently within the CFO Act agencies, and that's the Department of Transportation, General Services Administration, Department of Interior's National Business Center, and the Department of Treasury's Bureau of Public Debt.

Mr. Morales: Linda, you made reference to the CFO council. Can you describe what this is and what the goals of the council are?

Ms. Combs: Well, I'm happy to talk about the CFO council because that gives me a great opportunity to brag on my fellow CFOs and deputy CFOs of the council, which are really the largest 24 federal agencies; they're actually named in the CFO Act of 1990, which I talked about earlier. But these are the senior officials of the financial community throughout the federal government and the career deputies who are very, very instrumental in working collaboratively with their fellow CFOs and with those of us in the Office of Management and Budget. And we're looking at improving financial management across the federal U.S. government enterprise. And the council has several committees, and these committees are led by chief financial officers or sometimes deputy chief financial officers. And the priorities that we currently have reflected in our subcommittees of the CFO council are a Best Practices Committee, an Erroneous Payments Committee, Financial Management Policies and Practices Committee, Financial Statement Acceleration Committee, Grants Governance, Performance Management, and Financial Systems Integration.

Mr. Morales: Linda, you mentioned Best Practices Committee. Is that best practices within government or do you also look to the private sector?

Ms. Combs: We actually do both. We have made it a point at all of our chief financial officer meetings, which we have probably seven or eight of those a year. We don't meet every single month, but we make it a point to share best practices, whether it's a dashboard, for example, that one agency has had good success with, or whether it's a best practice that people have embarked upon in internal controls or a best practice of looking at ways to improve our erroneous payments. It could be anything. We actually looked at some best practices early in -- when I was actually a sitting CFO in terms of whether or not we could have economies of scale and economies of skill. We've done a lot of searching within the CFO community to determine which CFOs have good best practices in many areas that they're working on. And we bring those to the council, and it's a good chance for the CFOs to showcase what many of their opportunities have been, and how they've successfully implemented good business practices.

Mr. Morales: What are the challenges of implementing government-wide financial systems? We will ask OMB Controller Linda Combs to explain this to us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.


Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I am your host, Albert Morales, and this morning's conversation is with Linda Combs, controller of the Office of Federal Finance Management at OMB. Also joining us in our conversation is Debra Cammer.

Linda, what are the concerns of agencies while converting to government-wide financial systems from previous agency-wide applications, and how is OMB addressing those concerns?

Ms. Combs: There are some concerns about changing the way agencies do business. I think there're also some concerns about continuing to have a flow of reliable and timely financial data that is needed to carry on day-to-day operations. One of the things we're doing at OMB to help ensure the flow of reliable data is that we are actually requiring the use of only those financial systems that are hosted by a government Center of Excellence or a private sector Center of Excellence that have been approved by the CFO council. Placing a larger share of implementation responsibility on contractors has also been a must, as we've implemented new systems, and we've increased the use of fixed-price and cost-sharing contracts as well. I think the real key here, though, is that we have continually tried and will continually make it our approach to work very, very closely with each and every agency and department as it moves through the entire implementation process by reviewing these strategies that are so important and ensuring adequate communication between us and all of the stakeholders that are involved in making these significant changes.

Mr. Morales: Linda, implementing government-wide financial systems across all agencies sounds like a monumental task. How do you address the competing priorities and agendas to achieve true collaboration towards a common goal?

Ms. Combs: You know, I think one of the things that we talked about earlier in terms of the CFO community coming together to address government-wide issues -- we've been able to create a number of partnerships between the CFO agencies in the CFO community. I think it's been important that we've involved other functional communities as well, such as the CIO community, the acquisition community, property managers, supply and inventory managers. It's been important for us to address the issues that the Hill has seen fit to be involved in, and these functional communities and their leaders are extremely important to all of our efforts. I think the processes that we have used and have been created throughout the CFO community to support the President's management agenda addresses a number of issues, and many of these issues overlap, and particularly in the areas of e-gov and financial management. We will continue to use our greater community to bring the necessary measures into focus that we need to focus on, that we need to address, and that we need to make sure not only we have collaboration in, but that we also have success in.

Ms. Cammer: Now, as you move more towards a shared services approach in the federal government, there's likely to be a lot of concern amongst the agencies, and I'm wondering what steps OMB is taking to address change management?

Ms. Combs: You know, I think those of us who've been in change management for a number of years have one word to say about change management, and that's communication, communication, communication. I don't think we can over-communicate, and we're constantly looking for ways to communicate, not only our vision, but our actual strategy in moving this forward. We work through a number of forums from time to time to ensure that government mangers can understand everyone's role and everyone's responsibility. And I can't say enough about our partners in the CIO and the acquisition communities, the meetings, the briefings, and the other discussion forums that many of our private sector partners bring to play, bring us all to the table, and serve a most useful purpose, along with things like what we're doing right now is a great way to communicate with our federal partners and people who are involved in our federal CFO community.

The president's management agenda, because it incorporates systems and business process initiatives -- we have various requirements of the PMA, but our policies and our guidance that modify and support and consolidate these standardized approaches probably have an awfully lot to do with making these changes happen, and making them happen in a positive way. But we do need to always continue to find forums, find better ways to communicate what kind of changes are expected, but we also need to find ways to make sure that people understand our vision, and where we're going to be when we finish. And we will finish some of these things during our tenure, and I want us to be able to look back and say, here's where we were in 2005, here's what we've accomplished by 2009, and say we've made a tremendous difference because we were all willing to embrace this change.

Ms. Cammer: That's great. You can obviously see that this work requires a great deal of partnership with shared services providers and customers and agency heads and the private sector and -- what are these types of partnerships important and how are you encouraging the federal government agencies to build them?

Ms. Combs: Because financial management touches almost every business and every business process in the federal government and outside the federal government, it is extremely important to get this right. And financial data, I think that is used by our outside accounting organizations, whether it's a human resource, property management, supply inventory management, or whether it's used by managers on a day-to-day basis to make better financial decisions -- all of those things are so important because I think the small amount of actual financial data that is used in the financial community is small compared to the huge amounts that mission area managers need in order to effectively manage their program. And I think it's really important to help mission managers understand that their mission is part financial management as well; it's just as much a part of their mission, and I know they want to embrace it that way. I think it's up to us as federal financial managers to help these mission managers accomplish their missions in a more productive way.

Ms. Cammer: We've talked about the challenges of transition leading to new systems and the change management involved in the challenges of a partnership. Could you talk about what other major challenges that agencies could encounter as they integrate their financial systems, and what are they doing to overcome those challenges?

Ms. Combs: I think some of the tenets that we're advocating to reduce implementation risk actually address significant challenges that agencies encounter when they're implementing new systems. And having done this as a sitting CFO myself, I know how important it is to develop the right simple strategy, and a strategy that actually supports and fits in well with the department's or the agency's overall approach to financial management. I think it's important to minimize the changes to the business process that is already certified; in fact, I would say don't change it. I think it's important to use phasing of projects; in other words, don't try to do too much too quickly. Implement one functionality at a time. If you're going to implement multiple functionalities, such as core financials, procurement, and asset management, I'm not sure I could have done all of those at one time myself, so we tended to concentrate first on the core financials. But using a simple contractual vehicle, introducing competition when you're selecting the right host -- agencies, I think, continue to have to take implementation risk, but we need to be very, very careful that we are simplifying our approach as much as possible, both from a technical and a procurement perspective, and we need to work very, very closely up front and all the way through with the end users of the data in our agencies and departments. It's really, really important to find out what managers actually need, but to focus them on the fact that we've got to have standardized business processes, and we have to change our processes rather than changing the product. That's where I think we have, in the past, had some difficulties, and I hope that my mantra of change the process, not the product, will become a standard throughout government.

Mr. Morales: Linda, we talked a lot about change management and collaboration, but I would imagine that another major component of these types of transitions is employee training and retraining. What can you tell us about the plans or implementation of training for government-wide systems implementations?

Ms. Combs: Training is extremely important. Hiring and retention of specific skill sets is extremely important, as well. And I think, as I talked earlier about the advantages of these economies of skills as we've embarked on the Centers of Excellence approach, that will continue to become an even more important element within our financial management component. Training cannot be overemphasized any more than communication can be overemphasized when you are changing processes particularly. That's why I think it's so important to optimize the skills we have within the Centers of Excellence because these are people who have not only gone through this already, they have the right skills in place, and we just need to be able to replicate and duplicate what has gone on there to take advantage of the skill sets that are already there with these specific communities.

Mr. Morales: What does the future hold for the OMB's Office of Federal Finance Management? We will ask Controller Linda Combs to explain this to us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.


Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm your host, Albert Morales, and this morning's conversation is with Linda Combs, controller of the Office of Federal Financial Management at OMB. Also joining us in our conversation is Debra Cammer.

Linda, what are some of the lessons learned in the government-wide analysis of the five lines of business?

Ms. Combs: You know, particularly in the financial management line of business, one of the things I've learned from personal experience that I hope to continue to pass on to my fellow CFOs and people in the CFO community is start simple and keep things simple. Whether you're using procurement vehicles, systems implementation, schedules and timeframes, make it clear, make it consistent, keep it simple. And the huge systems implementations that have been attempted, particularly in the financial line of business, I think a lot of people have learned some very valuable lessons from those, and it goes back to keep it simple and don't attempt to do too much at one time. Also, I think it's important for timing to be considered. If you're implementing a new financial line of business or a new financial system, you have to continue to keep control of your financial systems all during the year, regardless of whether you're changing systems or not. So developing a very good, viable, long-term strategy, and shorter tactical methods to know when you succeed, is an extremely important thing to keep in mind. I think you have to constantly reevaluate your strategy as you go along and make sure it's still being relevant to the community you're doing this for, communicate with the various leaders that touch your area, and certainly involving these end users in the design, the testing, and the awareness of making sure when we finish an implementation that we're going to be giving people what they feel like they need to manage better on a day-to-day basis.

Mr. Morales: Keeping it simple is certainly a well-learned lesson and often one of the most difficult ones for all of us to keep in mind. But specifically, what advice would you give a government executive today who will be implementing government-wide financial systems?

Ms. Combs: I think one of the things that I just talked about -- avoiding mid-year financial conversions -- is pretty important. We would hope that we could have our long-term strategy and even our short-term strategies to the point that we would be able to bring up financial systems early in the year rather than waiting longer and later in the year. We talked about simplicity already and developing a long term strategy and -- not just developing a long-term strategy, but keeping in mind what are we going to have when we finish, making sure that this design and the strategy that we've embarked upon is not just a simple strategy, but it's also a strategy that's going to help us to implement all of the financial management systems later on that we will need to add to that. I would say start with your core financial system and make sure that's tweaked to the point you want it and operating well, make sure you've got the processes worked out -- make sure you change the processes, not the products.

Ms. Cammer: How do you envision the use of shared services and its implementation in five to ten years?

Ms. Combs: I think if we look out five to ten years from now, we'll be closer to the end of the journey, whereas now we're probably closer to the beginning of this journey. I think that the shared services concept is being embraced. It's being embraced in the corporate world, and it continues to be embraced in the federal sector as well. But the applicability of the economies of scale and the economies of skill will drive us and help to drive us through technology, through training, and toward becoming as practical as we possibly can in the world of the service industry, as we are in heavy industry. We have a lot of guidance out there; we have a lot of best practices to look at in the private sector, and my hope is, as we go through this journey, continue to use the best practices that we possibly can and optimize utilizing the skills of our good federal employees to make these come about.

Ms. Cammer: We've been talking a lot about shared services as an operational change. Could you talk about how you see the future of government financial management and their statements being generated different in the future?

Ms. Combs: You know, one of the things that continues to drive people to better financial management is the indicators that we have, and our financial statements are really indicators of our ability to show that we have things under control. So achieving a clean opinion on our financial statements and using them fruitfully depends, in large part, I believe, on using common accounting standards throughout government, standardizing our business processes, and consolidating the systems that we need to help us bring this about. I think those are the things that we need to continue to look at, we need to continue to do anything we can to improve our processes, our internal controls, and all those things will help us build and publish our financial statements in a more timely and effective way.

Ms. Cammer: How do you plan to further expand the PMA's e-government initiative for the future?

Ms. Combs: You know, the federal financial e-gov proposal -- our financial line of business -- is very important in our CFO council work. The CFO council is committed to making positive experiences work for each one of our federal partners. Our agencies talk to one another, we continue to figure out ways to help agencies talk to one another even better, and I think working together with our CIO partners, working together with many of our other partners, is a very, very important element to bringing this about. I think we're definitely aware of what agencies have done and are doing. Having been a sitting CFO, even a couple of times already in this administration, I know what my fellow CFOs are going through, and having been through many of the things that some of them are just now going through and setting up a financial management system, it's very, very important to make sure that we now in OMB are great partners. Hopefully, we can be even better helpers in making agencies aware of what has been done and what other agencies and departments are doing to support the financial management line of business. We look for any and all ways that we can actively participate across the financial management community to generally and specifically support agencies as they go through changing their financial management systems.

Mr. Morales: Linda, you've had a fantastic career, and I wish we had another hour to talk about all the different jobs that you've held in government and the experiences we've had. But what advice could you give a person who's interested in a career in public service, especially in financial management?

Ms. Combs: I would say to anyone who's interested in public service to consider it strongly. It's an avenue that you cannot find anywhere else. The scope and responsibility of the decisions that are made on a day-to-day basis, whether you're in a department, or whether you're in OMB, are significant. And so significant that one would never have the opportunity to do that in any other place except in public service. Public service is definitely a public trust and added to the overall scope of responsibility, the public trust aspect of what we all do in public service is a leadership role that one can have and embark upon and have a wonderful career if they choose to stay there their entire career. But I would say to any person who's interested in a career in public service that they should prepare themselves and prepare themselves well for a leadership role, prepare themselves in financial skills in any way they possibly can because whether they're going to be working in a program area or in a financial area, these financial skills are going to become more and more important as we move through the next few years. But I would say work hard, be bold, and think big.

Mr. Morales: Linda, that's great advice.

We've reached the end of our time. That'll have to be our last question. First, I want to thank you for fitting us into your busy schedule this morning. Second, Debra and I would like to thank you for your dedicated service to the public and our country with your experiences at the county school district, at EPA, and now at the Office of Management and Budget, and all of the other organizations you've served at in between.

Ms. Combs: Thank you so much. It's been a great pleasure to be with you today. We appreciate this opportunity to get our message out there. And if people would like to know more about the things we've talked about today, I invite you to go to or to another website called and learn more about financial management in the federal sector.

Mr. Morales: Linda, thank you.

This has been The Business of Government Hour featuring a conversation with Linda Combs, controller of the Office of Federal Financial Management at OMB. Be sure to visit us on the web at There you can learn more about our programs and get a transcript of today's fascinating conversation. Once again, that's

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.

LTG Steven Boutelle interview

Friday, November 26th, 2004 - 20:00
"To address threats, you need small mobile organizations that can quickly move around the world and perform the mission we assign. . . We're going to call them brigade combat teams."
Radio show date: 
Sat, 11/27/2004
Intro text: 
Innovation; Technology and E-Government; Leadership; Strategic Thinking...
Innovation; Technology and E-Government; Leadership; Strategic Thinking
Complete transcript: 

Tuesday, August 17, 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

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 Lieutenant General Steven Boutelle, Chief Information Officer and G-6 of the Department of the Army. Good morning, sir.

Lt. Gen. Boutelle: Good morning, Paul, great to see you this morning and I appreciate the opportunity to talk about what we're doing in our service.

Mr. Lawrence: Great. And also joining us in our conversation from IBM is Chuck Prow. Good morning, Chuck.

Mr. Prow: Good morning, Paul.

Mr. Lawrence: Well, General, perhaps you could begin by describing the mission of the Department of Army's chief information office, G-6?

Lt. Gen. Boutelle: That's a great question. The CIO and G-6 of the Army really has multiple roles. As the CIO we hold that traditional role, which is providing IT services across the force. Now, when we say "across the force" for the Army that's significantly different in some corporate worlds, that is, global requirements for IT wherever you are in the world, any time, any place. And generally and quite often in today's environment that is in a place where there is no infrastructure.

Under the G-6 role we actually provide the soldiers, the young men and women who operate many of those services, be it in Afghanistan or Djibouti, Horn of Africa, South America, or here in the continental United States.

Mr. Lawrence: Tell us about the people on your team, especially the skills.

Lt. Gen. Boutelle: The skill set is a varied skill set but they do have a common core and that is somewhere they're involved in the IT industry. We do have those people that are in the resourcing business but really in the IT industry and that is all the way from software and computers up to transmission systems via satellite, tropospheric scatter, microwave, or hand-held tactical radios.

Mr. Lawrence: And how about the size of what you're taking place in terms of a budget, don't want any secrets but it's always interesting to put what's going on in the service in the context of other Fortune 500 companies?

Lt. Gen. Boutelle: Our IT budget is about $6 billion and that runs over our palm so it's a significant budget in the size of business.

Mr. Lawrence: And then you were describing how combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and the like are involved. How do they affect the budget?

Lt. Gen. Boutelle: We have the normal budgets that we have in peace time although our budget doesn't significant change although it's increased with the current supplementals in the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. So those are usually supplementals on top of our normal budget where we buy and push services be they leased services of satellite services or information services or actually buying systems, commercial systems, to put on the ground in Pakistan or Afghanistan or Iraq or other places.

Mr. Lawrence: A while back we interviewed Kevin Carroll, the program executive for Enterprise Information Systems for the Army and he talked to us about how his organization was now falling under the CIO/G-6. Could you talk to us about the reorganization?

Lt. Gen. Boutelle: Sure. The Army has, like many of the services, program executive officers. Those are the acquirers. They award the contracts for research and development and eventual production, whatever the system is, be it an airplane or a helicopter or in Kevin Carroll's place it's enterprise services. Most of the work that Kevin Carroll does in PEO EIS, and he would tell you 50 to 60 percent of the work is resourced or funded by my organization, those are large-end satellite systems in Baghdad or enterprise systems around the world.

Mr. Lawrence: So by putting it under the CIO does that make things more common?

Lt. Gen. Boutelle: Makes it much more common. There are about 12 program executive officers in the Army, one for aviation to buy helicopters, one for ground combat systems that buys tanks, another one for missiles, and it was a natural fit for Kevin Carroll and EIS to roll underneath the CIO/G-6. The other 11 PEOs currently work under Lieutenant General Joe Yakovac and he's responsible for providing those services.

Mr. Prow: Good morning, General. As CIO and G-6 for the Army what are your chief roles and responsibilities?

Lt. Gen. Boutelle: Well, several chief roles and responsibilities separated. As the CIO I do provide the enterprise services and the direction and the guidance and that is to ensure that the user at whatever level, be it the tactical level, the young soldier in the field, or back in the United States, whether he's operating at a depot or an office or behind a desk, has the appropriate IT services. That means bandwidth to the desktop or to the soldier moving across the battlefield or to the attack helicopter, provide all of those services. Some of those are leased services, some of those are products, and some of those are buying at an enterprise level.

Mr. Prow: Can you share with us a few of the highlights prior to you becoming CIO and G 6 of the Army?

Lt. Gen. Boutelle: It's a long road to be the CIO/G-6 and I will tell you if you look at my predecessors each one of them has had a different path. My immediate predecessor was Lt. Gen. Pete Cuviello. He came up pretty much more of a traditional communications role. But in my case I started out as an inductee back in 1969 and elected to join the Army and started out in nuclear weapons electronic repair.

At one point in time I went to artillery officer candidate school, probably because I had reasonable math scores, and in the wind-down of Vietnam I also had a background in electronics and electrical engineering and was shifted over into communications and electronics, spent quite a few years in that. Most of us spent a lot of years initially in combat divisions and I was in the 3rd Infantry Division, the 8th Infantry Division, and 5th Corps, 7th Corps in the United States, in Korea, and, of course, various places around the world.

At a certain point I went into the acquisition business and that is looking at buying products from the commercial world. And when you get into that business you make a shift. You're no longer primarily working communications. You're more working general electronics, software, computers.

And probably the defining event was about 19 -- probably about '87 when the PCs first started to hit the market and I worked in an organization where they were coming in. And I came home one day and I said I think these new things called personal computers are going to go somewhere and spent many nights and evenings doing some very, very basic programming and rebuilding and building computers and have been at it ever since.

Mr. Lawrence: When you look back at those experiences are there any one you talk about when you talk about your career that prepare you for where you are today perhaps from going from a doer to managing a doer or understanding the role that you would play as a higher ranking officer?

Lt. Gen. Boutelle: Well, I think that's a great question and one of the most difficult things we do, as our chief says, is build a bench and that is identify those people who need to take your job should you depart that job or who your replacement's going to be. And I don't think we do that all well or as well as we could both in industry and in government. And one of the things we do as senior officers is we look out across the landscape of those people who work for us or who are around us and try to identify those young people who are starting to broaden their horizons and no longer looking down at just doing the function that they're trained to do but start looking at where the Army is going, where the nation is going, where the world is going, looking at the geopolitical environment and how to start to apply the technologies to where we need to go, not where we are today but where do you need to go in the future. And so identifying those people is one of the things we as leaders need to do and then mentor those people.

We seldom want to send our superstars off to school for a year or six months. We want to keep them close to us. And we need to make those hard calls and send those people out and make sure they get the right experience, they get the right schools, they get the right exposure so we can bring them up to take our job and hopefully do a better job of it than we've done.

Mr. Lawrence: I have a pretty good idea from your description of what drew you to public service but what's kept you in? I imagine from time to time you might have thought about going into the private sector. What's kept you?

Lt. Gen. Boutelle: I think a combination of two things. You go along for a certain period of time and you do it strictly because you really enjoy the feeling of accomplishment. And in my business on a day to day basis and some days are better than others but you generally feel that you've accomplished something and you're pushing this technology the right direction. And I think probably over the last few years it's probably been a knowledge that since I have been in this business for a long time, I've been a program executive officer, I've been a project manager, I've built systems, that I thought that I had a bench of knowledge where I could apply those or help apply those to the young soldiers in the field and in the current war and what I believe will be the future wars on terrorism.

Mr. Lawrence: Tell us about some of your personal style in managing and leading, for example, communication. A lot of people talk to us on this show about the importance of getting your message out and communicating to your team but yet you have a big team and it's spread all over the world. How do you do that?

Lt. Gen. Boutelle: One of the things we do and one of the things I've tried to do is right up front have a very narrow set of objectives that everyone can understand, six or seven things that you want to accomplish in the period of time you're going to be there, two or three years or whatever it may be, and don't change or adjust those unless absolutely necessary. And then you will find that if you put that out to the senior leaders that you'll find that everywhere around the world globally they all understand what you're trying to do and where you're trying to go and be consistent. You need to know where the boss is trying to go. You may not agree with him but you need to know where he's trying to go.

And the second thing is visit them as often as possible. I don't believe we need to micromanage these professionals. They know how to do good work and make things happen. Draw the white lines in the road and give them the objective and the direction, surround yourself with some really good managers and senior people, and I have a superstar staff, and periodically check on them and praise them when they do a good job and give them guidance if they don't. But I am extremely pleased where the Army people are going around the world.

Mr. Lawrence: How do you think about the speed of decision-making in government? Is it fast enough? Is it slow enough? I know we've talked to a lot of people who've come from the private sector who joined government and are somewhat surprised at the speed by which decisions are made. How do you think about that?

Lt. Gen. Boutelle: I think we're in a hybrid right now. In peace time we build very strong armed forces but we do it very methodically and we do it within the system. The exponential growth in the IT world, specifically in IP, XML, web services, that's happening around us does not lend itself to making decisions and putting those systems in the field as quickly as we want. Every circuit board I buy for a system in six months is outdated and there's a new one to replace it. Our process does not support that.

Having said that, in the current war and with the nation in the state it's in today and still in national emergency after 9/11 we are able to do things very, very quickly based upon supplementals and a wartime environment and bring systems in very quickly, replace old systems. So I would suggest today we can make a decision today and make things happen in a matter of sometimes hours or days. That is not true in a peace time environment and that's okay. In a peace time environment you want that structure, you want to build that underpinning and that base to have a stable Army or a stable Navy or Air Force. But right now we can make decisions very, very quickly and execute very quickly with industry.

Mr. Lawrence: That's an interesting point about the speed. What does the term "network-centric operations" mean and why are we hearing so much about it these days? We'll ask General Steven Boutelle of the US Army to explain this to us when The Business of Government Hour continues.


Mr. Lawrence: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence and this morning's conversation is with Lieutenant General Steven Boutelle, chief information officer and G-6, Department of the Army, and joining us in our conversation is Chuck Prow.

Mr. Prow: General Boutelle, can you tell us about some of the IT lessons learned from Iraq and Afghanistan and how those lessons are affecting Army technology?

Lt. Gen. Boutelle: I'd be glad to, Chuck, and, as you can imagine, Afghanistan and Iraq have many lessons that we've learned. Probably the one lesson I've learned, and I just returned from the theater, is where there's a vacuum today or something doesn't exist today with the pervasiveness of the tools that we all use somebody's going to fill it. And what I mean, if I don't take and provide a particular IT tool, a radio, a computer, a wireless network, to a certain organization within, say, Afghanistan in a very short period of time to meet their needs with the availability of those things off the commercial network they will buy their own, they will install it themselves. These young men and women are just like the kids here. They know they can buy a router and a switch. They know they can buy a wireless network and a bunch of cards and build their own network. If you don't provide them the right tools quickly and a vacuum appears they will fill that vacuum out of their discretionary funds.

Mr. Prow: Interesting. Has the evolution of technology affected the evolution of war fighting?

Lt. Gen. Boutelle: I would say absolutely. Two things, one is when you make IT pervasive as it is today and information pervasive as it is today you tend to flatten your hierarchy of management much as is happening in the commercial world. Let's face it. Today in the commercial world as well as in the Army if a young soldier or sailor or airman decides to launch an e-mail message to his boss or to his wife back in the United States it goes at the speed of light minus switching time and that information flow is so quick and the ramifications of it flow very quickly. No longer do you have the point where you have someone at the bottom part of the architecture or the hierarchy who has to manually put something on a piece of paper and send it through maybe his boss and his boss's boss and his boss's boss and over a period of time get a decision. It's near instantaneous so you flatten the management hierarchy.

What that's caused us to do in the Army is relook at how many levels we have. The Army basically has four major levels of hierarchy. We have brigades, divisions, corps, and army. We're in the process of removing one of those levels and in that process when you move a level you start parsing out and sharing those management responsibilities. So when we finish this process we will have three levels. We know that. We know we're going to have brigades; we've already announced that. Divisions, corps, and armies, at the end of the day only two of those will continue and you'll parse those functions. And you can do that because of the information technologies.

Mr. Lawrence: How long will it take to resolve which two of the three?

Lt. Gen. Boutelle: I think that'll probably resolve within 12 to 18 months. We've already decided that the lowest level, the brigade, will still survive, but what we've done is we've enhanced that brigade with IT technologies to allow it to be able to operate within other services, in other words take an Army brigade and nest it in a Marine division. We can do that as we're building IT services in. So the brigades the brigade is our basic fighting unit today as we evolve, as we're building today, where in the past it would have been a division but we're going to make those brigades very autonomous and independent and we are able to do that with a lot of command and control communications, satellite systems, IP-based networks.

Mr. Lawrence: We've heard you speak about the importance of reading and understanding the Chief of Staff and the Secretary of the Army's paper, "Serving a Nation at War: A Campaign-Quality Army With Joint and Expeditionary Capabilities." Could you summarize the key messages one should take away from this paper?

Lt. Gen. Boutelle: The key message in that is we need to make a dramatic change in the structure of our Army. The Army is primarily and has been designed for many years to fight on the East German plain-North German plain against the Soviet Pact or in the Korean Peninsula and it's a very structured Army. We knew the battle space, we knew the ground, we knew the cities and the mountains, we knew exactly where we were going, and we knew what we thought we were going to do when we got there. In today's contemporary environment with the war on terrorism and the radical fundamentalist groups that we're going face they are a nonnation state. They don't belong to a nation. They don't wear a uniform. They move back and forth between countries and they move globally. To be able to address that threat appropriately you need to have small mobile organizations that can quickly move around the world and perform whatever mission we assign to them.

So the Chief's and Secretary's paper says look, the brigade will become our combat fighting unit. We're going to call them brigade combat teams. There will be many of them. We're going to increase the number of them. We're going to enable them by satellite-based networks because so many of the places that we have found the al Qaeda and other organizations are in nation states that have failed or Third World nations where there is no infrastructure. So to enable those organizations takes lots of satellite capability, lots of IT capability, a heavy reliance on intelligence, and providing that to those organizations. So I think the Chief and Secretary's paper is you've got to dramatically change this Army and you need to do it now.

Mr. Lawrence: What does it mean to the individual soldier?

Lt. Gen. Boutelle: There's a couple of pieces in there. One piece of the Chief's paper says look, we're going to be a campaign-quality Army and we're going to be joint. The Chief would like us to have home station operation centers and project force out of the United States and in doing that he will stabilize the force. Right now and in the past we've moved people about every three years, sometimes more often. Do we need to do that if we're going to be a force-projection Army?

A young man or woman can come in the Army and really spend three, four, five, six, even up to seven years at the same place, have his family buy a home there, settle into that community and use that environment. And if he gets promoted move him around that post, camp, or station. There's no good reason in today's environment to move him automatically every three years just because the clock ticks off three years. When the Chief says I want your families in the same place let's have them in a home station. Let's have a good quality of life there and spend some resources on making that a very powerful quality of life and project force out of that place when we need to.

Mr. Lawrence: The paper talks about a lot of big change and I'm curious. It doesn't really talk about how long it will take to achieve this point, the change?

Lt. Gen. Boutelle: Good question. The 3rd Infantry Division, which returned from Iraq this spring, which is the division that actually went into Baghdad, will be radically changed by the end of this year. It will not have three maneuver brigades. It will have four maneuver brigades. It will have the new IT system, the new satellite system, the new voice-over IP systems, all the new networking, all the new Red Switch and CIPR and IPR and all those types of things. We have started delivering that last week. Soldiers are already training on it. We will completely outfit that division, turn it around, and have it ready to deploy again after the first of the year. We will do three more divisions in calendar year '05, the 101st Airborne Division, the 10th Infantry Division, and the 4th Infantry Division, all before the end of calendar year '05.

Mr. Prow: General, we often hear of the concept of network-centric operations. Now, what is N-CO and how does it apply to the Army?

Lt. Gen. Boutelle: Network-centric operations which we are trying to achieve I think is an end state, and I'm not sure quite what the end state is, but we have tremendous amounts of information that we generate and that we store. The question is how do you get that information readily to all the decision makers, be that decision maker at the lowest level or somewhere back at a depot on a sustaining base in the continental United States.

Most of us are primarily circuit-based and have been circuit-based for many years; that is, a data stream flows from point A to point B. Network-centric operations presume that you can make that data centrally stored, you may cache it elsewhere, and it's available to everyone. And as we do that we start to get the synergism that has been promised to us for so long. The tools that will make that happen are really the web services, a combination of XML and SOAP and UDDI, lots of the web services protocols that will start to allow us to leverage these terabytes and in some cases petabytes of information we have stored.

Mr. Prow: On that topic can you also describe LandWarNet and how it will impact the business of war fighting within the Army?

Lt. Gen. Boutelle: Yeah, Chuck, LandWarNet is an attempt we've made with the TRADOC commander, General Kevin Byrnes, and Headquarters, Department of the Army, to try and bound and define what these networks are. I mean, most of us grew up that have been around for a few years where we had a separate network at the low end and it really wasn't a network. It was a voice capability at the lowest level. It was a tactical voice capability on tactical radios. And as you moved up in our infrastructure you got into what we call mobile subscriber equipment. Yes, you had a network, primarily circuit-based. It was locked on mountain tops; it was not mobile. And then when you got back in the United States you got into other circuit-based networks that tie together depots, the corporate world, the Army corporate world, and the other services. You've merged these now together with TCIP becoming the de facto standard. And now you've merged the lowest level to the highest level to the sustaining base in the continental United States with a TCIP backbone. It's a router-based network and we've all joined that network.

But as we've merged these into a single network we had to name them. And so what we're saying is LandWarNet for the Army is the network that goes from the lowest soldier all the way back to our sustaining bases and depots be they in Europe, in the Pacific, or back in the United States. It's the network plus the applications that ride on that network.

Mr. Lawrence: As you talked about this discussion of technology I hear a story of change and you talked about how change flattens the Army. And I'm curious. What's happening to in the civilian world what are called middle-level managers, people who were trained for a certainty in the world and now it's all changing? How's their life changing?

Lt. Gen. Boutelle: I think dramatically and to some people it probably is a terrible awakening because that information does flow so quickly. But it's a double-edged sword. On one side it flows very quickly. On the other side if we're not careful we leave out the middle-management level where they are there to make decisions and make recommendations and in some cases it'll flow directly from the bottom of the organization to the top of the organization without much massaging, staffing, and thought process in it. And so the good side is the information flows very quickly. On the other side in some cases you tend to lose the influence and the richness that is added by the staff. So as you trim down and eliminate some of that staff we're trying to be very careful to keep a very strong group of people in there that still add the richness to that raw information and data as it comes forward for decision making.

Mr. Lawrence: That's an interesting point, especially about the staffing. What is knowledge management and how is the Army using it? We'll ask General Steven Boutelle, CIO of the Army, to take us through this when The Business of Government Hour continues.


Mr. Lawrence: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence and this morning's conversation is with Lieutenant General Steven Boutelle, Chief Information Officer and G-6, Department of the Army. Joining us in our conversation is Chuck Prow.

Mr. Prow: General Boutelle, we know that systems interoperability, particularly in the joint arena, is key for you. What are some of the ways that your office seeks to promote coordination within the Army and across the services?

Lt. Gen. Boutelle: Great question, Chuck, and that, as you know, has been a continuing issue and although we do have interoperability issues I think sometimes we don't give ourselves credit for all the things we should.

Interoperability applies at many different levels. One is just at the communications level or radio level. Will one radio talk to another? And so you have to solve that problem first to make sure they both talk to each other be it on the same spectrum, same frequency, and so you solve that one first.

Then you move to the next level and say what do I want to pass between the two systems and you'd have to talk about the application. What application am I going to have on one side versus the application on the other side? Are they designed to talk to each other? Are you trying to make a logistic system talk to an intelligence system? Obviously they probably will not interoperate. So you have to map and architect what those systems are.

And if you assume the applications are designed to talk to each other then you have to take it to the next level and say what messaging am I using. Am I using the same type of messaging across the network? Is one of them operating at a VMF bit-oriented message and the other in a character-oriented?

So then when you line up and get that correct then you say what's in the message. And when you define what's in the message you may both be operating on character-oriented message or bit-oriented message but then you need to get down to the data element level and align the data elements to make sure that you're passing data that you want to pass to the other application.

And once you get the data passing back and forth the next step in interoperability is how do you display it. In other words are you displaying it on a graphic screen? Have you come to an agreement on the symbology? Is it mil standard 2525B that I'm on and you're on FM 101-5? So you've got five or six different areas.

We do pretty good, pretty good, at the radio level, not perfect, of being able to talk to each other or, say, one satellite system to the other. We do pretty good when you get down to some of the other levels. And where we usually run into issues is taking the applications over time and say what is it that we really want to do. What are you really trying to do from one end to the other? And yet we tend to throw it all into one basket and say we're not interoperable and try to solve all of those things when many of those things are already solved and we need to get down at the application level and say what is the thread of information we're trying to pass and what are we trying to do when we get there.

Mr. Prow: We understand that Information Technology Enterprise Solutions is one of the Army's recent efforts to centralize IT programs. How is ITES benefiting the Army?

Lt. Gen. Boutelle: As you probably know, ITES1 is run by a program executive officer, EIS, Enterprise Information Services. Mr. Kevin Carroll runs that program and ITES1 is primarily a services- or support-based contract. I think we've awarded so far probably about $157 million worth of work off that contract but it provides services, everything from wide area network services to LAN services, IT support, programming/database support, services type contract; very powerful, allows anyone in the Army to come to a single place to get those types of services.

Mr. Prow: How will ITES2 be different from the current ITES?

Lt. Gen. Boutelle: We're running out of overhead on ITES1. We've almost awarded all the dollars we're allowed to award against that. ITES2, we will increase the amount of overhead in that or the top end, how much money we can put against that contract, significantly.

Mr. Lawrence: Let me skip subjects here and talk about knowledge management. Could you describe the Army's vision for knowledge management?

Lt. Gen. Boutelle: I'd be glad to, Paul. First of all we all are collecting tremendous amounts of data. You've got tremendous amounts of data and information and documents probably on your computer and on your hard drive today and over time that becomes not only megabytes and gigabytes but pretty soon terabytes and petabytes and, believe it or not, we can talk in petabytes in information we have in storage today and that information is pretty much static unless you have ways to access it and sort it and provide it to the right person at the right time.

That's the process we'll working right now, a combination of two things, all the information, and that information can be in the form of video, imagery, documents, messaging, translations of information that we've got around the world, open sourcing. How do you take all that information and how do you access the piece you want for one thing, to be able to make a decision in a rapid time in order to action something and have some successful event take place? When we get into Army knowledge management it is really taking data and being able to massage that data and facilitate that data to get it to the right person someplace globally to make a decision.

Several ways you can do that. One is you can just do searches on it like you do on Google or Yahoo! or Excite or something else with a search engine. What you really need to be doing right now and what we're beginning to do and what the Department of Defense has directed, which I think is absolutely the correct way to do it, is employ a lot of the XML standards to sort that information for content and intent and as we start to convert that to XML then you will start to really get the power that we're all after in this knowledge-based world.

Mr. Lawrence: Tell us about tracking progress as you move towards those goals.

Lt. Gen. Boutelle: One is to be able to convert tremendous amounts of information into those protocols, into XML and those family of protocols, and that's going to be one part of it. The second piece is just start to apply that to the many, many, many hundreds, if not thousands, of systems that we have across the Army. Look, it's pretty easy to fix one system or mod one system or build one new system. But when you get a large organization like the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Marines, we have tens of thousands of applications and so we need to parse those applications and decide which we want to attack first.

We do have a requirement now that all new systems coming on board will use an XML back plane as part of that and we broke it out by domains. We have war-fighting domains, we have business domains, we have domain owners, and we are now assigning those domain owners responsibilities to modify those systems to operate within the XML environment. The larger environment is what we call the NCES environment, which is a Network-Centric Enterprise Services environment, which really the DISA organization is administering.

Mr. Lawrence: Let's take it down a level lower to the individual soldier. Could you tell us about Army Knowledge Online and how it affects their lives?

Lt. Gen. Boutelle: AKO or Army Knowledge Online, which is the largest portal in the Department of Defense, has several pieces to it. It has an unclassified portion which we operate, what we call the NIPRNet or the unclassified for day to day operations within the Army. It has a piece of it, the CIPR, which is the secret side, which is primarily used by our intelligence community, our war-fighter community, and our operations people, and then there's another side of it that are the websites open to the public.

For the individual soldier and family we have a tremendous amount of things that are going on. First of all, for any deployed soldier we offer the opportunity for him to provide guest passwords and access and collaboration sites to his family and kids. So a deployed soldier today can go to one of the many Internet cafes we have throughout the region in South America or other places and actually exchange e-mail and messaging and pictures and other things of their family and their kids and different events that take place within the family. That's on the personal side.

On the professional side if you go on Army Knowledge Online like I do every morning and I boot that system it provides me instant messaging to the people I work with around the world but it also provides me role-based things. Today when I boot on it's got a series of stoplights and said your physical is green but you didn't take your flu shot so it's amber or red. Go take your flu shot, you need a dental checkup, those types of things. So it is tied to many databases and systems throughout the nation.

Effective in October we'll really be role-based. Not only will it tell me that I need to take my physical or I haven't taken my flu shot but when you log into the system it'll be role-based. It will not only know about my physical and my flu shot but it will know what my role is in the Army and present information to me that's based upon who I am, what my age is, what my specialty is, what part of the world I work in, what my organization is, and start to provide role-based information for that individual. If he's up for promotion it should come up and tell him, okay, you have an opportunity for promotion here. You need to do these types of things to get ready for it.

Some of those are available today but we're going to pure role-based shortly. That gives us two things. It focuses information on the individual but it also makes sure that he or she does not have access to information that she does not need or is sensitive information that she should not have access to.

Mr. Prow: On the subject of knowledge management can you describe the Army's Battle Command Knowledge System and how this evolving knowledge management system will affect the Army's ability to fight wars?

Lt. Gen. Boutelle: The BCKS or the Battle Command Knowledge System is one of our very, very powerful stories. It's grown out of a couple young soldiers who decided that probably the big Army was not receptive and adaptive enough to do what they wanted to do, and they referred to it when I talked to them. They said we built the website, which was the original website, as if a bunch of company commanders were sitting around on somebody's front porch talking about how they operate every day and what works and what doesn't work as a company commander. And these young soldiers decided that a great thing to do would be put it on a website and they found that there was such a demand for sharing of information from company commanders in Korea and Alaska and Hawaii and South America and Europe it was an overwhelming success, exponential growth.

But they thought that because they did it on their own with their own servers that that was the only way to do it. And we worked with them for many years and we've now rolled that into a bigger program and that bigger program is BCKS. It does reside on Army Knowledge Online. It is now in the dot-mil domain. We're extremely pleased. We not only have the on the mil domain now. We've expanded that to platoon sergeants and battalions so that information is shared.

And when you start sharing that information and hopefully tacit information you have very, very powerful results. And so the young soldier who has an IED problem and a solution in Afghanistan when he was a company commander is now sharing that with a young soldier who's in Fort Riley and about to go to Afghanistan or Iraq. And so we're seeing all the sharing and collaboration of information; very, very powerful, very useful in our business.

Mr. Lawrence: Fascinating, especially the sharing part. Are military IT programs different from IT programs for civilian agencies? We'll ask General Steven Boutelle of the US Army for his perspective when The Business of Government Hour continues.


Mr. Lawrence: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence and today's conversation is with Lieutenant General Steven Boutelle, Chief Information Officer and G-6, Department of the Army. Joining us in our conversation is Chuck Prow.

Mr. Prow: General Boutelle, you are considered a pioneer in the area of tactical communications. Can you explain the importance of tactical communications to our listeners and what innovations you expect to see that will positively affect the Army?

Lt. Gen. Boutelle: Great question, Chuck. The tactical communications world is a little bit different. In previous times prior to 1989 tactical communication was pretty much tethered to infrastructure within Europe, within Germany, where we thought we might have to fight a war with the Warsaw Pact.

Tactical communications today in a fight against a group of terrorists that have no alignment to a particular state or nation requires you to go into many of these fallen states or Third World countries or very poor countries, Afghanistan probably the third poorest country in the world. There is no infrastructure. There's no electricity. There's no potable water. There are no places to buy batteries for your radios. You have to bring it with you. There are no telephone systems, no cell systems, although they are starting to evolve cell systems in the bigger cities like Kabul, but you have to bring it all with you.

So when you bring it all with you and you have no electricity to plug into you get into the tactical world very quickly. And that is I have to be able to talk to someone either across the street, on the next mountaintop, or in the next valley and the way you do that are usually systems that are not readily available in the commercial market. They must be able to withstand the tremendous temperatures and weather environments that we operate in and that drives you to the tactical arena, usually it at the lowest level of FM voice and usually secure FM voice, and you move up for longer distances to what we call tactical UHF satellite.

That whole world of tactical arena is only somewhat applicable to the commercial world and usually pretty much customized to the work we do although we're seeing much more use of things like the 802.11 protocols b and g and some of the other protocols. We're starting to see a little bit of inroads to the commercial protocols. That's primarily the tactical world and it's really a stand-alone, sustaining, power it yourself, carry it on your back, or carry it in a vehicle if you can get a vehicle into a type of type of communications.

Mr. Prow: Information technology has and will continue to play a vital role in current operations around the world. What can industry to improve IT for the benefit of the Army and its evolution into overseas conflicts?

Lt. Gen. Boutelle: A couple things we need to think about. One, at the higher level, and this is really across the entire network, is information assurance piece. Let's face it. We're out there and we are an information-based Army and we are an information-based Department of Defense and federal government and that's a strength but it is also a weakness. And so tremendous amounts of resources and effort are being put into things like firewalls and anti-virus packages and packages that will push the IAVA updates across the battlefield to every computer. That's one piece that we really need industry's help on and it's a continuing thing. We can secure all of our networks today but the enemy has a vote be that a script kiddie or a local hacker or maybe a determined enemy on the 'net. So even though we secure our nets today that enemy will continue to try to attack and have better techniques and better tools in the future so you must continue to improve those information assurance things.

And the other piece is we need to push the envelope. When you're pushing people out in strange places in the world in a mobile and harsh environment the commercial product as it stands probably will not do the job. Much of the mobile computing came early in the armed forces. We were running mobile computers in helicopters and airplanes and tanks significantly before we had it probably in our house or were carrying out PDAs around. So as we continue to push that envelope we find higher demand for more bandwidth, to have higher resolution imagery, to see unmanned aerial vehicle streaming video. Those types of things will continue to push the industry on providing protocols and standards to give us those products in a timely manner.

Mr. Lawrence: Let's take a step back and think about IT projects in general. How would you compare and contrast, say, creating technology solutions in the military versus civilian agencies and the federal government?

Lt. Gen. Boutelle: In the military today, unlike 20 years ago, we don't create a lot of IT solutions. There was a time when the Army held and we still hold many patents but we actually created devices, we created radios, we created things. Now we rely heavily and we leverage the commercial community to do that. So I think you'll find that across the federal government that the Army by law is very much restricted and bounded by some things we do. We fight and win the nation's wars and so we focus primarily outside the continental United States.

Now, the National Guard under Title 32 does have a role within the different states and that's pretty much codified. So we focus outside. The National Guard focuses inside unless we activate and mobilize them and bring them with us. And the Reserve, of course, is part of the active Army in direct support.

So we really focus a little different, each federal agency, be it the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, the CIA, really, which enclaves they focus in. The FBI is very centric to the United States. The CIA is outside the United States. The Army and the armed forces focus outside the United States. We have some role in certain occasions within the United States.

Mr. Prow: How do you see the Army's CIO/G-6 evolving in the years ahead?

Lt. Gen. Boutelle: The CIO role, as you know, has become increasingly more active in the last few years. A lot of that is because of the Klinger-Cohen Act. The Klinger-Cohen Act gives each agency very strong roles for the CIO, the chief information officer, to perform and that's codified in law. But I would suggest, and some of my CIO counterparts and brethren may not appreciate it, that at the turn of the century we had a vice president for electricity as we brought electricity into manufacturing plants. And so the CIO today will probably be here for 10, 20, 30 years but as IT becomes the common backbone of everything we do that will be an evolving role. I have no idea what that role will be 20 years from now but it will be significantly different today when we are initially bringing on IT services versus getting into knowledge management and where that goes. It may be more of a knowledge management officer than a CIO.

Mr. Prow: More generally where do you see the Army's movement over the next five to ten years?

Lt. Gen. Boutelle: I think the Army's movement is really networking the force to the lowest level. We can provide the transport network anywhere we want to today by brute force and resourcing. The issue we still have to solve and we have on the books and we're working on it very hard, and I believe it'll be solved in the next three to five years, is networking in the soldier at the lowest level or the special forces operator. That's the hard part. He needs a lot more bandwidth and he needs it in places where there is no infrastructure on this globe. That's the hard part, that's what we're working on, and battery technologies support it. It takes a tremendous amount of battery technology and lots and lots of batteries to support just about anything we do so power technologies to support those things in getting that large bandwidth out to the individual soldier or special operator.

Mr. Lawrence: You've spent the bulk of your career serving our country. What advice would you give to a young person interested in a career in public service?

Lt. Gen. Boutelle: I think the first thing I would do is it's like any other thing you want to do. If you want to get into something be good at what you do. You can take that niche, whatever niche you decide you have an interest in, and become the expert in that niche be it IP services, XML, whatever that may be. It's significantly different.

When I look across our population that we have in the Army, civilian and military and contractor, all three, I find a seam there age 30-35. If you're under 30 or 35 you probably grew up with IT technology, maybe just as a tool around the house. If you're over 30-35, if you've taken an interest in it or it was part of your job, you may become very good at it. If you're not into that business you need to make a concerted effort to learn some of these basic technologies about the web and IT services.

Great opportunities to do great things. It's very fast-moving. There are opportunities when you deal within the Department of Defense to get access very quickly to high-end systems, technological systems, systems used globally, technologies that are far beyond what you might be able to do in the public sector.

So I would suggest that a lot of this force is self-schooling, a lot of reading, a lot of time visiting different organizations and how they do business, but there are great opportunities in the civilian sector, in the Department of Army civilian sector, and also in the military sector in these technologies. It's in demand. It is something the Army needs and it is something our nation needs to empower those war fighters to do the things that are important for our nation in the future.

Mr. Lawrence: Well, that'll have to be our last question for this morning. Chuck and I want to thank you very much for joining us, General.

Lt. Gen. Boutelle: Thank you, Chuck. Thank you, Paul. It's been a pleasure.

Mr. Lawrence: Thank you. This has been The Business of Government Hour featuring a conversation with Lieutenant General Steve Boutelle, Chief Information Officer and G-6 of the US Department of Army. Be sure and visit us on the web at There you can learn more about our programs and research into new approaches to improving government effectiveness and you can also get a transcript of today's fascinating conversation. Once again that's

This is Paul Lawrence. Thank you for listening.

Dr. Linda M. Combs interview

Friday, June 27th, 2003 - 20:00
"In the financial management line of business, one of the things I've learned is whether you're using procurement vehicles, systems implementation, or schedules, make it clear, make it consistent, keep it simple."
Radio show date: 
Sat, 06/28/2003
Intro text: 
Dr. Linda M. Combs
Complete transcript: 

Arlington, Virginia

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Mr. Lawrence: Welcome to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence, the co-chairman of The IBM Endowment for The Business 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

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 Combs. Linda is the Chief Financial Officer at the Environmental Protection Agency.

Good morning, Linda.

Ms. Combs: Good morning.

Mr. Lawrence: In joining us in our conversation is Morgan Kinghorn. Good morning, Morgan.

Mr. King: Good morning, Paul.

Mr. Lawrence: Linda, perhaps you could start by giving an overview of the EPA, tell us about its mission and its types of programs.

Ms. Combs: The EPA's mission is to protect the environment and human health. We have just under 18,000 employees working in many locations across the country. We have ten regional offices as well as laboratories and field offices. And, of course, a large number of our talented people, about half, are located in Washington, D.C. We have many, many talented folks that work in EPA. We have scientists, engineers, attorneys and given the work that we do, science is very important to the core mission of our agency.

Our mission, of course, is to protect the environment and human health. We have generalists as well as environmental protection folks of many different scientific backgrounds, biologists, zoologists, ecologists, toxicologists, right along with the financial expertise we have in my own office. But, we have a very dedicated group of people that work at the EPA and I think that one of the statements that I have heard that capsulizes that is that I know that there are people currently working at EPA that first came in in 1970 when EPA first opened its doors. So, there are a number of dedicated and talented folks that work at EPA.

Mr. Lawrence: In terms of the Chief Financial Officer, that is quite large at EPA, very diverse programs as you mentioned. What are your responsibilities as CFO at the EPA?

Ms. Combs: We have in the CFO Office about 350 of those dedicated people that I spoke about a moment ago. We have many of our folks in the Washington, D.C. area in the CFO Office but we also have some field offices in Cincinnati, Research Triangle Park in Las Vegas. And, of course, our people are primarily accountants and financial specialists, budge and program analysts but we have environmental scientists in our CFO Office as well as writers, policy specialists, and system specialists as well as economists.

Our responsibilities are broad enough to require a very wide range of skills to get our jobs done. As the agency's senior financial manager, my job as CFO is basically to provide executive oversight for all of the aspects of the EPA's annual budget which is approximately $8 billion dollars a year. We are also responsible for the agency's strategic planning efforts in accordance with the Government Performance and Results Act. We have an integrity and accountability function as well as an auditing function in auditing tracking function in our office as well. We have financial computer systems that we're responsible for as well as accounting. Of course, we're the office that pays people. So, payroll is very important part of what we do in the OCFO Office.

We have an integrated budget in performance system. And, we have a web based financial reporting system that is our financial data warehouse. But, in addition to all of that, to keep up with our April $1 billion dollar budget, we do budget formulation, execution, analysis and reporting within EPA's integrated planning and budget and accountability system.

So, we basically have oversight for all the financial operations, all the financial statements and reporting and we have budget formulation as well as execution responsibilities.

One of the responsibilities that I feel is very important for any CFO to participate in and I take that responsibility very seriously as I work with the chief financial officers counsel. I think it is important to have EPA at the table in promoting the things that are important to EPA. But, I also think it is important for CFO's to provide a leadership role across government and we have responsibility in our own office for the President's Management Agenda as many CFO's across government do.

We actually have three of the five areas in our own responsibility. I am very, very happy and one of those reasons I bring that up is we were actually the second agency to earn all green scores in financial, excuse me, in all of the progress areas related to the President's Management Agenda.

So, the President's Management Agenda has served a number of purposes. It's brought CFO's across government together but it's brought people in our own EPA environment together as well around five specific agenda items that is important to each and every manager and that are also important in a CFO Office.

Mr. Lawrence: So, then you're obviously involved in having to write down the appropriations processes and you're involved with them before. Do you see any difference in that process so far in terms of any of the detail or the structure or the craziness?

Ms. Combs: Well, I think one of the differences is that the process seems to be stretched out. This year particularly we are still, of course, in a continuing resolution as we speak. We have a long group retracted period of time. We work on three years budgets at a time. We are currently awaiting our 03 final conference. We currently have just presented the President's 04 budget. And, we have already started some preplanning for the 05 effort.

So, I would say the biggest difference Morgan is probably our -- my impression that the process has become much more protracted. And, that just causes all of us to have a lot of input in how we do our daily jobs in thinking over a span of several years at one time. Part of that's good but a lot of that is some uncertainty that interjected there as well.

Mr. Lawrence: Morgan hinted at your different experiences. Can you tell us about your career prior to coming to the EPA?

Ms. Combs: Sure. I was the Assistant Secretary for the Treasury for Management from 1989 through 1991. I was Acting Associated Administrator for Management at the Department of Veterans Affairs before that. And, Deputy Under Secretary for Management at the Department of Education in the early and mid-eighties. Prior to my Federal career, I was Advisor to the Governor of North Carolina, and an elected Board Member for the Board of Education in Winston Salem for South County, North Carolina. I was Manager of National Direct Student Loan Programs for Wachovia Corporation. Also, in North Carolina. And, in my very, very, very early career, I was an Administrator and class room teacher in the Winston Salem for South County schools in North Carolina.

My husband and I have over the last ten years managed our own entrepreneurial business. So I have seen large, large organizations and have had responsibility for very large organizations as well as small entrepreneurial activities and have wonderful successes and wonderful memories with all of those.

Mr. Lawrence: If I counted correctly, you've had positions in education, Veteran's Affairs and Treasury. And, I'm curious if you can contrast the differences in management styles at those three places.

Ms. Combs: One of the things that I always like to think of are the similarities. The similarities which is not what you asked me about, Paul, but I'll get there.

Mr. Lawrence: It's the opposite.

Ms. Combs: The similarities reflect a lot around dedicated people. And each and every one of those responsibilities because each and every one of those encompassed management areas, I have found such dedicated and talented individuals that work in the Federal Government. I am always, always so impressed with the caliber of people that the Federal Government is able to attract. And, how committed and dedicated those individuals are.

So, the differences I would say relate to the missions of those organizations. The Veteran's Affairs had a very discrete and determined mission. The Treasury Department was broader and much more over arching and encompassing because of the number of bureaus and number of large bureaus within Treasury. Education had a very discrete mission. And, here now at EPA it's one of the regulatory agencies and it, too, has a very different mission.

So, I'm saying the differences rely more in mission. The similarities lie in people.

Mr. Lawrence: That's a good stopping point. Rejoin us in a few minutes when we continue our discussion with Linda Combs of the EPA. How has the EPA created a results based management. We'll ask Linda with The Business of Government Hour returns.


Mr. Lawrence: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence. And, today's conversation is with Linda Combs. Linda is the Chief Financial Officer at the Environmental Protection Agency. And, joining us in our conversation is Morgan Kinghorn. Well, Linda, one of the things that you talked about in the last segment when you were describing your responsibilities, you mentioned that you were a member of the Federal CFO Council. Could you give us an overview of the kind of work that the Council does?

Ms. Combs: Sure, Paul. The CFO Council itself is a group of CFO's, any CFO that is in the 22 or 24 Cabinet level agencies and we work collaboratively to improve financial management across the U.S. Government. The Council was first established under the provisions of the CFO Act of 1990 in order to facilitate and coordinate the activities of agencies and its members across the U.S. Government.

Since I was one of the first CFO's in Government after the CFO Act became law in 1990 when I was at Treasury, I got a first hand experience there at what this Council could do as well as what the management council across government could and should do relative to more cross cutting issues. It's a special experience for me now to come back and years later as EPA CFO to see how that position and the Council itself has grown over time.

The CFO Council itself has a number of projects right now. One of the projects that I co-chair at this time is a project to look at financial metrics across government. There are things like cash balances, various metrics that we are identifying that would be a small number of metrics that one could look at and if bubbled up through all of the 22 Cabinet level agencies, would create a picture in and of itself what the Federal Government looks like. All the reconciling on a timely basis and various financial metrics functions that business constantly looks at. We think it's important as CFO's to step up to the plate and say we ought to be looking at those things not just in our own individual agencies and departments, we ought to have a representation that could span across government so that these could be looked at on a Government wide basis as well.

Mr. Lawrence: As you know, the CFO Act was passed nearly 13 years ago, 13 years ago this December and you're alluded to the fact there's been a lot change in the CFO community. One of the things folks have talked about since is how the CFOs' sort of partner with the rest of their agencies and colleagues to improve financial and budgetary management within the agency. How did you proceed to do that since you've come back into this kind of position?

Ms. Combs: I think the biggest issue that we face is probably how well we gather, how well we manage and integrate information about costs and pare that up with results to our programs. I think this is a cost cutting issue that many agencies and departments are dealing with a little bit differently now than when I left 11 or 12 years ago.

At EPA, we have looked very closely at budget and performance integration. And, fortunately we are looked to as a leader in this area. We've had our goals and objectives for planning, budgeting, and financial reporting for several years. And, are constantly working to improve those.

That's one of the areas of the President's Management Agenda that I spoke about earlier. And, because we had an early start on this and we are recognized as one of the leaders in Government in this area. We recently earned recognition as one of the seven finalist for the President's Quality Award in Budget Performance Integration. So, we're leaders in Budget Performance Integration, we still have a ways to go in looking at costs information, activity based costing as it's associated with results management in our programs. And, I think it's real, real important as my role as CFO to bring to the table and to bring to the managers of these program areas better business tools with which to operate. I consider that one of my prime responsibilities as CFO is to have a full deployment of business intelligence tools so that mangers can make the best use of these new capabilities that they will have on their desktop. And, whether it's a dashboard approach or different kinds of approaches that help them manage their programs better with better costing information as well as what are the results that they are getting for there programs. That's what I think one of my major roles as CFO is.

Mr. Lawrence: One of the issues that has really existed really probably after that last couple of years, is in the drive to look at performance. Some of the stakeholders, whether it's the Congress or external stakeholders have never seen that interested in looking at results. And, I know that's changed generally and I think it's probably changed in your environment. Can you give us a sense of maybe the last ten years when you moved to go up to appropriations on OMB? I'm sure people are really asking about results including the people who are investing in your programs. Has that changed?

Ms. Combs: I think that has changed. I think when we talk about at EPA our goals being cleaner air, purer water, better protected land, and how that protects the environment and human health as our major mission, it's very difficult sometimes to translate our immediate results to showing long term human health and protection for U.S. citizens. But healthy communities and eco systems is a very, very important element of what we do. And, we have to continue to strive to find better ways to display the results that we are getting for the dollars that we put into our programs. We are looking at better effectiveness measures. We're looking at the way our strategic plan and the geperal (phonetic) results all fold in hand in hand. So, we're really trying to look at this whole area in a broader more encompassing way in order to show to our stakeholders, whether it's Congress, OMB or certainly the American people that here's what you're getting for your dollars. This is important to human health and here's why.

When I talked earlier about science being an important aspect of what we do and how that's a foundation of what we do that makes science even more integral and important to us. It is helping us to show these results.

Mr. Lawrence: What kind of time frame do you use when you talk to people about results? For example, in the examples you gave, you talked about scientific goals which might take decades to achieve yet it sounds like people to you and want to know results on a much shorter interval. How do you translate those conversations into the real thing?

Ms. Combs: That is very difficult. You know, one of the things that we're -- we have previously looked in Government and this is not just true for EPA, it goes for education, some of the other departments that I have been involved in as well. We've been looking at outputs. Now, we're being -- we're hoping to move toward more outcome based knowledge in everything we do. And, you're exactly right, Paul, that that's hard when it's going to take a long time to show environmental results or health results but we happen to think that if we continue to measure some what I would call medium output measures that are leading toward our further outcome based objectives and goals. And, we put these in our strategic plan. We feel like we're much better off today than we would have been without doing that. But, it is going to take a matter of years. But, this is not anything that we're going to be able to look just tomorrow. We're going to have to think longer term and be able to show some short to medium term results that build into our longer term output.

Mr. Lawrence: That's a good stopping point for this segment. Please come with us in a few minutes as we continue talking about management with Linda Combs of the EPA. How's the EPA doing with the financial management portion of the President's Management Agenda? We'll ask Linda from her prospective when The Business of Government Hour returns.


Mr. Lawrence: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence and today's conversation is with Linda Combs. Linda is the chief financial officer at the Environmental Protection Agency. And joining us in our conversation is Morgan Kinghorn.

Well, Linda, can you tell us more about the Managing for Improved Results Steering Group at the EPA?

Ms. Combs: Sure. This group was managed from my office at the initial request of the deputy administrator and it brought together people from all of the agency's offices to think about very practical ways that we could make some real improvements in the way EPA managed its overall programs that the agency could implement right away. The group made some genuinely useful recommendations and it gave some longer-term approaches as well that we could also adopt.

One of the most important recommendations for immediate action was to take a look at our annual performance, goals and measures, and see if we could devise a more rational set of categories. Time I think the agencies can find measures of success over as we establish and maximize our priorities and measures and as priorities change. The longer-term recommendations that came from the steering group focus on enhancements to our overall strategic plan with greater emphasis on the outcomes of EPA's work, reinforcing accountability for specific performance objectives, and building the agency's capacity to indeed manage for results and how those results are costed out, how they're calculated, and how they're determined.

Mr. Kinghorn: You mentioned that you were one of a very select number of agencies that all green on progress for the President's management agenda. Could you share with us some of your activities related to the financial performance piece of that and what are the timetables for these initiatives and what do you expect to get out of them?

Ms. Combs: Sure. We have as our prime objective under the financial management arena continuing to get clean-audit opinions. I think everybody in financial management, private or public sector, would say that that is one of the bellwethers that you must have in order to say that you are fully performing in the financial arena. We have automated our financial statements. That's been a big help to us. And in terms of the financial management scorecard itself we have sat down with OMB each and every quarter over the last year and we'll continue to do so to further define and further refine which specific elements we're going to be responsible for.

And we've laid out our own timetable about moving from our legacy financial systems and making sure that our financial systems meet each and every standard, new or old, for the government financial systems. I mentioned a while ago the reporting tools and how important those are for managers but they're very important for us as well in the financial arena to be able to use this business-intelligent software and these new kinds of reporting tools for managing program results but also to support our financial goals as well.

Mr. Kinghorn: Well, if you look at your budget probably 45 percent of it's allocated in a variety of programs for grants to states, tribes, and other EPA partners, everything from construction grants to Superfund to cooperative agreements. And harking back to what we were talking about on performance, this is tough to measure the success. It's an indirect application. I mean, you give grant money, heaven knows what you get for it. What are some of the things you're looking at as an agency that devotes that much of your budget to other forms of financing in terms of performance?

Ms. Combs: This does go to our discussion on some of the difficulties involved in actually measuring environmental outcomes. The significant portion of the EPA's budget that directly supports state, tribal, and environmental programs does indeed create some important environmental results across the country but it does continue to be a challenge for us to carve out which of those results can be attributed to state efforts and tribal efforts and which can be derived from the actual grant money that EPA gives as opposed to other specific resources. And for those reasons we think partnerships are very, very important.

It's important to emphasize, I think, that we have a very special relationship with our state and tribal partners and that we maintain very close working relationships with state governments and state agencies across the country. We enjoy that close working and growing relationship with the Environmental Council of the States. ECOS is an organization of state environmental commissioners and we consult with them regularly, we've consulted with them on our strategic plans and our annual reports under GPRA, and we continue to take steps to involve those representatives and our state and tribal representatives in our agency planning discussions every year.

The states don't work for EPA but we will continue to hope that they will work with us. We're certainly aware that right now states have some very difficult situations that they're dealing with in terms of their financial situations and we think it's very important that this partnership be closer than ever because we need to know what their difficulties are, understand what their difficulties are, and make that relationship work even better in the times in which we are dealing right now.

We feel like it's important for our office where we deal with accountability as well as strategic planning to further define the regional performance contributions along with our agency goals and see what those obvious connections are that can be made between our states and our tribal partners. We think an important element here could be to develop a set of measures to look across the regions and see how we are being most helpful to our state and tribal partners as well as seeing where we feel like we could end up being more effective as well.

Mr. Kinghorn: EPA has a structure to manage the finances, I think, of your grants, your cooperative agreements, and general contracts delegated to RTP, to Cincinnati, and Las Vegas, which really seems to advance what other agencies are just thinking about doing. Has that structure served you well in terms of specialization in each of those locations, particularly at RTP, which is also closely linked to some of the core programs of EPA?

Ms. Combs: And I have a special place in my heart for RTP since I'm from North Carolina but we certainly think it has. I think, too, in terms of the way we're looking at special provisions that may need to be made as we look toward better protection of the homeland and of homeland security this diversity that we have, I think, makes itself even more important in today's environment.

And one of the things, too, I would offer in terms of not just our own internal structure related to where grants and payments are processed but we have also a very important financing operation that we feel very good about at EPA that's managed out of my own office. It's the Environmental Finance Advisory Board. It's a federally-chartered advisory committee that's composed of independent financing experts from public and private sector organizations who are interested in lowering the environmental cost and increasing investment in environmental facilities and infrastructure and services across the nation. So they produce policy and technical reports that actually leverage better public and private resources.

And as I spoke earlier about the need for better partnerships and closer alignments as we have the situation in this day and time, our environmental finance centers, which are located at various universities around the country, also provide some financial outreach to our regulated community. And these networks and these partnerships as well as information on our own website help communities and environmental programs across the nation in ways that we could not do alone with our own internal financing effort. And they're staffed with a number of volunteers basically, people who dedicate their time and energy, particularly for the Environmental Finance Advisory Board. Those are volunteers, people who spend their own time, effort, and energy in their own local communities. They're just excellent people to have access to.

Mr. Lawrence: That's a good stopping point. We've got to go to a break. Rejoin us in a few minutes as we continue talking about management with Linda Combs of the EPA. What role will EPA have in homeland security? We'll ask Linda for her thoughts when The Business of Government Hour returns.

Announcer: How can we strengthen the relationship between performance and public service? A recent endowment report makes the case for performance management by confronting conventional attitudes. For a copy of the report, "Performance Management: A Start Where You Are, Use What You Have Guide," by author Chris Wye visit our website at or call us at 703-741-1077.


Mr. Lawrence: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence and today's conversation is with Linda Combs. Linda is the chief financial officer at the Environmental Protection Agency and joining us in our conversation is Morgan Kinghorn.

Mr. Kinghorn: Linda how do you define and measure financial management success at the EPA?

Ms. Combs: Well, Morgan, when I see that green score for progress in financial management on the executive branch management scorecard I think that'll be a splendid indicator of our success. But I must tell you we won't sit on our hands after that. I've dedicated myself to moving financial management at EPA to what I call beyond green. One of my more important personal and professional goals when I came to the CFO Office at EPA was to basically say we're going to have the most respected CFO Office in the federal government. We're well on our way to achieving that and we're not just doing that to win accolades of recognition from OMB or from the public or from any of our constituents.

But if we are the most respected CFO Office in government that means a lot of positive things for our organization. Number one, it means that we do our business efficiently. If we do our business efficiently there are actually lots of rewards that come back to us. We're able to get back for paying our bills on time, for example, some rebates that we would not have access to otherwise. And just last year EPA because we do our business efficiently we got over a million dollars in rebates. Ninety-three percent of the rebates that we could possibly collect we're collecting those because we do our business more efficiently. So part of the success for our efforts at EPA in financial management come directly through the other program offices and maintaining those positive relationships with other program offices at EPA and ensuring that we're doing the right thing to manage our programs better is a particular dimension that I am very proud of now and would like to continue to be proud of.

There are lots of challenges that continue to come our way. One of the things that we have looked at since I've been at EPA is maintaining talented people with the skills and abilities it's going to take to work in the CFO Office of EPA in the 21st century. We've done a lot of work in that arena already and in the coming year we're going to keep looking and working toward acquiring the kind of talent we need to do our job well.

Mr. Kinghorn: The issues that you suggested that you have been successful, I mean, systems help, data warehouses help, but it is people and in terms of future financial managers I know that the market seems to be getting stronger now. People are coming back into government. If you look at the information from Harvard schools and Syracuse a very high percentage relatively compared to past years of people is coming into the federal government. They used to go into state or nonprofits. Have you seen that happen and are you trying to recruit them in to continue to replenish the talent that you have that has led to the successes but to continue that in the future?

Ms. Combs: Yes, we certainly are. This pipeline for future financial managers I think has to start with a recruiting effort in the federal government the likes of which we've never seen before and in my opinion now is a perfect time to do it. The federal government couldn't be in a better position to take advantage of talented MBAs coming out of schools whether it's Harvard or many of my schools that I'm aware of in North Carolina and reaching out to those schools and saying here's who we are and here is what we do is part of what I'm about.

I continue to talk to people as much as possible about the most interesting opportunities that are available in working in a CFO office. The expanse of opportunities that people deal with in federal government positions is not to be found by MBAs going into the private sector for their first five or ten years in business. Having come from a banking background myself I know that to be true and if we are going to optimize on the skills that are necessary for financial managers in particular to come into the federal government now is our time to do it.

And I think it behooves all of us, particularly CFOs, in the federal government to take on this mantle of opportunity and work with the Office of Personnel Management in making absolutely certain that we work with every hiring authority that we currently have available to us as well as creating additional ones because young people are indeed interested in working for something that is greater than their themselves. That's what the federal government opportunities give to them. Where else in the federal government could I when I was at Education and managing then a multibillion-dollar budget at age 35, have the opportunity to do that? Certainly not in the private sector. So I see our opportunity now as a great one if we can take advantage of it and capitalize on it quickly.

Mr. Lawrence: Homeland security's on everyone's mind these days. What role will EPA play in homeland security?

Ms. Combs: Well, we certainly don't know what lies ahead for this country but we certainly can be certain of one thing at EPA, that EPA is going to step up and take part in any task that's presented for us to do. Most recently our EPA people have had some leadership roles in recovering debris from the Columbia disaster, certainly a sad task that none of us anticipated but we certainly are proud that we have the talented and right kind of people and the right kinds of places to be able to immediately mobilize and do the kinds of things that were required there.

Governor Whitman and our senior executives for emergency response are in close contact with Governor Ridge and our other colleagues at the Department of Homeland Security and I think as the Department of Homeland Security comes together over the next few months we'll continue to work closely with them to address whatever needs that the EPA is equipped to fill. I think obviously we're still under a continuing resolution for '03 but whatever resources have to be taken I think that's where our office comes in in being able to fulfill its mission of supporting other areas within EPA itself.

Most people do not readily recognize, I think, the hazards people that we have in our emergency response team and how vital and critical their role is. But it takes something, I think, like, unfortunately, the Columbia disaster for people to realize hazardous chemicals there, call the EPA, and often a disaster has taken place before EPA is recognized as needing to have a role right there. But I think as homeland security itself gets underway our role will become even clearer and more focused and more prominent.

Mr. Lawrence: We have time for one more question so I'd like to ask you to reflect on your career and perhaps give us a perspective about the kind of advice you'd give to perhaps a young person considering a career in public service.

Ms. Combs: I've had a number of opportunities, I think, over the years to talk to young people about their careers and particularly about public service. I think sometimes we don't initially recognize the fact that many people who come into public service believe that public service is a public trust and it's an honor and a privilege to serve your fellow Americans and to uphold that public trust.

As I mentioned earlier, particularly young people and people changing careers want to do something that's bigger than themselves. Yes, that sounds like a job for idealists but there are idealists in every single profession whether it's a scientific professional, whether it's a financial profession. Those people I think over the years of their career have an opportunity to realize that the job that they could do for the federal government would play a large role in making life better for Americans and for the rest of the world as well.

The broad, encompassing jobs that I mentioned earlier, whether it's a fiduciary role or whether it's a scientific role, those broad and encompassing roles can be found in federal service. And combined with the public trust and the experience that people bring to the table some of the best minds that we find anywhere are in the federal government. And with the privilege and honor of serving I think that I would and will continue to advise young people considering a career in public service certainly to consider the federal government.

Mr. Lawrence: Well, Linda, I'm afraid we're out of time this morning. Morgan and I want to thank you for fitting us into your busy schedule.

Ms. Combs: Thank you.

Mr. Lawrence: This has been The Business of Government Hour featuring a conversation with Linda Combs. Linda's the chief financial officer at the Environment Protection Agency. Be sure and visit us on the web at where you can learn more about our programs and get a transcript of today's conversation. Once again, that's

This is Paul Lawrence. Thank you for listening.

Patrick Pizzella interview

Friday, November 15th, 2002 - 20:00
Managing for Performance and Results; Financial Management; Leadership; Collaboration: Networks and Partnerships; Strategic Thinking; Human Capital Management...
Radio show date: 
Sat, 11/16/2002
Intro text: 
Managing for Performance and Results; Financial Management; Leadership; Collaboration: Networks and Partnerships; Strategic Thinking; Human Capital Management...
Managing for Performance and Results; Financial Management; Leadership; Collaboration: Networks and Partnerships; Strategic Thinking; Human Capital Management
Complete transcript: 

Friday, November 1, 2002

Arlington, Virginia

Mr. Lawrence: Welcome to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence, the co-chairman of The IBM 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

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 Patrick Pizzella. Patrick is the assistant secretary for administration and management and the chief information officer of the U.S. Department of Labor.

Good morning, Patrick.

Mr. Pizzella: Good morning.

Mr. Lawrence: And joining us in our conversation is Morgan Kinghorn.

Mr. Kinghorn: Good morning, Paul.

Mr. Lawrence: Well, Pat, let's begin by setting some context. What functions does the office of the assistant secretary for management and administration perform?

Mr. Pizzella: Well, the Department of Labor, for the benefit of your listening audience, is a $56 billion, 17,000-person/employee department, with 568 locations spread out across the country.

The assistant secretary for administration and management handles several functions there. One has to do with the budget development for the Department, human resources function of the Department; administrative services, dealing with things that go on actually inside the building; mail management, and some of the sort of nuts and bolts things of a government agency; information technology. And we also supervise the Civil Rights Center, which makes sure that recipients of financial assistance that the Department provides to the citizens is being done in an equitable way.

Mr. Lawrence: How big is your team, and what type skills do they have? You described such a wide range of activities.

Mr. Pizzella: The right people are in the right jobs I guess is what I'll say. They have a variety of skills. The professional staff has a terrific background to accomplish the tasks and missions of the Department. And administration management is really a service part of the Department. We really work more with our fellow employees and my fellow assistant secretaries than we work with our recipients of federal aid or the other people we serve in America.

Mr. Lawrence: And what are your specific roles and responsibilities as the assistant secretary?

Mr. Pizzella: I'm at sort of a 50,000 feet view of it. I provide advice to the Secretary and the deputy secretary on those administrative matters that I mentioned earlier. I coordinate much of the President's management agenda. President Bush, from early in his administration, laid out a management agenda for the entire federal government. And the coordination of that, or most of that in the Department, falls within my responsibilities.

Mr. Kinghorn: Pat, you also serve, as Paul said, as chief information officer. And those are sort of very broad responsibilities in and of themselves. What are those responsibilities, and how do you integrate, really, those two different positions you have; head of administration and broad management of the information technology resources?

Mr. Pizzella: Right. Well, let me go back to the President's management agenda for a minute, because one of the key components of his agenda is the expansion of e-government, which really falls to the chief information officer to implement and carry out. And I think your listeners are probably aware that the Office of Management and Budget has a scorecard that they put out annually, that rates all the departments and agencies regarding how they're doing against the President's management agenda.

We're very proud at the Department of Labor to have been the Cabinet department with the highest rating in the recent scorecard. On the red, yellow, green rating system, we had three yellows. And one of those was for e-gov.

And I think the success of our e-gov efforts are very much attributable to the integration of the role of assistant secretary and CIO. We have a very strong, capable professional staff. The President's management agenda helps focus everybody -- political appointee or career, it's very clear. And so that serves as sort of a real guide stick. And so there's not so much a division of time as it's really making sure that we integrate well the various components and responsibilities that I have, so that the agenda moves forward.

Mr. Kinghorn: You've had a very varied career, I think both as a career employee and now as a Presidentially appointed. Tell us a little bit about your career prior to coming to the Department of Labor, and perhaps a little bit about how you got to the Department of Labor.

Mr. Pizzella: I have always been in the excepted service. I have always been an appointee. And I came to town with the Reagan administration. And I've served in six federal agencies between the Reagan and the Bush administrations now. And in between that time, I spent 5 years working as a government affairs counselor, a lobbyist, for a Seattle-based law firm here in Washington, D.C.

And I wanted to come back into public service if the candidate I was supporting ended up winning. And President -- Governor Bush succeeded. And I volunteered, and was assigned the task of heading up the transition for the Bush-Cheney team regarding the General Services Administration, which is an agency I spent almost 4 years at in the Reagan administration.

And then on the first day of the new administration, I was asked to go over to the Office of Personnel Management and serve as chief of staff. I was one of those people who were on the landing parties that arrived on the first day. And so I spent 8 weeks there, which was a very useful experience leading up to the assistant secretary position at the Department of Labor. And then after about 8 weeks there, Secretary Chao asked me to come over and prepare for the role at the Department of Labor.

Mr. Kinghorn: Yes. I think our paths first crossed in the early '80s when I was at EPA and you were there also. And it's been about 10 years, I think. Eight to ten years. Do you find anything significantly different in how you approach what you're doing now than you might have approached it 8 years ago, when you first came into public service?

Mr. Pizzella: Well, I don't want to embarrass both of us, Morgan, but back then there were very few personal computers. And --

Mr. Kinghorn: What were they?

Mr. Pizzella: But I think the difference is -- a lot of it has to do with just agenda, and the way agendas are approached and advocated. From the standpoint of management issues, the President's management agenda is a superb roadmap for people in that area of government to follow. There's even a website,, that sort of focuses on the President's management agenda.

And the team that Secretary Chao has assembled is a team made up of both veterans from previous governments' experience and newcomers to government, but those with real specialized talents in the areas they've been assigned. And so we have a very coordinated and good working relationship. And it helps us move the agenda forward.

Mr. Lawrence: You indicated you were deeply involved in the transition. And I'm just curious, because your description of the first landing seems to conjure up the picture I have in my mind. What are the management challenges of being there on the first day and working through the transition like that?

Mr. Pizzella: The challenge is to sort of immediately meet the right people who are there and really know what's going on. And the career staff that is in place, I think most people will tell you are very helpful and provide some sound advice. But on your first day, you have a lot of questions that you ask. You have some assignments that you're expected to carry out. But you've got a lot more questions that you need answers to, so that, you know, you can keep sort of the ball rolling, and you can be responsive to the other parts of the Executive Branch, where everybody is calling everybody else, and making sure they've got the right phone number and then the right e-mail address, and so on.

But it was a very good experience at OPM. There's a very talented staff that was there. And it was an area that I had some knowledge of human resources issues from my previous stint at Education and GSA, and so forth.

Mr. Lawrence: Are there cultural differences? Morgan was asking you to compare across different time periods. How about across different administrations, having been in the Reagan administration and the Bush administration there?

Mr. Pizzella: I wouldn't say that there's cultural differences. There's - I guess a few of the differences - those of us who were in the Reagan administration and now are in the Bush administration are much more experienced. So, we come with a bigger knowledge base.

The President's management agenda was extremely helpful to new managers, because it answers a lot of questions even before you have to ask them. And I guess also just the idea of, certainly from my own experience, just there's a difference between coming to Washington for the first time and taking a position, versus leaving your office at one end of, you know, Pennsylvania Avenue, and going to a building at another end. So, that made it a lot easier.

Mr. Lawrence: And that's a good stopping point. Rejoin us in a few minutes as we continue our conversation with Patrick Pizzella of the U.S. Department of Labor.

What's the state of e-government at the Department of Labor? We'll ask Patrick when The Business of Government Hour returns.


Mr. Lawrence: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence. And this morning's conversation is with Patrick Pizzella. Pat's the assistant secretary for administration and management and the chief information officer at the U.S. Department of Labor.

And joining us in our conversation is Morgan Kinghorn.

Mr. Kinghorn: Pat, let's begin with e-government and the Department. Labor is the lead agency for one of the e-government initiatives. I think there are something like 24 across government. This one is We know the website was recently updated to include more benefit programs. Can you tell us a little more about what the citizen might find when they reach that site, and what your objectives are?

Mr. Pizzella: Sure. was launched -- it was a public launch in April of this year. And it was the first really major launch, as you've referred to the 24 e-gov initiatives, that the administration is working on. And primarily, it's to provide citizens a 24/7 access to find out if they might be eligible for the many federal government benefit programs that exist. Hopefully, it reduces the runaround time that people had to do in the past, where they had to go walk from office to office to figure out where they really belong regarding their situation, or if they had to start calling -- you know, dialing for information.

The site. I'd encourage people to visit the site because you enter it, and your identification is not known. But you answer a series of specific questions, and then you're steered towards benefit programs that you might be eligible for. And then from there you can drill down on those sites and find out more information. And like I say, you can do this 24/7. Right now, we've got about 180 or so federal programs up on the site. And we're hoping by January to actually have all -- close to 300 federal government benefit programs listed. So, it will be -- this is Phase I. The first one is really inventorying and getting them all linked to the site, and then we'll go on from there.

Mr. Kinghorn: You mentioned that you got some yellows on the PMA, which are hard to come by. So congratulations.

Mr. Pizzella: Thank you.

Mr. Kinghorn: And a lot of it I think was to do with e-government initiatives. And this one, like e-gov itself, the concept requires you to go beyond the walls of Labor. And you mentioned hundreds of programs you're trying to consolidate for our citizenry. What were some of the challenges that you faced as a department trying to coordinate and develop improve their website that crossed the labor borders?

Mr. Pizzella: Well, it was challenging; it is challenging. You've heard those analogies of people of sometimes trying to work on these joint efforts with a lot of different agencies or individuals is like herding cats. Well, this is more like herding tigers, because some of these are rather large government departments that we're working with as partners.

We had really good coordination assistance from OMB. We were very focused on what our objectives were. The President's management agenda -- the existence of it -- really made some of what we had to do a little easier, because we weren't -- this isn't something sort of we created. We were assigned the task of being the managing partner, and we got to work on it. And there's always some places that cooperate more than others. But in the end, we really had good cooperation. And I think that the site itself is a testimony to that.

Mr. Lawrence: As managing partner for the initiative, what were your roles? Do you get to make decisions, or do you facilitate?

Mr. Pizzella: There's a lot more facilitation goes on than just sort of decisionmaking in a vacuum. And we had a project manager on it, we had a regular e-newsletter to the partners. And we set some specific time frames with goals and objectives, and that seemed to work well.

Mr. Lawrence: What can other departments and agencies learn from the implementation of

Mr. Pizzella: As a matter of fact, we thought it would be useful to other departments and agencies if we did a little lessons learned ourselves. And our deputy secretary at the Department, Cameron Findlay, provided the President's Management Council and the Chief Information Officer's Council a "lessons learned from govbenefits memorandum" back in June. Because we wanted to do it very quickly after we launched it. Because like I say, we were the first ones to launch. There were 23 other initiatives.

And the lessons learned was -- I'll run through them for you rather quickly. One was to make sure you secure upper management's commitment to deliver results. We had that at the Department of Labor for sure, with Secretary Chao and the deputy secretary. Communicate effectively was lesson two. We had lots of meetings with partners. We set up a regular newsletter for them. And we really tried to keep everybody in the loop.

Lesson three was to develop an indisputable value proposition. And that proposition is, is building govbenefits the right thing to do for the citizens? And every time we ask the question, the answer is yes. So we kept working back to that with our partners, and to make sure that we had the cooperation that was necessary.

Lesson four is to recognize project champions and then channel their energy. Like every endeavor, there's some who have a higher degree of energy towards the project than others. So we try to recognize that and make sure we could maximize that. Lesson five was to demonstrate tangible results quickly. And sometimes in partnerships, there's a tendency for perhaps a lot of agreement and then not results. And we set an aggressive 100-day time frame for producing the first release, and we met that.

Lesson six was to promote risk-taking. And we wanted our partners, as well as the people we had working on the project, to think outside the box and look at ways to be creative in gathering up all these programs and the information. Lesson seven was to understand what drives your partners, because your partner is always asking the question, how does my organization benefit from this? And we were always mindful of that. And I think that very much contributed to the success of it.

Lesson eight was to apply pressure when appropriate. And we had, like I mentioned earlier, good coordination from OMB on that. Lesson nine, we found, was to appoint a full-time project manager. And we did that early. And actually, our project manager was hired away by the private sector just recently, but we have another project manager on board. The idea of someone full-time focusing on this is really a key. You cannot just sort of have collateral duties, if you're a managing partner.

Lesson ten was to build for the future. We focused on coordinating govbenefits with firstgov. From the beginning, our sites hosted firstgov. So as firstgov grows, we grow, too. And lesson eleven was to solicit citizen feedback. And we get feedback. And we utilize it to make adjustments and improvements.

Mr. Kinghorn: What's interesting is OMB, in a report they did after the summer process, where they gave the report card, the second phase of the report card, really indicated there were two factors. And you've named them, so you may have been the poster child. One was the fact that someone was in charge of each initiative. And the second, the agencies that did well saw the integrating force of all the five elements. So it sounds like you were probably one of the promoters of those two rules.

Mr. Pizzella: Yes. Well, our deputy -- and Cam Findlay was recently named, I guess in the last 4 or 5 months, as chairing the President's Management Council e-gov subcommittee, which I think was another credit to the Department, that this is an area that we spent some time on, an issue that we really are interested in.

Mr. Lawrence: Let me ask you about a couple of the lessons learned. One of them talked about the importance of involving top leadership. And often in the cases, people have great intentions, but top leaders have so much on their plate and so much to deal with. How is that actually done?

Mr. Pizzella: At our department, I had a weekly meeting that we still have on just our e-government strategy group. It includes a member of the deputy secretary's staff, someone from our intergovernmental affairs staff, obviously folks from the CIO's office. And so we go over a variety of e-government issues, and govbenefits -- obviously, the project manager would always be in those meetings. And so we would in essence have a weekly update and report on this.

And we also assembled an e-gov team at the Department, which is made up of the individuals from our department that are our representatives on the other e-gov initiatives that we're not the managing partner of. And that group meets about monthly, so that we have a continuing update of what's happening with all the e-gov initiatives that we have an active interest in.

And we exchange information, and keep each other posted so we can sort of -- sort of our own best practices session that goes on on a monthly basis there.

Mr. Lawrence: Another one was taking risks. And I'm just curious. At some level, that seems counterintuitive in the environment you're in. I wonder if you can give me some examples or some insights into how that was done.

Mr. Pizzella: Some of the risk was to keep meeting with agencies who maybe were not so enthusiastic at first. Don't take no or "not interested" for a final answer. And again, try to play to the partner's best interests as to why they should participate, and increase their participation. So I guess I would cite that as probably the key one.

Mr. Lawrence: That's a good stopping point. It's time for a break. Come back in a few minutes as we continue talking about management with Pat Pizzella of the U.S. Department of Labor.

Who's hiring MBA these days? Would you believe the Department of Labor? We'll ask Pat about this when The Business of Government Hour returns.


Mr. Lawrence: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence. And today's conversation is with Patrick Pizzella. Patrick is the assistant secretary for administration and management and the chief information officer at the U.S. Department of Labor.

And joining us in our conversation is Morgan Kinghorn.

Well, Pat, could you describe the Department's Management Review Board for us, and how it monitors the progress of performance goals?

Mr. Pizzella: Sure. The Secretary established the Management Review Board early in her tenure, actually in August of '01. And how it works is it's really -- we meet monthly. And all the agency heads from the Department are represented. And we largely tackle the President's Management Agenda and the issues that relate to it. And we always have a guest from the Office of Management and Budget. And we often have guest presenters also. We've had Mark Everson and Mark Forman and Angela Stiles come and make a presentation before the Management Review Board; Dan Blair from OPM has been over.

We've had Maurice McTeague from the Mercadus Institute come over and talk just a little bit about their approaches to things. So we get input from outside, and then we focus internally on a variety of issues: e-gov, human resources issues, budget issues and so forth.

Mr. Kinghorn: One of the areas, when you talk about in government service anyway, but management, you come back to the budget at some point. And you do have the budget under your umbrella. What are some of the techniques you've used to sort of use the budget to deliver results for the Secretary in terms of budget performance and that portion of the PMA?

Mr. Pizzella: Well, budget performance and integration is one of the five components of the President's Management Agenda. So we have spent a good time focusing on that, to make sure budget and performance are linked. The Secretary's priorities, because she's been so articulate in spelling them out throughout the Department, we don't get as many surprises in the budget request process, because agency heads know that their budget requests should reflect the Secretary's priorities and the President's Agenda.

It's very useful to utilize the budget process in order to eliminate redundancies, and to minimize, not maximizing the resources that are available within the Department of 17,000 people and $56 billion. If you coordinate that money well, you can get the results you want. And that's been a big part of our success.

Mr. Kinghorn: Let's turn to the other really critical factor of getting things done, and that's people. And as you know, the administration has, as one of its five elements, the human capital challenges. The General Accounting Office, obviously, has been discussing that. What do you think for the Department of Labor are your most significant human capital challenges? And what do you think you'll be able to do about it, and are doing now?

Mr. Pizzella: Again, going back to the OMB scorecard, that was a -- strategic management of human capital was one of those categories we scored well on. And we did that because we really focused on that early. The Secretary's a firm believer that personnel is policy, and that if you don't have the right people in the right jobs, you're going to have a tough time implementing your programs.

One of the things we tackled immediately was the performance management system at the Department. Through the Management Review Board, we overhauled that. When we first got there, there were three different performance management systems. We were at the end of the year, we were looking at comparing apples and oranges and grapefruits, because one agency had a three-level rating system, another had a four-level. A few had a five-level.

So we tackled that, and we now have one five-level performance rating system. We have moved -- we're in the process of moving everybody to the same cycle, because actually we had people on different cycles. We've connected it now to the fiscal year, which helps us in budget and performance integration. And we also successfully negotiated the inclusion of this with the union representing 8,000 of our field staff. So it's not only senior executives, but it's all about 2,400 or so supervisors and managers, and now the field staff, the rank and file. And we have also set parameters on critical elements.

We found, in the previous management systems, some agencies had four critical elements in our department, some had -- one had 12. So what we did in order to have some consistency, we set eight critical elements down for everybody. Four of them were going to be consistent in all performance agreements. There were four sort of managerial competencies that are expected in each one of the performance agreements. And then we left four up to each individual agency so they could be more focused on their particular missions. So now we're going to be able to evaluate both ratings as well as just individual performance, because we'll be talking about -- off the same performance management system. That was very helpful to us.

We are very -- obviously, like most agencies, concerned about succession planning. We had an SES candidate development program. There was one at the Department a few years ago. We decided to have another one. And actually, the Secretary just welcomed 27 new entrants into our SES candidate development program just a couple of months ago.

As we're in the 21st Century here, we knew that job skills are changing. In order to sort of create some liquidity in that, we sought a voluntary early retirement approval from OPM. And they provided that to us. We had 4,000 employees that were eligible for voluntary early retirement. And in the end, a little over 250 accepted it. So about 6 percent.

So I'm fond of saying that when it comes to the idea of mass retirements, that, you know, many are cold but few are frozen. There's quite a few people that are eligible, but not everybody always takes that. But you have to be prepared for that succession that goes on.

Mr. Lawrence: One of the initiatives that the Secretary set up is the MBA Outreach Program. Could you tell us about this program?

Mr. Pizzella: The Secretary -- as you know, we have an MBA President, the first time ever in history. And at the Department of Labor, we have an MBA secretary. Secretary Chao is a graduate of the Harvard Business School.

And so we thought it would be worthwhile to try to attract MBAs in these changing economic times. There are around 400 or so MBA schools out there that offer MBAs. And the Secretary as an MBA herself was very enthusiastic about this. And she as a matter of fact first announced it at the Society of Human Resources Professionals organization gathering in Philadelphia last June.

And our -- we have two objectives. One is to make people who are graduating from MBA school -- to take a look at the federal government, because historically, I think they tend to look towards Wall Street, the private sector, Silicon Valley, and so forth. And the government might be not in their immediate sights. And secondly, we want those people who already have MBAs and are out there in the workplace, who may be looking at changing a job, or in recent times may have provided them incentives to see what else is out there, to look at the Department of Labor and our job postings. Like I mentioned earlier, we're a $56 billion department and 17,000 employees. So if -- you know, we'd be in that Fortune 100 somewhere.

And we actually just completed the application process. And we're going to have very few slots for this program. We expect to have maybe 12 to 15 slots for the first MBA class, which we anticipate starting in January. But we had 250 applicants from across the country. So we face a challenge now of finding, you know, the best and the brightest.

One newspaper columnist referred to this as sort of a man bites dog approach, with the Department of Labor going after MBAs. But again, Secretary Chao is always challenging us to sort of think outside of the box as to how we can do things a little better and a little different at the Department. And the MBA outreach program is one of those things.

Mr. Lawrence: Have you had any early intelligence on what it is the draw was? Because you did describe a difficult situation. The investment bankers hire MBAs, and people would have us believe that the pay and other benefits are often not comparable to the private sector. So what's bringing all these people in?

Mr. Pizzella: We'll probably know more after we've gone through the resumes and interviewing them. But when you get 250 applicants on a brand-new program you announced, something's caught their attention. So we're looking forward to that.

Mr. Kinghorn: Even in the MBA schools, I know historically at Harvard or at Syracuse, many of them weren't really into non-profits. And in the last 2 years, that shifted dramatically -- that they're going back into public sector federal. So it sounds like you're catching the wave at the right time.

Mr. Pizzella: I also think that the President's Management Agenda, that the way he spelled that out may contribute to the interest in business schools where people actually see something that sort of reflects the things that they've studied: human capital, you know, e-government, financial and performance and so forth.

Mr. Kinghorn: People talk in the private sector on how you retain people. And I come out of the public sector, where me, my compatriots and myself remained, you know, in a lot of different jobs, but maybe 20, 30 years in an industry called government, federal government. How do you expect you'll be able to retain? What kind of things are you going to retain? Because we have trouble retaining MBAs and MPAs because they want to do a lot of different things.

Mr. Pizzella: We've set up a program where they will be on rotational assignments within the Department. We've assigned mentors -- we will be assigning mentors to them. So we're going to try to exercise some good care and feeding from the Department standpoint. And we think that some of the programs we have there, they'll find interesting. And you've just got to find the right fit. So we're cautiously optimistic that we'll be able to retain them.

I think the fact that they've applied to come to the Department of Labor is a first big step. They've probably -- we anticipate they have visited our website and looked at a lot of the programs. And they may even have some particular interest themselves, which we would facilitate them working on.

Mr. Lawrence: It's time for a break. Come back in a few minutes as we continue talking about management with Pat Pizzella of the U.S. Department of Labor.

What does the future hold for the Department? We'll ask Pat for his perspective when The Business of Government Hour continues.


Mr. Lawrence: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence, and today's conversation is with Patrick Pizzella. Pat's the assistant secretary for administration and management, and the chief information officer at the U.S. Department of Labor.

And joining us in our conversation is Morgan Kinghorn.

Mr. Kinghorn: Pat, going back for a moment to sort of the human capital issues and expectations. In the future, how common do you think it will be for people to switch back and forth in mid-career?

Mr. Pizzella: I think in the non-career ranks, political appointees, I think it will be very common. And I think in the career ranks, it will be more common than it is today. You know, portability of pension plans, the government's thrift savings plan approach, and so forth makes the likelihood of that occurring more likely because of the similarities between the systems that used to be so distinctly different.

Mr. Kinghorn: Do you think there is a value? Because you've sort of done it in your career. Not only of being able to come back -- come and go -- but also work in different entities. I mean, the career public service rarely has a lot of movement, even at the SES level historically. Have you found that's helpful to you in terms of approaching different agencies and bringing with you some experiences, good and bad?

Mr. Pizzella: Yes. I mean, obviously, the experience is always a plus, because the government does have its own culture and its own systems. And when you arrive at it the first time, it all seems very foreign to you. But after a while, you know, you adapt. And like any other situation, you figure out what works and how you can advance the agenda that you've been assigned.

Mr. Lawrence: What's your vision for the strategic management of the Department over the next, say, 5 to 10 years?

Mr. Pizzella: Well, I think that the Secretary has often talked about the workforce and the 21st Century, and how the Department of Labor needs to play a role in that, a leadership role. I think internally to the Department, regarding its management, I think the e-gov initiative in particular will impact how we serve customers. The 24/7 concept just keeps growing and growing, and it's inevitable from that standpoint.

I think you'll see more and more people visiting the Department of Labor through its website,, rather than walking into an office or sending a letter. So I guess from a visionary standpoint, I think you're going to see a smaller, more efficient, smarter department. And probably government in general will be that way, as more people sort of make a lot of decisions on their own by just acquiring information by visiting websites. Rather than always having to go to a government agency, they can go to a website, and they could spend some time, and make some of their own decisions.

Mr. Kinghorn: In our business approach, we're really approaching sort of this whole area of e-government sort of in an idea of on demand; on demand finance, on demand information. And we'd like to get your thoughts, having been very successful in these initial probably very difficult forays into integrating government through e-government, how far do you think we are as a government in becoming a truly seamless and integrated government through the use of technology and better business processes?

Mr. Pizzella: Well, it's really, you know, yard by yard to get to truly seamless. There are certain factors that drive everything. The effort of everybody to be more efficient, to do things quicker, faster, and better sort of just drives the process.

The technology is another driving aspect of the process. And when you combine those things, it's a healthy race as long as you're being cautious and avoiding mistakes and pitfalls. I think that the U.S. obviously is a leader in this. I mean, if you just look at the industries, the private sector here, we are leaders in that field as a country. And I think the government, particularly now with a lot of interaction with the private sector, we are gaining knowledge as to the best practices that are happening in the private sector as fast as they are happening. And we're just applying them to government.

Mr. Lawrence: As you've been rolling out the e-government initiatives, what changes are you seeing to the sort of classes of people -- their employees? And so at some level, paper-based processes are now being replaced by electronic processes. I'm curious sort of how that's being digested, and if we're seeing any changes. And then even that's understandable, but I'm wondering, is it changing the way the managers are now managing, because one might have imagined a long time ago they had a big staff of lots of people processing stuff, and now with e-government, they don't have those people or they don't need those people. And as a result, the need for that type management would disappear?

So I'm curious how you're seeing changes roll out.

Mr. Pizzella: Well, the people joining the government today are -- have already sort of experienced the advent of the technology age. So newer employees -- it's not new what they're arriving at, or what they're seeing. The knowledge and skills they're bringing with them are knowledge and skills that the government is implementing as quickly as it can.

So there's obviously that sort of transition period where programs go from being very paper-intensive to being web-based. But that's happening daily. The challenge is to make sure you prioritize those items that you want to accomplish more quickly than others, and make sure that you allocate the resources in a way that you can focus on that.

Mr. Lawrence: Is this leading to additional expenditures on, say, training as people learn new things?

Mr. Pizzella: I don't know if you have to label it additional expenditures. A lot of training is web-based now. So in the past, where you had to send someone away or they could only do it at a certain time, but people can take web-based training. So again, the whole idea -- the 24/7 nature of the way the world works and government is starting to work, is transforming the way we manage.

Mr. Lawrence: How is it transforming the way we manage? Is it changing the way the managers interact with the staff?

Mr. Pizzella: Well, just e-mail alone, the flow of information. People -- you don't have to wait so long for a memo to be answered, so to speak, because e-mail shortens all that. And I think almost certainly all our managers -- you know, e-mail is just something that is constant. And it particularly makes what I'll call the easier, the low-hanging fruit decisions, occur quickly, because people can comment within 10 minutes on a proposition that's served up on one e-mail. And then people can leave that and spin away from their desk and go into motion as to what they need to do.

Mr. Kinghorn: Management reform. Obviously, most administrations have had some form of management reform. I think what's unique from my observations on this is its comprehensive nature. And you've mentioned it many times, that it's not only comprehensive, but it gives you some powerful impetus behind what you're doing as head of administration.

Do you find that there is on your other stakeholders -- some of your customers, some of the citizens you interact with, or the Hill, or the GAO outside the administration, a similar interest now? Is there anything changing there that when you go up to the Hill in appropriations, they're actually interested in how well you've done on the e-government initiatives, or how well you've done on integrating budget. Is that changing?

Mr. Pizzella: One of the things in our budget, we have something that's been in there a few years called the IT crosscut. We manage our -- not all of it, but a portion of our IT funds from a crosscutting aspect, where we look at the proposals from a department-wide view and decide whether there's some duplication, whether there's another way to address this rather than just everybody's IT request is assumed to be the best request.

And we've had good success with that in making sure we maximize our resources. And I think OMB views it as a best practice, as a way to manage some IT spending. And in our current budget proposal, we've developed a management crosscut for the first time, where we -- again, agencies will have, as an example, human capital needs that they're looking at. And rather than sort of duplicate need after need in agency after agency, we're trying to coordinate that in a management crosscut, and then utilize it during the course of the year.

Because in the budget process, there's a planning part, and then there's the execution part. And sometimes between planning and execution, a manager's or agency's priorities may change or may shift. And by having a crosscutting approach to that, you're able to maybe move resources from one agency to another without harming sort of one agency, because their priorities have shifted, and to the benefit of another agency, who was hoping to do something that they originally didn't think they'd be able to do.

Mr. Lawrence: We're almost out of time, but I want to ask you one last question since you've had such a unique perspective. What advice would you give to a young person considering a career in public service?

Mr. Pizzella: The short answer is, you know, try it, you'll like it. But my experience of course has been as an appointee. And so my motivation was one of a leader who had an agenda that I wanted to assist in implementing. So that was sort of an easy motivation.

For someone who is looking at it from a different standpoint of just the idea of government and a career, I would -- the government is large. And I would try to shop around. There's a lot of different programs and a lot of sort of unique responsibilities, particularly in the area of homeland security now and technology, where the concept that there's only sort of paper-pushers in the government is not entirely accurate by any means. And there are some really unique challenges that -- where the government is looking for really competent people, and they have to compete with the private sector. So it would be a good experience, if that interests somebody.

Mr. Lawrence: Well, Pat, we're out of time. Morgan and I want to thank you for joining us this morning.

Mr. Pizzella: Thank you.

Mr. Lawrence: Thank you very much. This has been The Business of Government Hour, featuring a conversation with Patrick Pizzella, the assistant secretary for administration and management and the chief information officer at the U.S. Department of Labor.

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

This is Paul Lawrence. Thank you for listening.

Mayi Canales interview

Friday, March 15th, 2002 - 20:00
Mayi Canales
Radio show date: 
Sat, 03/16/2002
Intro text: 
Mayi Canales
Magazine profile: 
Complete transcript: 

Arlington, Virginia

Friday, December 21, 2001

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

The Business of Government Hour features a conversation about management with a government executive who's changing the way government does business. Our conversation this morning is with Mayi Canales, deputy chief information officer of the United States Department of Treasury. Good morning, Mayi.

Ms. Canales: Good morning, Paul. I'm very happy to be here this morning.

Mr. Lawrence: And joining us in our conversation is Jay Tansing, a PwC consultant. Good morning, Jay.

Mr. Tansing: Good morning, Paul.

Mr. Lawrence: Well, Mayi, let's start by finding out more about the Department of the Treasury, its overall mission and some of the specific agencies within it.

Ms. Canales: Treasury is actually one of the most diverse agencies in government. We do everything from promote prosperous and stable American and world economies to taxation to producing coins and currency to safeguarding financial systems to law enforcement and trade to protecting the President. We have 14 bureaus and we run the gamut of operations.

Mr. Lawrence: And let's find out about your role as the deputy chief information officer. What do you do?

Ms. Canales: I get involved in a little bit of everything. As the Treasury deputy CIO I help the CIO oversee strategic planning, capital investments, manage the direction of information technology enterprise solutions. I sit on the Treasury CIO Council and on the Treasury CXO Council, which is actually the human resource, the financial, the procurement, and the information officers all together meeting to address programmatic issues across Treasury. I serve on federal boards and committees, which I think you'll hear about a little bit later as we converse but I get involved in everything Treasury does.

Mr. Lawrence: How many folks are in the Office of the CIO?

Ms. Canales: Well, we have about 220 government employees and twice that in contractors. I think we have almost 500 contractor staff.

Mr. Lawrence: And what types of skills do they have? I imagined they're all technologists.

Ms. Canales: Some of them are policy-oriented. Many of them are technology-oriented but more and more in the government as we buy solutions from companies like PricewaterhouseCoopers what we're looking for in the government are program managers who understand IT issues but more have the management skills to make large-scale IT programs successful.

Mr. Lawrence: Mayi, let's spend some time talking about your career.

Ms. Canales: I started my life in the private sector, designing missile systems in the Navy as a consultant and went from there, after the Challenger accident with NASA I went to work as a consultant for NASA designing a quality assurance program to try to prevent any future Shuttle accidents which I'm proud to say so far so good.

And then from there, I met someone who took me kicking and screaming into government life, but I have to tell you that I have enjoyed it thoroughly. I have met hardworking, talented people and I'm having a blast. I started with the Department of Veterans Affairs in their headquarters in what became the Office of the CIO. It wasn't called chief information officer back then but doing the strategic planning, the financing, nationwide solutions, and now I'm with Treasury and am the chief information officer and still having a blast.

Mr. Lawrence: You mentioned that you worked in the private sector before joining public service. How did those experiences impact or prepare you for your career as a public servant?

Ms. Canales: I think it just made me very resourceful. As a consultant one day you're working with NASA, one day you're in Army, one day you're in Marines, one day you're Navy, and you get to know all about government, which is interesting because you think internally people would get to know more about government, but what I found is that people get to know their agency and their mission very well but it's hard for them to get to know other agencies and other missions.

I think as e-government grows that will change a little bit because we have to get to know each other but the private sector just made me very resourceful. I got to know all the parts of government. I got very good at presentation skills and exposure, I think, just exposure.

Mr. Lawrence: How would you contrast the cultures? Some would have us believe that the public sector and the private sector are very close and very similar. Others would say that they're very different. How do you see it?

Ms. Canales: Well, I think that in the private sector as you get to huge companies, they actually aren't that different from government. The issues are the same. They have massive cogs that you have to turn to get anything done. That's historically what people say about government. How do you get anything done? But in the past two years where I've been with Treasury and the Federal CIO Council with the partnerships we've created we've done incredible things.

E-government has really moved quite a bit in the past two years. We've got FirstGov out there, the government online portal. We've got committees out there looking at processes across government, so I'd say large companies are very much like the government.

The smaller companies, they go in and they're like pinch-hitters. They go in and they attack a certain thing and then they go somewhere else and you're just exposed to little pieces and parts. You have a specialty item, so those are very different.

Mr. Lawrence: What drew you to public service and what keeps you here?

Ms. Canales: What drew me to public service was a very nice now passed away but a retired general who needed some help. The Department of Veterans Affairs was doing some nationwide networking and mail implementations and things like that, and he just didn't have anybody onboard to manage those contracts who understood the issues, who understood what a router did and how it connected to other things and what the heck a wide area network was and how people talked to each other.

So he brought me onboard and said just stay with me for three years and get this done and don't worry; it will be good for your career. And it was. I mean, I've had a wonderful time. I've done great things and right now I'm staying because I'm having a great time and I believe in what we're trying to do with e-government. With the new administration and Mark Foreman (?), who's come in to do e-government for us across the board in the federal government, I really believe in what we're doing. I think it's the right thing to do.

Mr. Lawrence: What are the skills that a CIO needs? I mean, you've moved between being a business leader and a technologist. Could you break the job apart into a couple of those categories?

Ms. Canales: Actually, you said the key word there. The technology background that I have, technology degrees, helps a great deal. I mean, I know what people are talking about. I know when somebody's trying to sell me something I don't really want. But what helps me a lot, I think, is my business degrees and the business background, understanding what government's trying to do, because if you think about it technology is there to support business and if we don't understand our business and our mission and what we're trying to do the technology doesn't make any sense so I think it's the business skills.

But I've found that the most successful people in life are people who take the time to listen; they're honest, they're fair, and they just treat everyone with respect and dignity. And in the higher levels that's what's most important.

Mr. Lawrence: Do you think those skills of a good leader are going to change as more and more of life becomes technology-enabled?

Ms. Canales: I don't know that they will need different skills. They'll have to understand how to read e-mail and send things electronically and approve things on a screen versus with a pen and paper. But I think, still, anybody who's a good enough leader to run a nationwide corporation or an agency that has impact around the world is going to understand those things.

I think the skills are still going to be important that they understand their business, they have whatever the business or mission, like with Treasury, a strong economic background is a good thing, but I think still just being able to listen to your managers that you have working for you who are actually responsible for getting things done and treating people fairly with respect and dignity I still think are the strongest things a good leader is going to have.

Mr. Lawrence: What are the management challenges of working with such a highly- specialized team as you have? They all probably have advanced degrees and they're all probably trained in these kinds of things.

Ms. Canales: No ego because they all know far more than I do. And I think the challenge comes when you have to make those tough decisions when the room can't agree and you need to make a call about which way to go on something and not everybody's going to be happy because as you change things, for instance, with e-government the talent or the task is not the technology, really.

I mean, it's combining processes, like, say, trade, commerce, Agriculture, Treasury, Transportation, Justice. We all have pieces and parts of that. If we combine that into one process imagine the culture change across those agencies. People's jobs are affected. Not that people would lose jobs but their jobs might change.

People don't like that. They don't want to change. They're very comfortable for the most part. People hate change. The change management or, I should say, the management of change, the facilitation, the people skills, are the critical things we need today.

Mr. Lawrence: How about the challenges of managing or dealing with a workforce that is, as you indicated a couple of questions ago, has a high component of nongovernmental employees?

Ms. Canales: Frankly, I hire companies like you. A company like PricewaterhouseCoopers is familiar with the issues, you have the technical talent, you can swap in a networking talent person one day and a web talent person the other day, which I cannot do in government very easily.

Mr. Lawrence: A lot of people don't think it has as many benefits as you describe and they say well, some jobs are inherently governmental and we ought not do that. Do you feel any of that tension or see that?

Ms. Canales: I think some jobs probably are inherently governmental. There are policy decisions, massive funding efforts, and, yes, somebody in government will always have the case that we truly are not interested in where that money goes. And in the private sector even an honest broker you're allowed to own stocks and things that I'm not allowed to own.

For instance, I don't own any Microsoft stock so that I can make Microsoft decisions without any impact to myself financially. You are allowed to have those things and personally you may have drivers that I don't have. So there are some things that I think need to stay inherently governmental but I need advice. And if I bring in advice from companies like PricewaterhouseCoopers or Bozo- Allen or other companies that are in the business of doing that I'm going to get across-the-board advice.

I use companies like GIGA (phonetic) and Gartner and Metta. They do research for me. They tell me what best practice models are out there. I can't depend on one honest broker, obviously, but I think definitely we need that more and more.

Mr. Lawrence: That's a good stopping point. It's time for a break. Rejoin us after the break as we continue our conversation with Mayi Canales of the Department of Treasury.

Are you aware of the latest goings on in e-government? Well, you'll find out about it from her when The Business of Government Hour continues. (Intermission)

Mr. Lawrence: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence, a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, and this morning's conversation is with Mayi Canales, deputy chief information officer at the United States Department of Treasury. Joining us in our conversations is Jay Tansing, a PwC consultant.

Well, Mayi, in our first segment you talked about your role with the CIO Council. Could you tell us about the Council and what it is it does?

Ms. Canales: Well, we're on the federal and Treasury CIO Council so I'll start with Federal. The new political appointee, Mark Foreman, who is the OMB Director for IT and e-government that we're working with federally, chairs the Federal CIO Council and my boss, actually the CIO of Treasury, Jim Flyzik, is the vice chair of the Federal CIO Council. We've reorganized recently to meet the demands of the new e-government movement on the President's management agenda.

We've structured into three standing committees, workforce and human capital, which are some of the key issues in government and, I think, in the private sector as well best practices where we have the models and looking at what people have done in industry or other governments that might be useful to us as we do things. And then we have government-wide architecture and infrastructure looking at the underlying standards and tools that we all need to interoperate or talk to each other across governments, local, state, and federal, not just federal.

Then myself and Craig Luigart, the CIO of Education, used to be the e-government committee. Well, everything is e-government now so what we're doing is we're coordinating for the e-government committees that are out there. We're trying to coordinate with the CFOs and CIOs and procurement people federally. We have what's called the Quad Council that we meet with. We coordinate with the state and local government. We provide the program management for Mark so that we all have performance metrics, business cases, business skills, access to somebody doing research for us, white papers as we look at models and things like that, so we provide all the underlying structures for Mark to kind of get e-government moving.

The Treasury CIO Council is really quite similar. We function as a board of directors for Treasury managing the enterprise solutions, what we're going to do together, how we want to spend our money, what are the underlying frameworks that we all have to live with, for instance, architecture.

Mr. Lawrence: Now do these councils really do their work? You mentioned coordinating, which is sometimes persuasive and not managing or directive. How do they get work done?

Ms. Canales: Well, in the Treasury CIO Council really we don't mandate. We look at what has the most value for us and it really is a business decision and we agree on certain business decisions like portal technology for one. We wanted to have a framework that makes sense across Treasury so we could do communities of practice like procurement, where we have may one agency or bureau taking the lead on enterprise procurement. Well, that means all the procurement people need to function as one procurement shop, so a community of practice or an interchange of information that's secure and reliable and makes them look and function as one community is something that made sense to us.

Records management, we were all looking at workflow, document management, records management. Only one bureau, the Mint, had done anything at all with document management. So rather than build 14 solutions we decided well, this is a good enterprise endeavor so we're doing that together. Our architecture, of course, is an enterprise endeavor, things like secure transactions, PKI technology, public key infrastructure, where we use that to authenticate and provide secure transmission of electronic files. We're doing that together. In fact we're doing that federally together.

But on the federal level it's a little bit different. We had a task force look at different e-government initiatives and what we should do federally and we had, I think, about 100 submitted from the different agencies. We interviewed all the key agency leaders, CIOs, deputy CIOs, deputy secretaries. I don't think they interviewed any secretaries. I'm not sure but they interviewed key people in all the departments, and we picked what was most important.

Many similar things fell out like travel, records management, architecture, PKI for secure transmissions, and then other things fell out, business processes that crossed many agencies like trade, grants, wage and tax systems that we deal with all the businesses on. But on the federal effort the key thing was citizen-focused, result- oriented. So we tried to pick things that citizens really wanted and had been asking for through the years and things that helped us in dealing with reducing the paperwork burden on businesses and states and local government, things that made life easier.

Mr. Lawrence: Are there barriers to coordination?

Ms. Canales: Definitely. The culture barrier, which I think we talked about a little bit earlier today, where it's going to be a change, things that happen across many agencies where each agency had its own little portion. Agriculture might be looking at just the farming issues associated with trade or things coming into the country associated with food. Transportation is concerned with the transport vehicles coming into the country. Customs is concerned with the law-enforcement side of imports. INS is concerned with the people coming into the country.

So we all had our own little systems that dealt with just those pieces. Now we're going to have a system that deals with the whole thing and that system is the easy part. It's getting all those people to work together as one seamless process that's the hard part.

What if you're applying for a student loan online, you have all the information there, and then you happen to be downtown one day and you walk into the Department of Education? You should be able to get the same service even if your loan was from the Department of Veterans Affairs because it really was a GI student loan. People don't really know where it comes from. They don't really care. Government needs to adapt to that. That's the hard part. That's the barrier.

Mr. Lawrence: E-government is a large part of what you're doing in your role on the federal and the Treasury CIO councils, and FirstGov is one of the big e-government initiatives. Can you tell us a little bit about what the involvement is in this project, and how will you measure its success?

Ms. Canales: FirstGov is for the first time a single entry into all government services. At first we started with just informational components but now as we progress we're moving more into transactions like student loans online, passports on line, grants on line. Not that agencies didn't have those pieces and parts by themselves, but this gives is more of a federal look and feel and all the components are in one place.

So if you look at FirstGov as the entry into government it's going to play a vital role. It may provide all of the tools and standards, the security. It may provide the architecture for us to the search engines. It will play a vital role in everything we do in the e-government arena across government.

I think as we grow in FirstGov, too, at first it was just federal. Then we started doing searches on states and the next link will be local. So it really is trying to tie all the levels of government together. I think the success will be measured by its popularity, how many people use it, citizens, businesses, how many people are coming in through FirstGov and finding what they need through FirstGov.

Mr. Lawrence: Let me ask you to take a step back and give us your definition of e-gov. I know you've described the transactions, and I've imagined doing them while you're doing it. Is that what e-government is all about?

Ms. Canales: Actually, that's the last piece of e-government. I think e-government is probably as little about the technology as about anything else. E-government is providing government in various forms to citizens and businesses, providing what they want from government in an easy way, whether it's online, which is most people think of e-government, a Web page, but if you think about it you should be able to walk in, fax, call, go online, do whatever.

E-government is providing government as a business process, in other words providing loans as a business process, providing trade as a business process, providing grants and assistance to agencies or other entities in business process, looking at that service as a whole. That's what I think e-government is.

Mr. Lawrence: What are the challenges of rolling that vision out while also dealing with the needs for privacy and security? One imagines filling out the loan as you've described, giving information or perhaps having information about me already resident at the place where the loan is being asked for. So how are you going to pull those together?

Ms. Canales: I know we will do all the tools and standards for security and privacy across government as one of the e-government initiatives. I have to say I have my favorite anecdote. People will hand their credit card to a complete stranger in a restaurant. That complete stranger who usually is not anybody you'd known on a regular basis just walks off with your credit card for 20 minutes, leaves it lying around where complete strangers can get it, and then comes back after a while and you sign for it.

People think of online security as being such a mysterious thing because it is online. I think what it is that scares people is that there is so much access to information. It's not just your credit card. It's everything about you and everything about everyone around you.

What we need to provide is a sense of comfort to people that shows this is the risk factor you're taking, and it should be minimal. Nobody is going to guarantee complete risk-free anything whether you're paying with your credit card in a store or whether you're going online to Southwest Airlines buying an online ticket. They can tell you this is the security we provide and we need to in government provide that, and the technology is out there to provide it whether it be biometrics, whether it be smart cards, or whether it be public key infrastructure with certificates.

Spain is looking at a solution where people go to the post office or to their mint, which does their currency and coins and identifies themselves, prove that they are who they are and they get a certificate, and the certificate works when they go online and buy government services. We just need to do something similar. It's not rocket science. So we need to find similar ways of doing that but the technology exists.

Mr. Lawrence: That's a good stopping point because it's time for a break. Rejoin us in our conversation with Mayi Canales from the Department of Treasury. This is The Business of Government Hour.

SPEAKER: How can your agency cultivate a culture of innovation? Find out by downloading the Endowment's new report "Understanding Innovation: What Inspires It, What Makes It Successful," by Jonathan Walters at (Intermission)

Mr. Lawrence: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence, a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers. This morning's conversation is with Mayi Canales, deputy chief information officer at the United States Department of the Treasury. Joining us in our conversation is Jay Tansing, a PwC consultant.

Mayi, we ended the last segment talking about e-government and I was left with a couple more questions. Where are we, the US federal government, relative to the rest of the world in e-government?

Ms. Canales: I think the US is just starting when you think about e-government. What's happened in the past few years is agencies as they respond to the need to put their services online have created, like, Treasury Online and Agriculture Online and Justice Online. So we have recreated government online with the existing building stovepipe, so now we have stovepipes online. Yes, it's fun. So now what we need to do is take those stovepipes and make e-government and business processes online.

So I think in this country that's an incredible challenge. If you look at a country like the UK that has really, really come a long way or Australia or Spain is just starting they just make the decisions to do these things, and their government is one country which is sometimes smaller than Texas and so they can get their hands around it easier. They're organized differently than we are.

For instance, all their health care services are in one place. They might be at the local and at the equivalent to our federal level but they're under one ministry. So we have it where not only are we huge, but then our health care is in five different places, our grants are in ten different places, our trade crosses 40 different entities, so we have that issue as well.

Mr. Lawrence: Where do you think e-government is generally in its life cycle?

Ms. Canales: In this country I'd say we're in the very, very early stages of planning and design because I think we actually have to take a step backwards in some cases and deal with the fact that we have all of these online services which don't talk to each other, maybe are not doing things when you look at whole process, and are not accounting for pieces and parts of that process. So I think we actually have to take a step backwards and look at some of those things, start sharing some of these tools and advances that we've made, and then maybe start doing away with some of the things we have out there and replacing.

Mr. Lawrence: Mayi, the Klinger-Cohen Act of 1996 changed the landscape of IT in government. Can you talk a little bit how this act has been implemented and its impact on Treasury?

Ms. Canales: Sure. The Klinger-Cohen Act, as you know, created CIOs, chief information officers, for which I am forever grateful because I love my job but I think some of the things that it made us look at are IT as investments. IT used to be we're getting the big end of year money dump, how many PCs can we buy, and there was no sense of what those PCs would support or standards or how we were going to fit them into our business processes.

So IT is now made an investment. We have a capital investment review board at Treasury as all the other agencies do. We have councils that function as board of directors like the Treasury CIO Council and the Treasury CXO Council which I mentioned earlier that has the CFOs, the financial, the procurement, and the HR people working together to identify all the administrative issues.

I think that the Klinger-Cohen Act made us look at performance metrics, how do we know if we're successful. Trade is my favorite example because yes, we have all these great systems that are online but guess what. The truck is still sitting for four hours on the border. Success ought to be getting that truck through the border as it drives up, everything cleared and secure.

Mr. Lawrence: The president's management agenda focused on e-government technology and many of the issues we've already talked about. How does the president's management agenda impact Treasury or affect Treasury? How does it roll out?

Ms. Canales: Treasury is very involved in four initiatives specifically for the president's management agenda, at least the e-gov portion, which is what I'm familiar with. We are directly managing the Easy-Tax initiative, which has to do with online tax filing and reporting. We are directly managing the unified and simplified wage and tax reporting with Social Security as a very strong partner to deal with the businesses that have to do all those forms for wage and tax reporting.

We are directly involved with Commerce as the managing partner. We're the strong partner in streamlining the trade process and we're also the managing partner on the wireless initiative, which provides interoperability or the ability to communicate across local, state, and federal entities for public safety.

Mr. Lawrence: What does it mean to be the managing partner for an initiative?

Ms. Canales: "Managing partner" is another word for lead but it's not just that you take the lead on an initiative because we are creating what we call program management offices. Those program management offices are not just the managing partner, in other words Treasury creating this management group and making decisions. They're staffed by, say, for the wireless initiative people from FEMA, people from Justice, people from Homeland Security. They are helping us make the decisions. They're helping us with the investments.

It means that we're pooling our money if we're playing nice together, which I hope we will, so it just means that we are creating the entities, the tools, the support structure for these other people to join in and be very strong decision makers in the overall effort.

Mr. Lawrence: How long is that supposed to take?

Ms. Canales: The 23 initiatives that we have defined right now for e-government under the president's management agenda are 18- to 24-month initiatives, doable initiatives. But as we're working on those we're going to be looking at the future, next steps, so maybe we'll do additional things with wireless. Maybe wireless will be done in 24 months and we'll move on and do case management. Who know?

Mr. Lawrence: How does the office of the CIO use performance-based management to promote effectiveness of agency operations? And how are the performance standards established and evaluated?

Ms. Canales: We have for investments performance standards that are related to the mission or critical business need of the investment. Like I mentioned trade, the truck coming across the border would be a metric. Waiting lines at the border would be a metric. So our metrics are changing to be related to whatever business we're supporting.

On performance-based contracts we're making some progress there. We've defined incentive-based contracts which are you come over, you help us do this, and we'll pay you out of the savings. For instance, we have one with several companies where we're looking at telecommunications. I'm going to pull numbers out of the top of my head but say I spend $200 million a year on telecommunications services nationwide. Well, say a company can come in and say you know what, you can do that more efficiently. You can do that for $100 million a year. I'll come in. I'll define the efficiencies, you only pay me if I save you money. That is the easiest form of performance-based contracting there is.

But on other contracts where we buy a solution or a service we're taking away the metrics which used to be, at least in the IT world, very IT-oriented, like, the system must be up 99.9 percent of the time with a turnover within five minutes should anything go down to the fact that agents out in the field in Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, ATF, have access to their information immediately.

For instance, like, wearable technology is a solution. They have access to case information on an investigation that they're doing. Immediately online all the time they can plug stuff in so another agent across the country has the same information on a related case. That's a measure. So those are the types of metrics we're looking at.

Mr. Lawrence: What are the challenges to implementing performance-based contracting or even performance-based management? It seems too logical and clear as you described it.

Ms. Canales: The challenges are contracting challenges mostly. We need to redefine contracting in government. It used to be very specific where you would bring pieces and parts in and deliver them and set them up and hopefully they would work but now we're not doing that any more. I'm trying not to own any pieces and parts.

But contracting has had the biggest hurdle to jump here trying to define a contract where you guys are my partner, I'm opening up my books to you, you guys know how much money I have, which is forbidden in the government world. Show the books? Forget it. That way they would know what you're spending.

But if I'm buying a service from you how can you do it appropriately if you don't know what my budget is and what I have and where I need to streamline? So that's been the biggest hurdle is the contracting rules and regulations are not exactly created that way and we're trying to find innovative contracting methods and incentive-based contracting like what I described is one that has worked for us.

Mr. Lawrence: Accountability is also a big issue. How do you drive accountability into the IT investments that Treasury makes?

Ms. Canales: It's interesting because you go up on the Hill and you testify and you see the CIO testifying about modernization for Customs or INS and that's about as accountable as you can get. But I think what's interesting is that the IT people are now testifying on the business processes and what you're doing for the business and you're saying these are the things that I'm going to improve and this is the end state that you will see two years from now and I'm going to deliver this. Every year you will see these features.

We no longer say it's going to take me five years and you'll get this gray box at the end of five years. We're going to say it's a five-year effort. You will see these improvements in year one, these improvements in year two, these improvements in year three, and we're measured on that. We have scorecards. At Treasury every CIO employee has a scorecard that is directly related to the goals and strategies of Treasury for that year.

Mr. Lawrence: How has having such a scorecard affected performance and also even the culture?

Ms. Canales: Well, it's been interesting. At first they hated it, of course, because, like, my God, you're measuring me. You want to know if I'm doing my job. You don't trust me. But it's interesting. It's created a sense of I'm doing this to improve financial stability around the world. You see the link. Here is the goal, stabilize the economic markets around the world and then improve financial systems within Treasury, create the following mechanisms, IT employee working on this, this, and this. It directly relates to that. It really gives them a sense of being there for the mission of the agency.

So it's been a couple of years to get to that sense, but I think they now understand why they do the things, which made no sense in the past.

Mr. Lawrence: That's a good stopping point. We got to go to a break at this segment. Rejoin us in a few minutes as we continue our discussion with Mayi Canales at the US Department of the Treasury. In the next segment we'll ask her to pull out her crystal ball and tell us about the future of technology in government. 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 Mayi Canales, deputy chief information officer at the US Department of the Treasury. Joining us in our conversation is Jay Tansing, a PwC consultant.

Mayi, in our conversation so far you've been talking about technology and the different things that might happen. So I'm curious. How will technology affect federal employees in the way they do their jobs?

Ms. Canales: I think you'll see a lot more of being able to do your job anywhere anytime type employees. Unfortunately, I am now accessible 24 by 7 with e-mail, phone, paging, and it's all in one little box. I can do my whole job from a little wearable device but it's interesting.

I think that we now are not limited to our offices. We can work from home, agents can work from the field, and you have access to everything you normally have access to your desktop, and I think that's the biggest change I see.

Mr. Lawrence: Will it affect how the government is managed. For example, old models or hierarchical structures or ratio of managers to employees 1 to 7 or whatever that was, and now with technology how will that change?

Ms. Canales: I think it will make it easier for managers. A lot of what took so much time in the past was the paperwork, signing memos and routing them around and some person physically walking this memo around because it had to get out that day. Now I send a memo out and I send it to six people and I can either structure it so it gets approved serially or all at one time and I can say give me your input and it's all there electronically and I get all their input at the same time and I can make decisions right away and get it out right away. So I think as far as workflow it's made our lives so much easier.

I think you'll see lot more in government of, as I mentioned earlier, program managers where they're managing solutions and services and not managing people. So I think you'll see a lot of that type of change.

Mr. Lawrence: How about in terms of the technology and its impact on citizens?

Ms. Canales: I think you know anybody who has kids or has watched kids in grade school, in college, in high school nowadays, they don't wait in line for anything. They do everything online. I'm even that way and I'm in my mid-forties. So I think, as this next generation grows up government better be responsive and provide government in lots of mechanisms online, offline, buildings, phone, fax. I think government needs to adapt to that and provide the services based on what our citizens want. I think our citizens of the future are online citizens, and I see governance going online.

Mr. Lawrence: Are there any interesting new technologies on the horizon that you're looking at that you think will play an important role in Treasury's overall activities in the future?

Ms. Canales: Yes, I think wearable devices are going to play a critical role which is wireless technology but for solutions where agents can wear devices that allow them to (1) get access to information, (2) see things that you see these virtual components where another agent is in another area and they can actually see that other agent and what that agent is seeing and what's he's dealing with and things like that.

I think in health care, which is not a Treasury mission, technology is going to play a huge role, people with wearable devices that tell them go to the hospital because in the next five minutes you're going to have a heart attack. Imagine the life saving that that will have. So I think wearable devices and wireless technology are the hot things coming up.

Mr. Lawrence: How far away do you think that is?

Ms. Canales: It's here. It's here. It's not all over the place but it's like DVD players. They're under 100 bucks now and they used to be 1,000. So you'll see them more and more.

Mr. Lawrence: We hear a lot about the difficulties that the federal government is having in recruiting and retaining employees, especially technology workers. Can you describe the Treasury's Information Technology Work Force Improvement Program?

Ms. Canales: Yes. We actually have several features but I think the one thing I'd like to mention up front is that in the old way of thinking people used to take a job and they'd stay with that company or with the government 30 years until the day they retired. In the private sector you guys have adapted very well to the fact that sometimes you get somebody in three years and then they get bored and go away.

In the government we are just learning that. It's okay to come and work for the government three years and then go somewhere else. That keeps you getting new blood. You don't need everybody staying for 30 years, which is a new mentality in the government.

I stick out like a sore thumb because I have never had the same job for three years ever in my entire life. I get bored and I move on or I might stay with one company but I work Navy one day, NASA another day, and health care another day. What Treasury is trying to do to address some of those issues is creating program managers and project managers.

We've got two interesting programs that I'd like to mention, the executive potential program and the management potential program. The executive potential program is for what are called GS-14s and 15s, which are one level down from the top, the Senior Executive Service, and it trains them and it sends them to different facets of government and private sector and opens them up to things like what happens on the Hill, what happens in OMB, what happens in other agencies, how does the private sector deal with this. It gives them team building and facilitation skills and business classes. So we've got that. It's an 18-month program, and it sets them up for Senior Executive Service.

Then we've got the management potential program, which is the next level down. I believe it goes to GS-13s and 12s. I'm not sure of the grades but it does the same thing. It prepares them to be senior IT managers in the government, and it opens the up to program management skills, team- building skills. Performance-based contracting is one of the things we're teaching them in there. So it's interesting. We're trying to build a succession ladder.

Mr. Lawrence: Are those retention tools? Normally when we talk about acquiring IT workers people think about just recruiting but I'm curious about retention because I'm imagining by the time people are in Treasury and they develop these specialized skills they have other opportunities perhaps in the private sector but also in other parts of government.

Ms. Canales: Right. I'm not as worried about retention because I think if you're providing a place where somebody is growing and happy that will happen. But what I've found is that even when people leave and go somewhere else, especially if they go to the private sector, generally their skills are coming back to help Treasury anyway.

When I was a CIO for one of the health care networks in the Midwest I lost three people I could say to Cisco. Sure enough, within a year those people were back helping Cisco identify ways to improve the health care network that I was in. So I got them back anyway because they liked to stay in the area, that's what they know, and they had better jobs. They were happier but they were still helping me, so that was fine.

But even if they leave and they go to another agency it's still for the good of government or for the good of whatever technology. So I'm not as concerned about the retention factor as I am about the factor of giving people what they need to do their jobs and making them happy at work and making them feel like they are well- respected and cherished employees.

Mr. Lawrence: I know there was talk on the Hill of having ways whereby I think technology workers could move across the sectors to get more training. You've done that in your career but I'd be curious about how you think that might work.

Ms. Canales: With the federal CIO council work force program we do have mentoring initiatives where we share workers at the different levels. They'll come and they'll do a year; they'll come and they'll do three months. It depends on the initiative they want to work on but we share them. I've personally had four or five in the two years I've been at Treasury, four or five people that have come over in mentoring programs and worked with us, and I have two people currently out on mentoring programs in different agencies right now.

Mr. Lawrence: What were the lessons learned?

Ms. Canales: They love it. They come back and they have all sorts of new ideas and did you know they did this or guess what, I showed them what we did with this. And they'll be working with something, something budget-related especially, which tends to cross our agencies now, and they say I know who to call over there and they call somebody especially when you send somebody on a detail. In fact I have a third. I just remembered I have somebody on a detail at OMB, and he's learned all of our budget contacts, I know who to call who can answer that, and it really excites them. They like it.

Mr. Lawrence: What advice would you give for a young perhaps who's perhaps interested as a career maybe a CIO?

Ms. Canales: Actually, I would say a technology background is great but when you get your masters or you go on for your advanced degrees get a business degree, focus on business, even get something you like. Like, if you're interested in finance or health care or something like that get a health administration degree or a political science degree or a finance administration degree. Focus on an area that you like and learn the business.

Mr. Lawrence: How about in terms of the types of experiences that they should be having, should they be trying to work on very technical projects or large groups of people? What would be the most relevant experience?

Ms. Canales: I think it depends on what they like to do but it helped me as I was growing up in technology to be very technical at first and to understand what the issues really are because when engineers come to me I understand their pain, I hear their pain, and that means a lot to them. I may say no but I understand what they're talking about and that means more to them than I can say.

Mr. Lawrence: Our final question, what's your vision of the office of the CIO for the next ten years at Treasury?

Ms. Canales: I think it will be an investment management firm. I believe that we're going to be doing investment management, making decisions about where to spend money, how to streamline things, not just at Treasury but across government because Jim likes to talk about the government blob. My boss, he likes to say government as we do these business processes across you're going to see a blob of government that's focused on trade and a blob of government that's focused on grants and you shouldn't in the future to be able to tell where people work.

Mr. Lawrence: That's a good stopping point, Mayi, because I'm afraid we're out of time. Jay and I want to thank you very much for joining us this morning.

Ms. Canales: I enjoyed it thoroughly. Thank you.

Mr. Lawrence: Did you have a website that you wanted to mention?

Ms. Canales: Yes, actually I was going to plug FirstGov so people can see what we're doing across government,, and I think that on there it tells you the new things coming up with e-government.

Mr. Lawrence: Great. This has been The Business of Government Hour featuring a conversation with Mayi Canales, deputy chief information officer of the US Department of the Treasury. Be sure and visit us on the Web at There you can learn more about our programs and research and you can also get a transcript of today's fascinating conversation. Again, that's This is Paul Lawrence. See you next week.

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