Leadership

 

Leadership

From Forest Fires to Hurricane Katrina: Case Studies of Incident Command Systems

Monday, April 2nd, 2007 - 20:00
Author(s): 
The success of the Incident Command System (ICS) as a hierarchical-network organizational model in emergencies such as forest fires led to its being designated by the federal government as the preferred approach for responding to emergencies. However, it seemingly failed in the response to Hurricane Katrina. Professor Moynihan examines the Katrina case, as well as others, and identifies the conditions under which the ICS approach can be successful.

Vice Admiral John Harvey, Jr interview

Friday, March 30th, 2007 - 20:00
Phrase: 
"I [the Navy] can offer an incredible array of training that prepares young men and women for a future that's theirs to make."
Radio show date: 
Sat, 03/31/2007
Intro text: 
Human Capital Management; Strategic Thinking...
Human Capital Management; Strategic Thinking
Complete transcript: 

Originally Broadcast Saturday, December 16, 2006

Washington, D.C.

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 businessofgovernment.org.

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 Vice Admiral John Harvey Jr., Chief of Naval Personnel and Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Manpower, Personnel, Training, & Education.

Good morning, Admiral.

VADM Harvey: Good morning.

Mr. Morales: And joining us in our conversation is Bob Bleimeister, partner in IBM's human capital practice.

Good morning, Bob.

Mr. Bleimeister: Good morning. Glad to be here.

Mr. Morales: Admiral, can you tell us about the mission of your office and how it supports the mission of the department, and the Navy specifically?

VADM Harvey: Certainly. I think the best way to think of it is I am the Navy's people-guy. I represent every aspect of the people part of our Navy, the best talent that our nation has to offer, and how we bring them into the Navy, how we take them through the Navy -- their training, their education, their assignments -- and then how we either retain them up to the point where it's time to retire or they separate and go on to another career. So it's a pretty all-consuming version or view of the people in the Navy and everything about their lives with us in uniform.

Mr. Morales: Admiral, I probably should have asked you this to start with, but perhaps you can give us a sense of the scale here. When you say Navy, how big is the Navy -- the military, the reserves, civilians -- and can you relate this size to the scope of your efforts and how your office is organized? And perhaps you can tell us a little bit about the budget that you manage.

VADM Harvey: Sure. The numbers will I think make clear that we stay pretty busy. On active duty today, in the active duty force, we have about 350,000 sailors -- that's officers and enlisted. About 50,000 officers and about 293,000 enlisted, with 4,400 midshipmen at the Naval Academy on our books. For the reserve component of the Navy, for the ready reserve, it's a total of about another 130,000, with 70,000 in our selective reserve who we have in a drilling status, who we still see in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and around the world in various places, and then in our individual ready reserve who are on standby working through their lives but on our books as potential to serve, that's about 60,000. When you look at the civilian component, which I am not strictly responsible for, that's another 175,000 individuals. So when you total it all up, we've got close to 900,000 folks in the Department of the Navy doing the nation's business every day. Now in terms of my budget, I spend about $30 billion a year in terms of direct costs in our military personnel accounts -- that's paid allowances, training costs, et cetera. So it's a pretty hefty sum to take care of all those folks.

Mr. Morales: So just to clarify in terms of the scope, it is the men and women in uniform, both active and in reserves, but not the civilians.

VADM Harvey: Correct. That is correct.

Mr. Bleimeister: Admiral, you've got a dual title: Chief of Naval Personnel, and Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Manpower, Personnel, Training, & Education. Could you describe in a little more detail your personal role and responsibilities?

VADM Harvey: Absolutely. When you look at the title "Chief of Naval Personnel," that's rooted in law and deeply rooted in our history. The first chief of the Bureau was put in office in 1862, and that was in result to the growing demands of a rapidly expanding navy in the Civil War, when you used to just bring in and pay off the crew members on the ship and never worried about anything beyond that immediate tour of duty. When they expanded the Navy to fight the war, they realized that model was not going to be a model for success.

So today, the Chief of Naval Personnel is responsible for the recruiting function of all our officers enlisted, the training function across the board, getting them ready for what we want them to do, distributing them throughout the Navy to where we need them to be, and then again retaining those that we want to keep in for their career, who want to stay with us who we want to stay, up to the point where it's time to either retire or separate. So that's kind of the today job.

There's a future look to it, which is the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations, where I look ahead and say, "Okay, here's what the Navy's structure is going to be 5, 10, 15 years from now. What do we have to lay in in terms of our plans and policies to ensure we have the right kind of people to match that kind of structure for the global environment we expect to face out at that time frame." So that's the future look, if you will. And making sure we have those roadmaps in place to get us from today to what we believe will be our future that will match up with what we think the Navy's going to look like at that time as well.

Mr. Bleimeister: Admiral, you've had a very interesting career up until you took over this job about a little over a year ago. Could you talk about how your career in the Navy started, and leading up a bit to before you took this role?

VADM Harvey: Certainly. Like so many others, it started at the Naval Academy, and I graduated from there in 1973 with a degree in political science, but I don't want to go into too much detail. It's important because one of the really big things I learned there set me on the path that has carried me through for 33 years. I was a political science major and I loved it, and the math and science and technology, the physics, electrical engineering, didn't come that easily to me, and because it didn't I sort of avoided it and didn't perhaps make the level of effort I needed to along the way. But I went on a summer cruise and realized that at its heart, this was a technologically-oriented Navy, and that to make the most of the ships, the aircraft, and the systems that we operate, you really do have to have a deep understanding of what it is -- the fundamentals of what you're doing.

And so I looked around and said getting into the nuclear propulsion program would be a way of helping to really upgrade the technical side of my education, and that was putting it mildly. I was lucky enough that I had a good enough foundation to go and be interviewed by Admiral Rickover, be accepted into the nuclear propulsion program, and since that time, I've been able to blend together my desire to command a ship with a career of working my way through the surface side of the nuclear propulsion program, where I ended up as a reactor officer on board an aircraft carrier, as well as being able to go on to command a destroyer and a cruiser. So I blended the nuclear side -- the nuclear propulsion side -- of our Navy with the surface side and that sort of defined my at-sea career.

And then on the shore side of the house, when you weren't at sea, just by accident I developed a sub-specialty in the people business, and it was purely just a random assignment when I was younger, but I really loved it. I really enjoyed every aspect of dealing with the individuals and finding out what makes them tick and how do we find the best fit for their knowledge, skills, abilities, and talents in our great Navy. And so I stayed with that on the shore side and worked the personnel piece and then the manpower policy piece, and so it just so happened I ended up ready to be given the job that I have today. So a combination of good fortune, good experiences, and great teachers made this all happen.

Mr. Morales: For someone who admitted that he didn't care for math or physics too much, that leap into the nuclear program must have taken a lot of courage.

VADM Harvey: It was a non-trivial event, let me tell you.

Mr. Morales: It's one of those life-defining moments.

VADM Harvey: Right, it really was. It was a very challenging program, and I just can't overemphasize what it meant, the sense of accomplishment that it gave me when I came through the program. And I didn't just sort of reach the finish line and collapse, I went through well and it really gave me a lot of confidence for the future. I have always felt one of the best decisions I ever made was one of the first ones I ever made.

Mr. Morales: Admiral, you have served in a variety of roles, and you've just described some of them, but can you tell us, based on some of these experiences, how have they prepared you for your current leadership role and have informed your management approach and your current leadership style?

VADM Harvey: Well, I think one of the very important things I do today is to convey to our Chief of Naval Operations, to our senior leadership, the Secretary of the Navy, a sense of the force, a sense of the people -- how do they view themselves and their Navy, their place in the Navy, their future, their opportunities, are their capabilities being exploited to the maximum that there is? And so that's a very important thing for me to understand and be able to pick up on what that is, and then turn that into something coherent for our CNO -- here's what we need to be worried about, here are things we need to be focused on, and here's where we need to be headed for the future. So my experiences in command of a battle group, of a cruiser, of a destroyer, and then my experiences ashore in the people business I think have really helped me be able to develop that sense for where the force is, and what we need to be worried about, thinking about, and doing. And that's the first big thing.

The second big thing is really getting a bead on the future, having a good understanding of where the rest of the Navy is headed so we can integrate the human capability with the technological capability we're building, understanding the global environment we're going to be in, and then pushing that forward. And so I've been very fortunate to have some tours, whether it's my postgraduate education, my experiences when I worked in the office of the Secretary of Defense for Policy, getting a global view of that, and then some other jobs I've had on the Navy staff, where I've understood what the future is in our ships, our airplanes, and our weapons systems. So to blend that together to help give that good, coherent picture that the people need to fit into.

Mr. Morales: Excellent. How is the Navy transforming, maintaining, and shaping its force structure?

We will ask Vice Admiral John Harvey Jr., Chief of Naval Personnel and Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Manpower, Personnel, Training, & Education, to discuss this with us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.

(Intermission)

Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm your host, Albert Morales, and this morning's conversation is with Vice Admiral John Harvey, Chief of Naval Personnel and Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Manpower, Personnel, Training, & Education.

Also joining us in our conversation is Bob Bleimeister, partner in IBM's human capital practice.

Admiral, would you tell us about the Navy's strategy for our people? How does this enable the Navy to assess, train, distribute, and develop its manpower to become a mission-focused force that meets the warfighting requirements of the Navy?

VADM Harvey: Sure. There are two very distinct but interrelated components on the strategy for our people. The first part, the people side, starts with understanding and defining the workforce of the future -- what is the work that our sailors will have to do, what are the knowledge, skills, and abilities that they're going to need, and then how will these knowledge, skills, and abilities be utilized on our ships and aircraft and systems? So that's the people side, and understanding the work that those people will have to do.

Then there's the business side, which is how will we transform our existing processes that govern all those activities I just described to ensure that we deliver the skilled sailors we need to have who can do the work we believe we're going to have to do? Now the goal of the people side, or the strategy for our people is to define the future Navy workforce, and then what is that human capital strategy that will govern how we recruit, train and manage them for mission accomplishment? And the business side is taking a look at my domain, if you will, the manpower, personnel, training, and education, bringing those together into a single value chain, and focusing that value chain on getting the best value from the people we bring in. So it's two pieces put together, and that would comprise the total strategy for our people.

Mr. Morales: Along this same theme, Admiral, could you elaborate on the Navy's new Sea Warrior program? How does this enable a more flexible and responsive development and deployment of the total Navy workforce and provide sailors with more control over their careers?

VADM Harvey: Sea Warrior is how we brought together the training, education, and career management systems that provide and govern the growth and development of our people. Sea Warrior is how we look at this in a holistic fashion. At the heart of it is giving the individual a real input into their own career development, their buy-in, if you will, to the Navy. For 200 years, we sort of told people where to go, what to study, and what to do. What we need to do for the future is bring these individuals in and make them part of that process -- put them at the heart of it -- because it's their future that we're trying to bring together with the Navy's future. And if we get that kind of buy-in in terms of career management development, then I think we really unlock the full potential of these folks when they commit to us for a career. And so that's the growth and development of our people.

Then there's that piece I talked about -- better understanding the work and what it is that the future's going to demand of us, and then relating that work to the mission and to the capability that our ships and aircraft have to provide. So at the end of the day, I don't want to just say that a sailor delivers on a particular job, I want to be able to say that this sailor delivers this capability to the Navy and to the nation.

Mr. Bleimeister: Admiral, you've talked a bit about this -- it's really a newer focus on skills, capabilities, competencies, as some people call them -- can you elaborate a little more on how you think that's going to impact the future force, and what are some of those skills and capabilities you think are going to be more in need?

VADM Harvey: Oh, sure, and this is really exciting stuff, and I mean that in the fullest sense of the word. Since 9/11, we have been coming to grips with the rapidly changing global security environment that we're going to have to deal with today, three years from now, ten years from now. And so you have these kinds of rapid changes, and these very new demands on our sailors of what they're going to have to be able to do and where they're going to have to be able to do it. And we look at where we've been traditionally -- we've sailed to the Pacific, to the Atlantic, we've sailed in what I think people have as this vision of the victory-at-sea Navy, their view of what we did in World War II -- and now we have to expand that so dramatically in places we haven't gone before, in mission sets we haven't done before, and that type of thing.

And so as we bring that together, how do we look at the capabilities that have changed that are going to be demanded of our sailors? And within those different capabilities, what are the bundles of competencies -- those knowledge, skills, and abilities -- that we have to bring together? Because we're getting beyond "single sailor, single job" -- this is the real breakthrough concept, I think. We're looking at single sailor brings a competency, a group of competencies, that enable that individual to go in many different directions for us. Because that's the kind of flexibility and agility that our force is going to have to have, so therefore, it must be the flexibility and agility that our people are going to have to have as well.

Mr. Bleimeister: Great, and if we take that down to a specific ship, there's a relatively new ship coming to the Navy, the littoral combat ship, and a program called Train to Qualify that will help enable those sailors that man those ships to be fully ready when they arrive. Can you talk about that?

VADM Harvey: Well, absolutely, because this is a dramatic change that is driving a lot of what we've just been talking about. The littoral combat ship is our newest ship. We've just launched the first one, the Freedom. We expect to commission it and place it in service in July of next year. That ship will have a basic crew of about 40 sailors doing what used to take a ship of that size between 180 and 220 sailors to do. Obviously, when you change the math like that, you have to change some other things very dramatically as well. One of the things that we no longer have the luxury of doing is putting a sailor on board that ship and then taking the four to six months to qualify on all the various jobs that that sailor may have to do. Because there are only 40, and because they operate as such a coherent and cohesive team, that sailor must show up ready to go in all respects, with the knowledge and the ability to deal with all different watch stations, to do the specific functions and skills that we require. A very different concept, and so we call it "Train to Qualify" -- train before you get there, be qualified when you get there. So we get the maximum out of that sailor right from the minute he or she shows up to the ship.

Mr. Morales: So there's really no more on the job training with this new model.

VADM Harvey: Well, there's always on the job training, no matter where you are and what you do, but it's going to start from an incredibly high level of proficiency, and so I would call it not so much on the job training, but really the enhancement of the team that would start when you get there. The training, we're going to have to provide before that individual shows up.

Mr. Bleimeister: Great. There's another dimension to development: the Navy's professional military education continuum. Could you talk a little bit about that, what that consists of?

VADM Harvey: One of the things that we've talked about so far in this show is the rapid pace of change across the board that we're having to deal with. And so one of the ways we deal with that is recognizing that at every step in a career, we want to be sure we're investing in the individual -- officer or enlisted -- and that investment is in education. How do we keep that individual current? How do we help enable the critical thinking for that sailor that enables her to do what we need them to do in a very uncertain world? And so it starts with a required reading list that we now have. Wherever you are in the food chain -- at the lowest level of our enlisted ranks or the most senior officers -- we have a required reading list we think you need to execute and absorb in order to be proficient in what we expect you to do.

And then at every step in the career, we feel there's going to be some points for professional military education, for particular graduate education, and then for joint military education, because now we fight as a joint force. There are no Navy-only or Army-only battles anymore. So we try to blend this in across a career, both for our officers and enlisted, so that we're always bringing them more new topical knowledge to help them develop and be more effective in the jobs we expect them to do.

Mr. Morales: Admiral, you referenced the dramatic changes in the landscape that occurred since 9/11, and I would imagine that the Navy is seeking to develop and enhance its foreign language skills, its regional expertise, and its awareness of foreign cultures. Could you tell us about some of the key initiatives that fall under this effort, specifically your language, regional expertise, and cultural strategy?

VADM Harvey: Yeah, this has been a very significant line of effort for us since 9/11. It was really in the most recent quadrennial defense review, and this is the big review that went through in the last year within the Department of Defense saying, "okay, what does our future look like and how do we as a Defense Department respond to that?" Obviously we were part of all that, and the big piece of this was understanding what our language requirements are to be effective in the future. We don't just go to Europe anymore, or we don't go to Hong Kong where they speak English. We're now going throughout Indonesia, we're going into Africa, we're going all around the globe in places we never really used to engage that much before. So how do we do that? It's not just language, it's the expertise, the cultural awareness, those things you've just mentioned.

So we've stood up a new foreign area officer program, where we will educate specialists in each one of these areas that we have strategic interests in for the nation and the Navy. And we'll build around them. They will serve as naval attach�s; they will serve in key policy positions to be sure they bring that detailed area knowledge into our policies, our programs, and the decisions about what we do and where we do it.

We're realigning our personnel exchange program. If you looked at where we sent our officers and enlisted on the exchange programs that do so much to develop a really good mutual understanding with other navies and other nations, you would see we were perfectly aligned to the foreign policy of 1806. So we need to get that up to 2006, and that's what we're doing right now in terms of our exchange programs. We're heading south and east; we're not so much focused on north central Europe any longer. Languages: we just finished about 138,000 individual assessments of our sailors in 274 different languages. I was stunned at what I learned about what our sailors already know.

And now we're taking that baseline and saying, okay, where are these strategic areas that we have to have a far better linguist capability, which is really native-speaker type capability, and then just awareness where you can engage with someone but not necessarily in a perfectly-translated way? What are those requirements, where are they, and how do we fill them? And so we're very focused now on developing that program to be sure we cover all those areas. We've stood up down in Pensacola in our training command a center for language, regional expertise, and cultural awareness to help centralize how we train throughout the Navy on just those very particular areas.

The first test case of that is we're sending a riverine squadron over to Iraq, so they're getting language, they're getting the cultural piece, the tribal culture that exists over there, the obviously different ethnic backgrounds that we're reading about so much every day today. Making sure that they go in understanding the fundamentals of language and the fundamentals of culture within which they'll be expected to operate.

Mr. Morales: How is the Navy transforming its personnel function?

We will ask Vice Admiral John Harvey, Chief of Naval Personnel and Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Manpower, Personnel, Training, & Education, to discuss this with us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.

(Intermission)

Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I am your host, Albert Morales, and this morning's conversation is with Vice Admiral John Harvey, Chief of Naval Personnel and Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Manpower, Personnel, Training, & Education.

Also joining us in our conversation is Bob Bleimeister, partner in IBM's human capital practice.

Admiral, can you elaborate on how the Navy is transforming from the largely blue water force from the Cold War to a much more broadly and joined, engaged force to meet the challenge of an ever-changing world? And specifically, what are some of the key components in terms of infrastructure and force capability associated with this transformation?

VADM Harvey: Sure. The first and most important piece of that is that we stood up a naval expeditionary combat command that took all these types of forces that we found being used over the last four years to support our efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq, that aren't those mainline blue water forces that we all kind of grew up with and understand so well. So it's the CBs, or the construction battalions, civil affairs, the intelligence specialists or master at arms, the riverine force I talked about, maritime security, small boat detachments, and all these types of forces that we brought together in one command so that we can focus their efforts, their training, their development, and their deployment in the right way and what's demanded by our support of the joint fight.

When I took the job, if someone had told me three years ago that I'd have 10,000 sailors on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan today doing all kinds of missions that they're uniquely qualified to do in support of our fight there, I would have looked at you and said, "c'mon, go back where you came from." But it's true. We have 10,000 sailors on the ground doing all types of things, leading the electronic warfare battle against the IEDs, providing security at prisons, all the things that we're so talented in, that we have so much talent and so much ability to do, and providing that to the joint force in those areas. So a huge investment in our people, in our effort, and our resources to make that happen.

We have 180 sailors on provisional reconstruction teams high in the Hindu Kush in Afghanistan working to bring that country back into the 19th and 20th centuries from where the Taliban took them. So it's just amazing stuff that's going on and we have reorganized and reshaped and recruited and changed who we bring in and how we bring them in in order to be able to be relevant and ready and responsive to these demands that we're seeing now.

Mr. Morales: Admiral, could you describe for us some of the key retention and recruitment efforts being pursued by the U.S. Navy as it transforms itself to a leaner, more agile force?

VADM Harvey: One of the very big things to understand is that we were about 382,000 strong in November of 2002. Today, as I said at the outset of the show, we're about 350,000, and we're going to head down to about 340,000 at the end of this next fiscal year. So as you lean that force, you have to be far more precise in who you bring in and ensure you have the right skill sets available to you at the right time, because you won't have the luxury of just throwing numbers at a particular situation anymore. So we're very, very focused now on the right sailor coming in with that right skills set and qualifications, so that we can train them up and get them out and into the field or into the fleet where we need them right away.

The biggest challenge I have -- this is really with our special warfare communities, our SEALs -- the War on Terror, this long war that we're in now, has demanded a significant growth in our special warfare and special operations skills sets. You don't just go out and find a SEAL on the street here in Washington or anywhere else. We have to go out and find them. It takes a lot of effort, and then it takes a lot of effort for them to get through our training, as you might expect. So that's a very, very tough nut to crack for us -- increasing those numbers from where we are today to about twice the size of the force we have right now, and making that a reality that we sustain over the long haul. Our explosive ordnance disposal specialists, our special operations folks, again very, very unique skills sets, unique individuals, incredibly valued, so big changes for us in the skills sets that we're looking for, in addition to sustaining the ships and the aircraft that we've been doing for so long.

Mr. Morales: Admiral, if I may, on this topic of recruitment, what role do things like bonuses or other incentives, as well as the sailors' quality of life issues, enhance your ability to successfully recruit and retain these types of individuals?

VADM Harvey: Well, I think they're incredibly important. You can image that we have a sustained unemployment rate in this country now of about 4.75 percent, and that defines our recruiting battle space. The job creation market is very strong, and businesses are going for the same very talented young men and women that we are. So one thing that I can offer, though, is an incredible array of training that prepares these young men and women for a future that's theirs to make. And so to help focus that possibility for them, I have a very good array of bonuses that I can pay for enlistment, if you are the type of person we need in our nuclear propulsion plants, or for the SEALs, or for a wide variety of other skills sets, I can put a bonus out there, get their attention, talk to them about the training they're going to receive, the education, and what it means for their future, and generally when we get their attention, when we have this conversation, I can get a pretty good result out of that.

So the bonus structure enables, really helps us get the attention and get the conversation started. I don't think anybody truly just comes in for the money. They come in for the opportunity. That join the Navy, see the world, learn a skill, get educated, build for the future whether in the Navy or outside of it -- that's been true since John Paul Jones took the Bonhomme Richard to sea back in 1775, so it's true today.

Mr. Bleimeister: Admiral, I imagine there's a linkage between sailor and family-readiness and combat-readiness in the Navy as a whole. But with ongoing deployments, how is the Navy helping sailors and families maintain a balance?

VADM Harvey: Well, this is one of the great a-ha moments that we've had over the last couple years. With the increased pace of operations and the lack of predictability of operations in our post-9/11 world, we've recognized that the old paradigm that you took a set amount of time to get the ship ready, to get the sailor ready, and the family ready for deployment no longer meets the mark. What we have to do is get the sailors ready sooner individually, and keep them ready longer, and so that means that families need to be prepared as well sooner and maintained at a higher level of preparedness for short-notice deployments, or deployments that were thought to be going this long in this place and now they're going a different length of time in a different place.

So the family preparedness becomes equal to sailor readiness, which then becomes obviously equal to our unit readiness. So that's that whole paradigm we have to shift to, and we have to solve that equation together. You can't just focus on the sailor, you can't just focus on the ship, you need to focus on the family, the sailor, and the ship at the same time, get them all ready together, keep them ready longer, and make sure that we're paying equal attention to all component parts of our overall fleet readiness.

Mr. Bleimeister: And one of the components of readiness for the sailor, I imagine, is fitness. Can you talk a bit more about the Navy's culture of fitness initiative?

VADM Harvey: Absolutely. We talked about the lack of predictability in our lives right now, whether you're in the Navy or outside of it. And so one of the things we found was that in terms of being ready, we used to be on this long stair-step approach -- take a fitness test twice a year, check the block, and then go back to whatever your lifestyle was until a couple of weeks before the next fitness test. That doesn't meet it for our demands these days. So we have really refocused our commanding officers on saying, "you are responsible to have a program where your sailors are maintaining a much higher level of fitness across the board," and that means they have a better level of wellness across the board, because there's a direct correlation between your physical fitness and your ability to sustain it and your overall health, which has obvious impacts on your overall job performance over a career. So we want to be ready in a physically fit type of way. It's the foundation for getting back into this idea. Think about it -- I've got 10,000 sailors on the ground carrying 60-pound packs in 120 degree weather out there in the desert. You have to be fit to be able to do that. And you may not get a whole lot of notice that you're going to have to go do that. So we've refocused our efforts to say we want to be at a higher level of fitness across the board all the time than what we sustained in the past.

Mr. Morales: Admiral, the Navy has a commitment to maintaining personal links with its seriously injured sailors. To this end, would you tell us a little bit about the recently established Navy's Safe Harbor program?

VADM Harvey: Yes, as you could imagine, when you have some of our sailors -- and there are equivalent programs for all the services, and it's really the right thing to do -- you have some of these sailors who have been very severely injured in the events in Iraq and Afghanistan, and how do you bring them back? Not only just sustain them medically but help them rebuild their lives, rebuild their abilities to function in our society, and then fulfill our moral obligation to help them make whatever transitions they're going to have to make to get on with their future and keep their families in the equation as well? There's a wide array of things that these sailors and their families have to deal with. There are our own fleet and family service centers, there's the Department of Veterans Administration and the wide array of services that they offer, there's the Department of Defense, their pay, Department of Labor programs -- it's really a dizzying array of initiatives, policies and programs that you just can't dump somebody into and say, "Good luck and figure it all out."

So Safe Harbor keeps them within the family, and keeps us engaged with these sailors and their families, help them navigate this very, very difficult process they're going to have to follow, where either they're able to return to duty at the end of a long recovery/recuperation period or transition to another aspect in the civilian world and help them get off to a good start there. It's not simple, it's very challenging, it's demanding physically and emotionally. We owe them this, it's a Navy family thing, and we're going to stay with them right through 'til when they can take care of themselves on their own.

Mr. Morales: That's fantastic.

What does the future hold for the Navy? We will ask Vice Admiral John Harvey, Chief of Naval Personnel and Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Manpower, Personnel, Training, & Education, to discuss this with us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.

(Intermission)

Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I am your host, Albert Morales, and this morning's conversation is with Vice Admiral John Harvey, Chief of Naval Personnel and Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Manpower, Personnel, Training, & Education.

Also joining us in our conversation is Bob Bleimeister, partner in IBM's human capital practice.

Admiral, as you take a look over the next ten years, what type of personnel concerns do you think the U.S. Navy will face?

VADM Harvey: There are three big things that I focus on when we take our long look and try to match our people to the demands that the nation's going to place on our Navy. The first one is the changing nature of warfighting. Now, I'm not saying "the changing nature of warfare" -- that I think will stay pretty stable, but the characteristics of warfare obviously are changing -- have changed dramatically. And I think they will continue to do so. We face far more diverse, globally networked adversaries and families of adversaries -- state, non-state, loosely-allied, loosely-allianced actors -- it's a very dynamic situation. And so you're going to have to have a force that can deal with that. Not necessarily the set piece -- there's the Soviet navy, that's what we focus on, that's what we study, and you spend years and years studying that and focusing on that. We really have to widen our aperture and be far more flexible in our ability to understand the threats we face. And so we need people with different skills and knowledge and abilities to do that for us. So that's very important to me.

The second thing that's really important is the changing nature of the society that we serve, and the society from whom we draw our sailors. The demographics of this country are changing dramatically. It's not just a guess; the science of demographics really gives you some very good, hard results that are going to unfold -- a rapidly growing Hispanic population, the shrinking of our Caucasian young males in the age group between 18 and 25. So our methods of recruiting are going to have to change. We have a generational shift going on -- the millenials are coming in and the aging baby-boomers are on their way out, and Gen-X, and so we have to look at this new labor market, if you will, understand where our sailors are coming from, where the talent is, and how we reach that talent and not only bring it in to our Navy, but then make sure that they understand, these wonderful young men and women, that they have a future with us, with the kind of a Navy that we're going to be. So it's that whole nature of the people that's changing, and how we have to change as an organization to get the most out of them.

And then the third thing -- this is Washington so we're going to talk about money -- and what are the fiscal constraints that I'm going to be under. People are more expensive -- it's true in the Navy, it's true at IBM. Anywhere you look, people costs have just exploded over the last 10 to 15 years. I grew up in Baltimore, Maryland and I can remember this big huge industrial complex called the Sparrow's Point, Bethlehem Steel. It doesn't exist any longer, and it was done in partly because of extraordinary labor costs that were locked into the people and the way that their workforce was shaped. We can't afford to have something like that happen. We can't be a dinosaur and have a dinosaur approach to this, so we're going to have to find some pretty innovative ways of dealing with the fiscal constraints, the cost of people, the capabilities we have to deliver, and how we bring those together in a sustainable way for the future. So those are the three big ones that I spend a lot of time worrying about right now.

Mr. Morales: Let's talk a little bit about the base realignment and closure recommendations and the quadrennial defense review decisions. How is personnel and manpower involved in helping to ensure a seamless transition to new structures and missions while preserving its uniquely vital capabilities?

VADM Harvey: Well, this is really a pretty challenging process. One thing, I'm very glad that we had this base realignment closure. I fully understand a lot of the pain it can bring to individual regions, but if we haven't had this to rationalize our support structure, then I am using a lot of people doing things that don't return as much to the Navy in terms of capability as they should. So it's very, very important to us to get the most out of our people, to have the most efficient structure we have from all our supporting bases and installations. The QDR helped to clarify our future and what it is I need to focus on and what my priorities are. So it's given me that impetus to say, "okay, here's what we have to do more of; here's what I have to do less of," and then how we apportion our resources accordingly.

The one thing is that -- I'll take one exception to the wording -- is no transition to anything is ever seamless. If you talk about one of my lessons learned from 33 years, there are seams but how do you recognize them and how do you mitigate them? I think that's the key, and so it's how we work the people piece, how we work this process piece to be sure we're driven by the capabilities we must provide, and taking advantage of the technology, and then putting those together and saying, "okay, what is the infrastructure we require to deliver on these capabilities?" That's what the BRAC has given me, that's what the QDR has helped do for me, and then we're putting that together to make sure that we have that right balance between our capabilities, our force structure, our people structure, if you will, and the fiscal resources I have to sustain them.

Mr. Bleimeister: Admiral, with all this change going on, the Navy's civilian workforce is also going to undertake some transformation with DoD's National Security Personnel System. Could you tell us how NSPS will affect the Navy's civilian workforce?

VADM Harvey: Yes. You heard me use the words through the course of this interview "changing," "agile," "flexible," "adaptable," and "uncertain environment." Well, that applies to our civilian workforce as well. They face the same environment that the uniformed sailors do. So how do we best prepare them -- how do we help shape them to deal with that same type of uncertain world, with that same level of response that we require out of our sailors?

And I think this is what the national security personnel system, which is NSPS for short, does for us. It focuses on individual performance goals that are aligned with the organization's goals. Tell them why we need them to be performing at certain levels in certain areas. And so you keep the people aligned with the mission and aligned with the organization. I think that's a huge step forward. And then it gives me the ability to be far more agile in how I move this workforce around and put the capabilities that these wonderful people have against the problems we need to address. And so it gives you that kind of flexibility that's so important to us in the future. So I think this is tough, it's big change -- it is real deep change, but it is right change and it's the right thing to do.

Mr. Morales: Admiral, you've given us just a wonderful window into the exciting personnel transformations going on within the U.S. Navy. I'm going to give you an opportunity here to put on your recruiting hat and tell us, what advice would you give to a person who's interested in a career, say, in public service, especially in the military? And finally, what do you say to that young sailor out there about the career opportunities and climate of the future Navy?

VADM Harvey: Well, that's a terrific segue and I really appreciate this, because I do have some very deeply-held feelings about both those issues. Number 1, this is a democracy; it is a participatory democracy, and our armed forces across the board and our Navy will only be as strong as the investment that our people make in them. And the most crucial investment the people of the United States are going to make in their Navy is who they send to be in that Navy. And so recruiting is at the heart of everything we do. We need the best young men and women this country has to offer to defend this nation 365 days a year, around the globe, against a dazzling array of very, very deep and dangerous threats. So public service for me is service to your nation. I hope that people think about this and look at the enduring contribution that this Navy has made to this nation for the last 231 years. We are a maritime nation. Our commerce, our economy depends upon the free flow of goods and services and resources across the seas. It did in 1776 and it does today. So we need to make that investment, sustain that investment in our people, in our Navy. I think that's of paramount importance.

To the sailors today, they know and I want them to have confidence in our ability and our commitment to their future with us. They have extraordinary opportunities. We will invest in their training, we will invest in their education, and we will invest in their future. And we are committed to them being able to unlock all the opportunities and potential they have within them, to be the kind of person they want to be, to be the kind of sailor we need them to be, and to recognize that a future in the Navy is a bright one, it is a promising one, and one that offers them tremendous returns individually as well as the ability to say at the end of the day, "I served my nation, I served my Navy, I wore the uniform, and I did it proudly."

Mr. Morales: Admiral, thank you very much. Your passion is very exhilarating. Unfortunately, we have reached the end of our time, but I do want to thank you for fitting us into your busy schedule. But more importantly, Bob and I would like to thank you for your dedicated service to our country in all the roles you've held within the United States Navy.

VADM Harvey: Well, thanks very much. It was great pleasure to be here today, and I look forward to continuing this dialogue any time in the future.

Mr. Morales: Fantastic. This has been The Business of Government Hour, featuring a conversation with Vice Admiral John Harvey, Chief of Naval Personnel and Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Manpower, Personnel, Training, & Education.

Be sure and visit us on the web at businessofgovernment.org. There, you can learn more about our programs and get a transcript of today's conversation. Once again, that's businessofgovernment.org. 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 our government but who deserve our unconditional respect and support.

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

Jayson P. Ahern interview

Friday, March 16th, 2007 - 20:00
Phrase: 
"We need to make sure that we're flexible to any emerging threats -- to be adaptive to any threat posed from the moving of people or things into this country..."
Radio show date: 
Sat, 03/17/2007
Guest: 
Intro text: 
Missions and Programs; Collaboration: Networks and Partnerships; Organizational Transformation; Strategic Thinking; ...
Missions and Programss; Collaboration: Networks and Partnerships; Organizational Transformation; Strategic Thinking;
Magazine profile: 
Complete transcript: 

Originally Broadcaast Saturday, March 17, 2006

Washington, D.C.

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

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

And now, The Business of Government Hour.

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

One of today's greatest challenges is protecting the country against terrorists and the instruments of terror, while at the same time fostering the country's economic security through lawful travel and trade. With us this morning to discuss his organization's lead role in facing this challenge is our special guest, Jay Ahern, Assistant Commissioner, Office of Field Operations, at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Good morning, Jay.

Mr. Ahern: Good morning.

Mr. Morales: Also joining our conversation is Dave Abel, director of homeland security services at IBM.

Good morning, Dave.

Mr. Abel: Good morning, Al.

Mr. Morales: Jay, let's give our listeners an overview of the organization. Can you tell us about the mission and the history of Customs and Border Protection?

Mr. Ahern: Absolutely Al, and thanks for the opportunity to talk about the mission of Customs and Border Protection. The way I look at it, and certainly Commissioner Basham as well, we look at it that no agency in government has a greater responsibility for protecting the homeland from the introduction of a terrorist or a weapon of mass destruction or weapon of mass effect coming into this country than the men and women who work the front line for Customs and Border Protection.

And as you know, certainly the President started with the creation of the Homeland Security Department through the Homeland Security Act when he signed that into law in 2002. And on March 1st of 2003, with very little lead time to do adequate planning for doing a merger of this magnitude, we set up the Department of Homeland Security as well as the creation of Customs and Border Protection.

In our mission, not only is it -- certainly the priority mission of protecting the homeland for terrorism concerns, but also at the same time, we have to protect the country for the introduction of agricultural pest and disease that could have devastation on the economy, the country and the agricultural markets. But also as far as traditional trade and revenue issues, $25 billion still go to the general fund of the United States Treasury. But also as far as our drug interdiction role, we seize close to two million pounds of narcotics every year, as well as seize hundreds of millions of dollars for money laundering and drug proceeds going back to drug producing countries. But also as far as the critical function that was formerly within Immigration, relative to admissibility of individuals coming into this country that could again be criminals, adding to the illegal migrant population of this country, or for the introduction of potential terrorist operatives.

Mr. Morales: Now, Jay, this is a very broad mission. Can you give us a sense of the scale of the operations? How many miles of border are covered, how many ports are we talking about? And how many people and items pass through these entrances?

Mr. Ahern: When you take a look at just the expanse of our organization, not only just here domestically, but the foreign offices we have overseas, I mean, certainly when you look at the geography, over 5,000 miles on the northern border, and 2,000 miles plus on the southern border, and the coastal communities of over 12,000 miles. And within those geographic boundaries and kind of the geography that's out there, we have over 300 ports of entry as well. So we have those as kind of our windows of opportunity where we have just considerable amount of individuals coming in to the country, certainly over 400 million people come across our borders each year air, land and sea, and that's a considerable challenge.

And as you mentioned in your opening, it's our twin pillars to make sure that we actually facilitate legitimate travel and trade as we cultivate and deploy our layered strategy for defense of the homeland, and if we don't do that accurately and do it effectively and come out with a well thought-out strategy, stifling legitimate trade or legitimate travel would have such a negative impact on the economy of the country that the terrorist organizations would win in that fashion, so we can't let that happen.

Mr. Morales: And this includes the U.S. territories in both the Atlantic and the Pacific also?

Mr. Ahern: Absolutely correct.

Mr. Abel: So Jay, your organization within CBP is the Office of Field Operations. Can you tell us a little bit about the specific role and mission of that office?

Mr. Ahern: Absolutely. I often look at the Office of Field Operations as one of the most pure examples of a merger. I mean, when we talk about the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, oftentimes, people will talk about it's the largest reorganization and merger in government history, or at least since the creation of the Department of Defense in the World War II era.

But when we actually look at the merger that occurred within CBP, it was really the one that occurred within the Office of Field Operations, where we took three different organizations formerly with Agriculture, Customs and Immigration, and merged them into one organization where we changed lines, chains of command, the front line officers all had the unifying policies and procedures under one organization now, where previously in three different departments of government, they were organized. But to take a look at the scope of the complexity that I talk about with admissibility of individuals, seizure of drugs, preventing terrorists. You know, we do that with an organization of about 25,000 people. And that's made up principally of our front line CBP officers as well as specialists who are doing the agricultural admissibility concerns. We also have import and trade specialists that provide a mission as well as many other support people that keep our organization going. And our part of the organization is basically 25,000 out of over 42,000 in the entire organization.

Mr. Abel: Now, Al mentioned the role that you play in territories as well as mainland United States. What type of role does your office play internationally as well?

Mr. Ahern: Well, internationally, we have a very significant responsibility. Certainly we have many overseas pre-clearance locations throughout Canada as well as the Bahamas, Bermuda, two in Ireland, and also in Aruba, where we have overseas officers stationed -- we have over 500 officers stationed overseas performing that pre-inspection function for people coming back to the United States that have traveled outside the country, but also, we have a very critical mission that we're out there performing. We have over 200 officers stationed in 50 different locations around the world as part of the Container Security Initiative.

So we have individuals there as part of our layered strategy interdicting containers of potential concern before they're being put on a ship laden or destined for the United States. So we have an opportunity to intervene them when there is a score or a target of risk before it gets put on a vessel. And we also have attach� and representatives stationed in many countries around the world, basically working our policies and procedures as part of the embassy corps.

Mr. Morales: So we've talked a little bit about the broad mission of CBP, and about your organization within CBP. I'd like to focus a little bit on your individual responsibilities. Maybe you can tell us a bit about the role that you play as Assistant Commissioner?

Mr. Ahern: It's a very challenging chore, and it's one I enjoy every hour of every day, and it seems like oftentimes, many of those 24 hours are filled. We joke, but it's required. But you know, I do love it and it's something that -- I started 31 years ago and it's something that I've enjoyed and aspired to do all the while. But when I take a look at the responsibility, and I -- I recently did an interview with the Washington Times, and it's something I convey to our field directors and to the front line employees when I have a chance to get out and talk to our field personnel, that if people don't get a sense of urgency and understand how critical the mission is that they perform every day, they're in the wrong profession. And that's how I start every day, realizing that the decisions I make, the policies and the operational determinations we make every hour of every day are critical to the security of the homeland, and that's essential.

Not only as far as, you know, when we execute policy decisions and provide instruction to our field from here, but dealing interdepartmental -- within different departments in government, and certainly within the Department of Homeland Security, I think we've done a tremendous job of moving forward in just basically a little over three and a half, almost four years now, creating the infrastructure, not only for creation of a new department, a new bureau, but also as far as the right policies and procedures, and the right foundation that's going to be there as our legacy years down the road.

We're really at the point in time over the last three or four years since DHS was set up and CBP was created that I believe very strongly some years down the road, it'll be written about in history books, when they take a look what happened post-9/11, what were the actions that were taken by government to go ahead and make sure an act like this never occurred on U.S. soil. I believe a lot of the things that we're doing within DHS and within CBP will be well-chronicled and speak to the security of the country.

Mr. Morales: Jay, you alluded to being in government now for 31 years. Could you describe your career path for our listeners? How did you get your start in public service?

Mr. Ahern: It began a little over 30, almost 31 years ago now. After I graduated from college in Boston, I took the Civil Service examination to go ahead and work for a government agency. I knew I wanted a career in public service. And the first organization that came calling was U.S. Customs, and I actually started on the U.S.-Mexican border in San Ysidro, California in the mid-'70s.

Mr. Morales: Now, you certainly have had a broad set of experiences in those past 30-plus years; how has your previous experience prepared you for your current leadership role and shaped your management approach and leadership style?

Mr. Ahern: Well, I think again, everything you do builds towards what you're going to be as you advance yourself through an organization. And I knew after the first few years in the organization, I wanted to continue to advance, and realizing that you would have to be mobile, have to go ahead and work in a variety of different port and field locations, and to have the different levels of management expertise. I realized that early on. So as I now sit here over 30 years later, I also look back over 10 different moves in a variety of different locations. And I'll take this opportunity to thank my wife and my two children for their support and willingness to move so frequently over those years. Because without that kind of support at home, you can't do it.

But clearly, having different positions in the field, advancing through the ranks at just about every level that's out there -- and this being my third tour back in Headquarters, this is something that I think has prepared me for the challenges today. Because when you take a look at both understanding the field, understanding the headquarters practice and making sure we have a good understanding of what goes within the Washington Beltway dealing with departments, dealing with Capitol Hill, testifying before Congress frequently, those things really -- it just takes a lot of experience and lot of time to get to that point.

Mr. Morales: Great. So it sounds like no regrets then.

Mr. Ahern: Not at all.

Mr. Morales: What is CBP's multilayered security strategy?

We will ask Jay Ahern, Assistant Commissioner, Office of Field Operations at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, to share with us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.

(Intermission)

Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm your host, Albert Morales, and this morning's conversation is with Jay Ahern, Assistant Commissioner, Office of Field Operations at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Also joining us on our conversation is Dave Abel, director of Homeland Securities at IBM.

Jay, can you describe to us what is the advance manifest rule, or sometimes referred to as the 24-hour rule, and the guidelines surrounding the Trade Act? And what is required from the carriers before entrance in to the U.S. ports? And if I may, what happens to them when the fail to meet these requirements?

Mr. Ahern: Okay, I think it's important to kind of begin with talking about the layered strategy we had when we were put in place post-9/11. We realized, given the type of attacks this country was facing at the time -- and continue to face today, I would say -- we needed to make sure that our ports of entry and the borders of the United States were not the first opportunity for us to intercept either something or someone of concern who posed a risk to this country.

So we actually crafted the Trade Act of 2002 that actually got us advance information for not only maritime cargo that we get through the 24-hour rule, but also for air and land shipments as well. And what this does for us is it gives us the information electronically for very specific elements that we can then run through our automated targeting system to score for risk before containers can be put on a vessel destined to the United States. In the last year, we had close to 12 million containers that came into this country. And currently, 82 percent of the containers that come to this country actually come through ports where we have our Container Security Initiative folks staffed overseas.

But the CSI, the Container Security Initiative, would not be functional if we did not have this advance information. So we can run it through our targeting systems, and if anything scores for risk, our officers on the ground, over 200 of them today, work with their host country counterparts to assess the risks, see if they can mitigate it through any additional information that the countries could provide, either through information or intelligence sources. But then if there is a need, we will then X-ray, physically examine or use radiological detection devices to see if there's any radiation or nuclear emanations from that particular container.

And if at the end of the day, we cannot go ahead and mitigate that risk and eliminate it, we will give a carrier a do not lade order, so they will not be allowed to bring that into the United States until we can actually ensure that there's no risk to this country. So that gives us our layered extended border strategy, and that's the example we use for the maritime environment.

Mr. Abel: So you mentioned ATS a couple of times the Automated Targeting System. Can you give us a little bit more detail about ATS, maybe some of the enhancements that you're working on to that system?

Mr. Ahern: Absolutely. ATS for us is an exceptional system. And we use it for the maritime environment where we do ocean rules, where we actually focus specifically for maritime shipments coming into the United States. And we score them for risk. And we think that's smart for us to have the efficient borders I spoke about in the opening, where we didn't want to go ahead and stifle trade as we were trying to provide security. We get 100 percent of all the manifest information, but we then score it for risk.

We also under the Automated Targeting System for passenger, another component within ATS, and there's seven altogether, but the ATSP for passenger is one that's come under some scrutiny lately. And a lot of people think there's commercial sources of information we're using to score, and people have almost like a credit rating attached to them on how we score them. That's just not factually correct. What ATS for passenger targeting does for us, it's a decision support tool for our front line officers that we can have advance information, that we have, by statute, the Aviation Transportation Security Act, signed into law after 9/11, provides advance passenger information and passenger name records, basically the reservation information for travelers coming to the United States. And that's government-provided information that we're required to receive by law.

It's also the same information that we could glean from every single person, those 400 million people coming in to the country, because it's basic biographic information, and we add to that some of the reservation information that's on the record, basically the flight, the information form, the payment, that you could see if you manually looked at somebody's airline ticket. We also then couple that with crossing history. So we would then have the ability to take a look at what that might pose as kind of an assessment of that person's travel.

We also have added into the Automated Targeting System -- and I want to be cautious about giving any kind of operational detail that could compromise the program we have -- but certainly, it's important for us -- and this is something the 9/11 Commission criticized the government for -- as not being nimble and responsive enough to emerging intelligence and informational trends.

And every time when we sit in our classified briefings every day, we will adjust some of our rules based on what we see as the risk. It could for a given hour, a given day, and we use some of that information that we're getting in advance, and as opposed to sending that out through a muster module and having every officer on the front lines brief to that detail, this system, the Automated Targeting System, is flexible enough that we can write targeting rules using that advance passenger information, the passenger name record information, the crossing history, to see if there's any traits or characteristics that the system could identify and flag for the front line officer, again, as a decision support tool. It's not like something that could be used for, you know, determining somebody's ability to board an aircraft overseas.

This again has flags, and sorts 87 million people by air coming into this country, sorts it into a very manageable number of people that may pose a risk. And I say "may." And just flags them for the front line officers to follow up on. And there's no numerical score that's attached to it. It's not like an individual's credit rating that shows that they've been delinquent on bills -- we don't search into that type of information -- but it's something that's critical for us in being able to manage the risk of the universe of 87 million people by air, and we think that's a very good way for us to manage our borders and keep again, legitimate travel moving, but also looking for risk.

Mr. Abel: The volume of information is exceptional. Can you tell us a little bit about the National Targeting Center and how they relate to ATS?

Mr. Ahern: The National Targeting Center I think is one of the greatest innovations that did come up with post-9/11. Right after the events of 9/11, we created a very small office in our headquarters, and it wasn't much larger -- and I know the viewers can't see the size of our studio this morning -- but it wasn't much larger than the studio we're sitting in right now. And we started bringing in some field experts to try to do centralized national targeting, because we had different units around the country targeting for risk, but we realized that the threat of terror was global and it was certainly national for us.

And we didn't want it to just be resident in pockets around the country, so we established a national centralized location to get the automated advance information that we got through the Trade Act a few months later. And also now have the ability to have all the information for people and for cargo coming into the country run through the centralized location at the National Targeting Center. We're very proud of it, it's been something that's been exceptional for us to go ahead and deal with the intelligence community, deal with the other participating agencies -- there's many other agencies that are actually physically co-located with us at the National Targeting Center -- where we can actually manage our very large workload of, again, over 400 million people coming into this country, the huge amounts of trade that we have coming in this country, that again pose windows of opportunity for operatives or weapons of mass effect or destruction coming into this country. So it gives us ability to do centralized national targeting so we can make uniformed decisions throughout the country.

Mr. Morales: So Jay, risk to international maritime cargo demands a robust security strategy that's able to identify, prevent, and deter threats at the earliest point in the international supply chain. The international supply chain is obviously complex and ever-changing. Can you talk a little bit about CSI or the Container Security Initiative, and CTPAT, the Customs Trade Partnership Against Terrorism?

Mr. Ahern: Yeah, absolutely. Those are other components of our layered strategy. As I stated earlier, it begins with information, we got that through the Trade Act; it needs to then be run through a centralized database, that's the Automated Targeting System, managed at a central location, the National Targeting Center. But also, it was for the purpose of getting information to put it out to our assets overseas. Again, we didn't want our borders to be the first time we encountered someone or something. So we do now have over 200 officers placed at over 50 locations around the world. And these are your major shipping ports of the United States.

And at the 50 locations today, that accounts for 82 percent of the container traffic that comes to the United States; it runs through those CSI ports. We'll be opening eight more ports by the end of this fiscal year, and taking it up to a total of 58. And just for those last eight ports, it will only get us to 85 percent of the container universe. And we think that's about where we should stop, but that gives us again the opportunity to go ahead and engage with our host country counterparts. We've entered into declaration of principles with each one of the countries so that we know what each other's responsibilities are -- we're basically out there without authority, but through the declaration of principles, we work collaboratively with the host country counterpart to go ahead and deal overseas with those particular countries on, again, shipments of risk.

CTPAT's another key part, because certainly, we think one of the greatest vulnerabilities in supply chain is point-of-stuffing. And having some of your largest corporations here in the United States and overseas engage with Customs and Border Protection in a partnership agreement -- and this was brought about, again, right after 9/11, with the first group actually signing in November of 2001. We now have over 6000 certified partners, and these are your largest companies worldwide that have agreed in a physical security assessment with us, and we've actually gone out to do validations worldwide on the supply chains to make sure that there are the right controls and procedures and procedural security in place for companies overseas, and throughout the supply chain, so that we can have confidence and a higher degree of integrity at the point-of-stuffing, and all the way through the supply chain as it makes it to our ports, to our CSI teams to make it all the way through the supply chain.

Mr. Morales: Jay, I have to tell you that I'm still grappling with the scale and scope of the operations here. Along with the CSI program that you talked about, can you tell us about collaboration and the criticality of collaboration with other federal agencies? And specifically, can you tell us a little bit about the partnership that you have with the Department of Energy and its Megaports program?

Mr. Ahern: DOE and the Megaports Initiative folks have actually been one of our more critical partners. You know, another part of our layered strategy is the radiation detection capabilities, and we have radiation portal monitors being stationed at our ports of entry here in the United States. And I'll tell you that just within the last year, we had the first installations occurring at our ports of entry, the sea ports, we only had about 37 percent of the containers running through radiation portal monitors, because that's one of the last layers before a maritime container goes into the commerce of the United States, it goes through a radiation port monitor. And we're now at 87 percent, we'll be close to 100 percent by the end of this calendar year, and DOE has been a critical advisor and support for us in that function.

But most importantly, we joined in partnership with them over the last couple of years, that every place we go for CSI, we do joint assessments together. And it is a full collaborative process for us. At that point where we're out there, where DOE is looking to do their radiation detection program overseas as part of a global network, and that certainly fits in with what we're trying to do with CSI, and we think it's better for the U.S. government to put one face out there to these foreign countries, and this is something that we continue to build upon, and perhaps will have a chance to talk later about what we're doing in partnership with them with the Secure Freight Initiative as well.

Mr. Morales: Now, you talked about the ports of entry. Are you able to do this kind of screening at the foreign ports, at the port of departure?

Mr. Ahern: Yeah, we are, and we're going to be doing more of it very soon. What we currently have is a lot of the screening for radiation capabilities. It's only a few of the locations that we now have with DOE that are actually with radiation portal monitors in place where you can actually drive the trucks through. A lot of the other locations, we have handheld devices or some of the host country counterparts have devices of their own, and we complement that with large scale Xray systems as well. But as we move forward towards the next rollout of our overseas strategy with what we're doing with Secure Freight, about what we're doing in partnership with DOE and with our radiation detection capabilities overseas.

Mr. Morales: I'd like to continue for a moment on this theme of collaboration. Could you elaborate on the collaborative efforts your organization has with the other DHS subcomponents, specifically as it relates to the sharing of information used for passenger screening or cargo screening and the border security efforts?

Mr. Ahern: Absolutely. We think certainly the partnerships that we need to have within DHS are critical for us. I mean, probably one of our closest partners is Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE. I mean, they are the investigative arm of a lot of the interdiction and the enforcement efforts we do at the ports of entry. And it's important for us to make sure that they have availability to a lot of the same information we do. Now, certainly -- proprietary or privacy-protected information is always maintained and controlled, but being within one department, we think it's a lot easier for sharing that information within the components that are partners. ICE is certainly one. We're doing a lot with TSA as well, not only just the transportation security aspects of it, but also the people part. And we think that's critical for us to continue those partnerships.

And one of our strongest partners we're working with right now is Commissioner Basham and also Commandant Thad Allen of the Coast Guard have charted a senior guidance group to see what other opportunities we have for collaboration with the Coast Guard. We do a lot of things together for training, joint boardings, so there's not redundancy for the trade when we're out, here comes Coast Guard to do a boarding of a vessel and here comes CBP. We're doing that now collaboratively and jointly so that we don't have to have two boardings for industry. And we think that's smart, so we're sharing a lot of information on how we select vessels for, for targeting and for boarding, and for the follow-up enforcement action.

Mr. Morales: Great.

How is CBP managing its border and port security strategy? We will ask Jay Ahern, Assistant Commissioner, Office of Field Operations, at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection to share with us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.

(Intermission)

Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm your host, Albert Morales, and this morning's conversation is with Jay Ahern, Assistant Commissioner, Office of Field Operations, at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Also joining us in our conversation is Dave Abel, director of homeland security services at IBM.

Jay, could you tell us, what is the Security and Accountability for Every Port Act, or Safe Port Act of 2006? What are the implications of the Safe Port Act in terms of enabling CBP to better accomplish its mission? And what is the status of the implementation today?

Mr. Ahern: Well, the Safe Port Act actually codified a lot of the programs we've talked about in some of the earlier segments today. It codified our programs for CSI, as well as the CTPAT program. Also, it has more challenges for us as we look at enhancing our Automated Targeting System, and also has a requirement for us to begin doing more overseas work.

There had been a lot of conversation in the Congress over the last several months, probably close to a year now, doing 100 percent screening overseas. I'm not sure that a lot of those that were advocating knew exactly what they were saying or what that meant or what the impact was, but clearly, as a principal in the agency that believes very strongly in extending borders and having a layered strategy, it made sense for us to certainly begin some of the testing of expanding through our CSI program overseas screening. And we think that's going to be one of the key things for the Safe Port Act that we're going to be testing three overseas locations to do 100 percent screening for radiation and X-ray, complementary to our CSI ports.

Mr. Morales: Along the same theme, what is the Secure Freight Initiative, and how does this initiative support the CBP and OFO missions? Specifically, could you elaborate on what is the future direction for scanning cargo, both here in the U.S. and at foreign ports.

Mr. Ahern: Well, the Secure Freight Initiative is something that was announced by the Secretary, Secretary Chertoff, in December of '06. And basically what that calls for is fulfilling the requirements of the Safe Port Act of doing three locations overseas, 100 percent of the container traffic destined for the United States. And we'll fulfill that obligation in the ports of -- Port Qasim in Pakistan, Puerto Cortes, Honduras, and also in Southhampton in the UK.

And those will be locations where we go out with this first implementation in the overseas location, it will give us the opportunity to take the large-scale X-ray systems, high energy systems to be able to have -- to look inside the containers non-intrusively, and also have the radiation portal monitors that DOE -- the Megaports Initiative folks are going to be partnering with us on as well -- to have that radiation capability and then be able to have the capability to remote all this technology file, if you will, back to our National Targeting Center.

And I think the Port Qasim, Pakistan will be one of our best models to talk about, and we should be starting that probably within the next 45 days. So we're very aggressively out there implementing that schedule under the Safe Port Act and under Secure Freight.

But that will give us, in a place like Port Qasim, just because of security concerns outside the embassy; we're not able to put our people in the port of Qasim. So we have the capabilities now for not only just having the radiation portal monitors there, the large-scale X-ray systems, optical character recognition to be able to take a picture of the box, to be able to link that through the electronic file that we have through the Automated Targeting System, and remote all that electronically back to the National Targeting Center for assessment, to see if the score is high for risk, to see if the radiation spectra is high for radiation read, and also if there is an anomaly in the large-scale X-ray.

And that will all be electronically targeted back here in the United States. And then if we need to do a physical inspection -- again, we're not there, but we'll virtually be there, because we actually will have the capability to work virtually through a remote feed, again, video capabilities with the Pakistani customs organization as well as a two-person unit from the embassy to be able to go out there and do a physical inspection, and we'll have the video feeds back real time here to the United States to take a look at those that we need to look at overseas. So that's kind of the perfect model we'll be testing in Pakistan going in the next 45 days or so.

And we're going to really get a good proof of concept here, because certainly technology is great, we love to have technology, help do our job more effectively, but we need to make sure it works. And that's where the Secure Freight Initiative will help us when we go to these first three locations, but we didn't want to just stop where the Congress mandated that we would do three overseas locations. We're also going to begin later this fiscal year four additional modified implementations. We're going to be looking at Bussan, Korea, Singapore and also Port Salalah, Oman, modified implementations in certain terminals in those large ports, and their trans-shipment ports -- certainly a place like Singapore, it's going to pose lot of different operational challenges so we're going to learn a lot in those locations as well. And the Hong Kong location that was much talked about over the last couple of years through the scanning initiative that was going on there, we're going to continue to monitor and assess that pilot as well.

So we'll actually have three that will meet the requirements of the Safe Ports Act, but also four more we'll continue to look at for for further expansion. And that's going to very key for us as we then start to make decisions of, is there the capability to do more scanning overseas. Now, we need to take a look at not only does the technology work, the logistics involved, there's a whole host of issues with host country support, response protocols, if we do have a radiational arm, who's going to do that in certain countries. So this certainly has to be well thought out as we go forward.

We think we have a good plan conceived in the locations we're going to, but it really needs to build upon locations where we have a presence and that's our CSI ports. So we'll continue to thoughtfully roll this out as we go forward, but it's an exciting thing for us to really look at. When I take a look again 30 years ago coming into the organization, would I ever have conceived something like this happening today? No, certainly not, but this is cutting-edge for us, and we think it's exceptional for us to provide additional layers of security for the country.

Mr. Abel: Within Secure Freight, you talked quite a bit about radiological detection, you talked about looking at images, CBP also has a proposal for advanced trade data elements, I guess the shorthand is Ten Plus Two. Can you tell us a little bit about what Ten Plus Two is?

Mr. Ahern: Ten Plus Two -- actually, harking back to our discussion on the Trade Act of 2002 -- had the advance manifest requirement, in the maritime environment, we were getting 24 hours prior to lading, and we actually had a group of our expert targeters from around the country come in and say, what additional elements do you need for targeting for securing this country? And we did go ahead and go through a very rigorous process for many months internally before we then took it out for consultative discussions with the trade.

And we resolved down to the number of 10 additional data elements we feel are critical for targeting for security, as well as two additional elements that we can provide from the carrier relative to container status messaging and also stuffing location on a particular vessel -- the stow plan, if you will. So we think having that additional information is key for us.

And that's a piece of Secure Freight as well, because it's not just the overseas scanning, but it's also the additional data aggregation, and currently taking what we get from the Trade Act, expanding it by Ten Plus Two, it's going to give us greater visibility into the supply chain in seeing who actually is more detail-involved in the transaction. And we think that is the appropriate next step for us, but if I was to push that out months or years from now, I think that having greater visibility into the supply chain through data aggregators, third parties -- and I know there's a lot of issues that we need to work through on that as we go forward -- but that would be part of the longer term vision as we look in the outyears.

Mr. Abel: Is the Ten Plus Two proposal finalized and implemented, or are there steps left to go?

Mr. Ahern: The Ten Plus Two initiative is not finalized and implemented. We are at the point now where we have -- again, one of the things from the Safe Port Act, we've had for many years the Commercial Operations Advisory Group -- Committee, excuse me, it's referred to as the COAC, and we meet with them on a quarterly basis. They basically advise CBP, and previously Customs, on trade practices, and over the last few years, security practices. And certainly this is something we've been very much involved with the COAC on, but also as part of the ACE working group, some of the TSN subgroups that are out there with the Trade Support Network, taking a look at what is out there within industry, because, again, for us to sit down and conceive, say well, we just need these ten additional elements, but if nobody has them, it's going to be kind of an unrealistic theory on our part, so we wanted to make sure we had full consultation with the trade.

Long answer to the very specific question, no, we're not fully implemented, but just in early February, we had our final meeting with the COAC on their proposals back on how we would get the information -- it is the information there. So that will lead us now in to further getting ready for final discussions, and then we'd have to go through the formal rulemaking process. So we'll go through notice of proposed rulemaking, public comment, final rule, and our goal is to have it implemented in a phased process towards the end of the calendar year.

Mr. Abel: You mentioned just a minute ago ACE, which is the Automated Commercial Environment. What's the goal of that program?

Mr. Ahern: Well, the goal of that program certainly is we want to make sure it modernizes what we're dealing with. Not only just our trade process but also our automated tools and targeting platforms as well. And again, we think ACE is the capability that really consolidates a lot of the information that we have, and really, it's going to place a 23-year-old system, the Automated Commercial Environment, we think that's real key for us moving forward.

It's going to enhance the business practices out there, give a single secure web-based portal for the trade community to reach in to us, a lot of the electronic information, not only just for cargo and conveyances, but also crew and certain environments. So this is also going to be a gateway for other government agencies to feed information in, because when you take a look at what CBP does, we're basically the executive agency for many government entities at our U.S. borders. So to have the information come in, this gives us a greater capability for government efficiency and effectiveness so that we can better serve the public.

Mr. Abel: Are there key milestones that ACE has achieved to date?

Mr. Ahern: Yeah, we believe there's been some very good things, and we're certainly very happy with what we've done with the Automatic Truck Manifest, known as the e-Manifest, and the capabilities that we've rolled out there. That's been great. Certainly the number of accounts, we have over 4,500 accounts for importers, brokers and carriers, and the benefit of that is more efficient trade activity. It's good for management, it's also greater visibility in the supply chain, which is good for security, and also increases compliance along the way, and that's real important for us. And the collections, having the ability to do monthly duties, much like you would do in your personal life with your credit card statement, we're still doing a lot of transactional work, and to have a monthly summary for duty taxes and fees has been great, and we've collected, through the end of December of 2006, $753 million through that monthly collection process. So that's extremely efficient for revenue collection and processing, not only for government, but also for businesses we conduct our transactions with.

Mr. Morales: Jay, I want to take us back to the discussion around technology and screening, and we spent a lot of time talking about radiological screening. Could you elaborate on other types of non-intrusive technology that's being used by CBP in the field today?

Mr. Ahern: Yeah, beyond the radiation portal monitors, something we've used for a number of years, when you take a look back to our history, we were looking heavily into drug interdiction over the years, and we've realized that large-scale x-ray systems were very adaptive to that type of a risk. And so we use a lot of high energy systems. We've got them placed at our land borders, sea ports, other locations as well that are very effective for us; a lot of handheld devices too for density detection, things of that nature.

We're also looking at, is there an appropriate way to have a container security device, to make sure that we can maintain the integrity of what's in the box. Once it's gone through a CTPAT premise, where we know there's control over the security practice at point of stuffing, to be able to secure that box as it moves through the supply chain is important for us. So we're looking at the challenges posed with developing an effective container security device. We have not found one yet. And we're still looking, and we're going to be putting some requirements out and we're going to push that out to the industry as a challenge pretty soon, but -- those are some of the things.

But also beyond just some of the large-scale technology, the evolution of systems. I mean, I talked about our Automated Targeting System and that's a huge technology for us, but I would say that even with all the additional technology we've put out there, there's two things that always keep coming back in my mind as the most critical pieces of technology, and that's our human assets: the men and women that work for us every hour of every day out there on the front lines, they do an exceptional , and technology can't replace what they do. It complements them, it's an additional tool for them, helps them in many ways. And also, I take a look at the several hundred dog teams we still have out there, and they're still pretty good today, and we've not only expanded their use for drug detection, we've now got them trained for human detection, currency detection, and we've done some testing with chemical detection for chem/bio concerns, but also explosive capabilities, so they're a huge piece of technology for us as well.

Mr. Morales: What does the future hold for Customs and Border Protection?

We will ask Jay Ahern, Assistant Commissioner, Office of Field Operations at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, to share with us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.

(Intermission)

Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm your host, Albert Morales, and this morning's conversation is with Jay Ahern, Assistant Commissioner, Office of Field Operations at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Also joining us on our conversation is Dave Abel, director of homeland security at IBM.

Jay, what trends will have the largest impact on CBP field operations, say, over the next 10 years, and how will CBP need to adapt to these changes? And if I may, not to put you on the spot, but what advice would you give to the next administration in facing these challenges head-on?

Mr. Ahern: Well, to take the last point first, hopefully I'm still here when the next administration comes around, being a career person. But I think first up, the challenges they're going to be facing is certainly -- I think the threat of terror and the risk involved with that is not going to go away. It's very clear that there are still individuals out there that want to cause harm in this country. And as the border agency, we need to be prepared for that. So that's going to be the most significant thing we need to continue to focus on. And staying focused on that in the long term is a challenge. Because certainly, when we realize the threat that's out there, that we need to continue to reinforce through our front line people every day and make sure we continue to refresh our strategies to meet the emerging and adaptive trends that are out there.

But the trends that I see out there, you know, we still need to be taking a look at how do we continue to keep our twin pillars alive: facilitation of legitimate travel and trade, and also maintaining the high level of security. That's going to be brought about by the increase of travel and trade. I mean, we're seeing in the maritime environment, container traffic growing by about 12-15 percent every year. We're seeing growth in the air passenger environment. So we need to continue to make sure we're able to stay current with not only the growth in travel, but also the accompanying risk that comes with that, and at the same time making sure that we don't stumble and actually impact legitimate flow by over-securing.

So those are going to be huge things for us, but I think to be adaptive, we need to make sure that we're flexible to any emerging threats, and I think being the border agency that we are and having the layered strategy, it's served us well for drug interdiction over the years, it's served us exceptionally well over the last few years post-9/11 to be adaptive to any threat that's really posed through the moving of people or things into this country, so we need to stay current with those trends. But also just making sure that we're current with the emergence of technology.

I mean, I'll throw a challenge out there to the industry that develops technology for us both of non-intrusive inspection systems, targeting systems, things of that nature -- container security devices. We need to make sure that these things are certainly effective, but not just effective in a laboratory or a sterile environment. Think of our operational environment when companies are looking to develop systems or technology. Dealing with the type of throughput and capacity we deal with every day, that over 400 million equates to over a million people a day coming into this country. So we need to make sure the throughput and capacity is always realized.

Environmental conditions, both sides of our borders, northern and southern, those are very big issues, so it's not a "one size fits all" for how we figure our strategy out, and also for companies that are out there to provide assistance with targeting and also development of technology and systems for us. It's critical that there's a good understanding and marriage between the operators and also the providers of technology.

Mr. Morales: And we all certainly have a vested interest in that.

Mr. Ahern: Absolutely.

Mr. Abel: The War on Terror isn't just impacting the priorities of the organizations within Homeland Security, it's also affecting the budget -- throughout the federal government, the War on Terror continues to impact the budget. What are some of the things that you're able to do in CBP in the coming years to maintain the effectiveness and the efficiency of the organization with the resources needing to be applied towards things like development of new technology?

Mr. Ahern: Well, I think when you take a look at the budget and the priorities of homeland security, one of the things I haven't talked about today is -- one of the things that plagues us today is not having secure documents for everybody coming into this country. Now, the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, which was brought about and is a recommendation of the 9/11 Commission, and the Intelligence Reform and Terrorist Prevention Act required it, that people coming into this country must have a bona fide document that's secure, that adjudicates citizenship.

January 23rd of this year, we went in with the full requirement that everybody coming into this country by air from the Western Hemisphere and worldwide must present a passport. And prior to that, and a lot of a people and our listeners may be surprised: "you mean I didn't have to have a passport?" Well, from some parts of the Western Hemisphere, you didn't. But now that is a requirement. Next year in '08, we're going to have the requirement on the landside that will have to be a passport or an equivalent document. And we're working with State Department and other governments on what that equivalent document would be, but it has to be something that is machine-readable, something that has security features in there, but also something that obviously shows identity, with high levels of security and confidence in the identity, but also adjudicates citizenship.

And that's going to be huge for us, making sure that we can provide a higher level of security, because over 8,000 different types of documents are acceptable for entry into this country today. You think of all the different types of birth certificates you get from a hospital or a state or a town or city vital statistics, I mean, those are all the different types of documents that people could present, as well as a driver's license, and those can be easily fraudulently obtained or created. So we need to make sure as we think about that going forward. But that's going to be a huge budget drain for us going forward, and to have the right technology put into our process on the physical land borders is going to be a challenge. And certainly another aspect of our budget is heavily focused on the Secure Border Initiative, on the southwest border initially, but also then moving to the northern border and the coastal communities next to provide security of the borders.

Mr. Morales: We've spent a lot of time talking about technology. I want to focus a little bit inward to the organization. We talk a lot about, with our guests, about the pending retirement wave within government. How are you handling this retirement wave, and what is your organization doing to ensure that it has the right mix of people as you meet these challenges?

Mr. Ahern: You know, there is a point in time when a lot of agencies face it, and we've been facing it for the last couple of years. We've actually had some success with convincing some people not to retire, or actually rehiring some of our annuitants to stay and come back in after short periods of retirement, and that's worked well. But we also need to take a look at how do you develop and plan and mentor people for succession planning. And we've got some programs in place that we're actually carrying out to bring people into our headquarters environments with incentive programs that offer training, leadership training, mentoring as well as some executive education at some of the notable universities around the country, to make sure that they're ready to succeed us when people like me and others depart.

But it's a challenge. I think it's not unique only to the government, I think it certainly happens in the private sector as well, but you do have turnover, and sometimes you get into cycles, and you need to have a very deep bench strength, if you will, for people to succeed -- those that pass and move into retirement after a number of years of government service. But turnover is also a very good thing. I've been now in this job for coming up five years, and I think there will an appropriate time in the future where somebody comes in and takes my job, and then should look at things through a fresh set of eyes and see how they can continue to improve upon what I've been able to accomplish, and others that worked with me. And I think that's a good thing. But we need to continue to bring in people with a broad range of experience.

Law enforcement agencies like ours, we tend to look for people that have kind of grown up in the organization or have worked the front lines, and that's good to a point, but I think we also need to complement that with a lot of people with private sector experience, other government agency experience, so that we have a full view of actually what's going on in our environment, not just through the view of the people that solely work the front line, although that's critical, we need to balance that, so we're looking at alternative ways to bring others in as well.

Mr. Abel: You mentioned the need to be able to bring new folks in, and to continue to backfill the pipeline of qualified folks. In fact, at the end of our last segment, you talked quite a bit about the fact that the success of the organization is predominantly dependent on the quality of the people. I'd like, if you could, for you to expand a little bit. You talked about some of the training things you're doing with new folks. Is CBP recruiting, are you bringing in new folks? And what type of programs do you have to be able to attract the talent that's necessary to keep the high quality of individuals you currently have in the organization?

Mr. Ahern: We are aggressively recruiting, and certainly not only within our front line officer ranks, but also in the Border Patrol. I mean, the President's actually thrown a challenge to the -- or actually, more than a challenge, a requirement to -- with the CBP to actually increase the size of the Border Patrol and double it during the time of his administration, which is going to require about 6,000 more border patrol agents over the next couple of years. So we're in the midst of a hiring initiative there, but also our front line officers. We just had an announcement open and we had 33,000 people that responded to the announcement, which is considerable.

So we're having an adequate pipeline, and then they have to go through the rigor of the testing, the medical, the background, the drug screening, and everything that goes with the pre-employment process, but we're also trying to streamline that, because we know we're competing against other agencies and also private sector companies for talented young individuals coming into the organization, so we need to compress and streamline their process.

We're doing a lot of compressing, hiring at certain locations around the country to bring people on board. There's incentives for high-cost locations We're also trying to be a thoughtful employer in looking for what do we have for advancement opportunities, and I would tell you that -- and certainly any of the listeners -- it's an exciting organization. Being part of DHS today, and specifically within CBP, is an exciting time. You know, the public service that we do is a very notable profession, and it's a critical mission that we do, but not only the opportunity to work in one of our many locations around the country, but the overseas capabilities and the international affairs that we do, I think it just provides limitless opportunities for people in order to come into the organization now or in the future.

Mr. Morales: Jay, 30-plus years, a very, very, successful career, I'm curious. So what advice could you give to somebody who is sort of on that brink, thinking about a career in public service?

Mr. Ahern: I think, certainly begin with taking that jump, go into public service, and as I stated, it's a very notable profession, and particularly today, I've seen so many people over the last few years, particularly after 9/11, that wanted to be part of the solution, and come in to government and try to protect the homeland. So I think that that certainly is to have the will and the desire to come in, and there's often a lot of criticisms or jokes to some degree of the federal civil servant population, I don't see that at all. I think that certainly the people of our organization are dedicated hardworking individuals, and we need more people like that.

But certainly, coming in, one of the things I always look at when I go down to speak to our graduating classes down at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, you bring your education, you bring your experience onto the job, you bring whatever was in your upbringing, and then we provide a high level of training, but beyond that, then it becomes the individual's responsibilities, what you want to then make of a career.

You got to be positive, you got to be professional, you've got to have a good work ethic, and you have to take advantage of the opportunities that are out there to you, and not wait for them to come to. And so I encourage anybody that gets into the organization to go ahead and just continue to advance, be mobile, take the opportunities, take some risks, take some jobs that you think you may not be ready for, and it's amazing how quickly you might adapt to some of these challenges. Bt I think it's a great opportunity for people that want to come in and be part of a very significant and meaningful organization.

Mr. Morales: That's fantastic advice. We've unfortunately reached the end of our hour. I want to thank you for fitting us into your busy schedule, but more importantly, Dave and I would like to thank you for your dedicated service to our country over the past 30 years.

Mr. Ahern: Thank you. It's been a pleasure. Thank you both very much.

Mr. Morales: Great.

This has been The Business of Government Hour, featuring a conversation with Jay Ahern, Assistant Commissioner, Office of Field Operations at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

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

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

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

Until next week, it's businessofgovernment.org.

Admiral Thad W. Allen interview

Friday, February 23rd, 2007 - 20:00
Phrase: 
"I think the Coast Guard has got it right in our core values of honor, respect, and devotion to duty."
Radio show date: 
Sat, 02/24/2007
Intro text: 
Admiral Allen was selected by U.S. News & World Report as one of the 20 best leaders in 2005 for its America's Best Leaders issue.In this radio show interview, Allen discusses the: History and mission of the U.S. Coast Guard; U.S. Coast Guard's integration...
Admiral Allen was selected by U.S. News & World Report as one of the 20 best leaders in 2005 for its America's Best Leaders issue.
Magazine profile: 
Complete transcript: 

Originally Broadcast Saturday, November 11, 2006

Washington, D.C.

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 at the web at businessofgovernment.org.

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 Admiral Thad Allen, commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard.

Good morning Admiral.

Mr. Allen: Good morning.

Mr. Morales: And also joining us in our conversation, also from IBM, is Dave Abel, director of homeland security services.

Good morning, Dave.

Mr. Abel: Good morning.

Mr. Morales: Admiral, perhaps you could share with us a bit of the rich and proud history of the United States Coast Guard as it celebrate its 216th anniversary as one of the oldest U.S. government agencies. Can you tell us who founded the Coast Guard, and how has it evolved into the critical component of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security?

Mr. Allen: Well, the Coast Guard was really the brain child of Alexander Hamilton. And you can first find a reference to a Coast-Guard-like entity actually in the Federalist Papers, where he states that a few vessels stationed at the entrance to our rivers and bays would at very small expense be useful sentinels of the laws.

When the first Treasury Department was formed in 1789, and he was the Secretary of the Treasury, he envisioned a fleet of cutters that would enforce the new tariffs that were being applied to help us pay off the war debt. There was a lot of British smuggling going on at the time. So on August 4, 1790, there was legislation approved that would authorize the building of the cutters, and we take that as the starting date of the Coast Guard. We were the first Customs officers, and during the period in the late 1790s when we had disbanded the Continental Navy we were the only maritime force that the country had. And so we when had a quasi-war with France, our cutters were the line ships for the fledgling government. So right at the earliest possible time in our history we really started out as a dual character service. We were a member of the Armed Forces, the Naval Service. And we were also a federal law enforcement agency, and we are unique in the world in that regard.

Mr. Morales: Admiral, you talk about this uniqueness of having both the dual military and law enforcement status. Could you elaborate a little bit on the scope of your multi-mission agency? How is it organized, and tell us how large the Coast Guard is, and give us a sense of the scale.

Mr. Allen: Well, we're not very big. With our military members and our civilians we're anywhere between 45,000 and 50,000. We have 8,000 selected reservists. We have about 36,000 volunteers, the Coast Guard Auxiliary, which are terrific and help us out a lot. But the basic -- I would call it the organizational genius of the Coast Guard is the fact that without having to have a bunch of different agencies do different jobs, we have one agency that can shift its focus and its people and its capability and its platforms to do a specific job one day, and then a different job the next day.

I recently visited Canada, and we had a summit with the Canadian Coast Guard, and they do search and rescue and law enforcement up there. But to meet all the different entities that do the jobs that we do down in United States, we had to meet with Transport Canada, the Department of Public Safety, and their military. So if you can imagine being able to cover all those different types of roles in a single agency, you don't have to build all those different agencies. That's our economic model that we offer to the government. We think we're pretty good value.

Mr. Morales: At first brush folks may think of the Coast Guard as having a domain immediately around the United States, but in fact you have a worldwide purview.

Mr. Allen: Especially as it relates to defense operations and our law enforcement capabilities. For instance, we have authority and jurisdiction over U.S. flag vessels anywhere they might be in the world for the purpose of enforcing U.S. law. And as we speak this morning we have patrol boats deployed in the Persian Gulf that are protecting the oil platforms off of Iraq which are their major source of revenue right now.

Mr. Morales: Admiral, let's talk a little bit about your specific responsibility as the 23rd Commandant of the Coast Guard. Can you tell us a little about your role within the organization?

Mr. Allen: Well, I'm the Chief Executive Officer. This is more like an aquatic holding company in some regards. We do search and rescue law enforcement. We deal with Homeland Security issues. We do polar ice breaking. Managing that portfolio and making sure you have the resources to be ready to do that and also to be mission effective is probably my number one job. And it takes a little bit of understanding, as far as how you run the organization, to know how to balance those various mission requirements that are on you, and make wise decisions on the allocation of resources as our field commanders have to do when they're deciding where they're going to put their cutter patrol hours. But I would say managing that portfolio of all of the tasks we have on the water is probably job one.

Mr. Morales: The Coast Guard is within the Department of Homeland Security. So you also have a relationship with the leadership in the departmental over all. Can you tell us a little bit about the nature of that role as well?

Mr. Allen: Sure. The way the department is organized, they have what they call operating components. And that would be like the Coast Guard, Secret Service, Customs and Border Protection and so forth. And then they have departmental entities like the under secretary for science and technology, the under secretary for management. So there are two lines that report to the deputy secretary and the secretary. The deputy and the assistant secretaries, and then the component commanders, there are seven of us. We call ourselves the gang of seven. And we have a direct reporting relationship with Deputy Secretary Michael Jackson, and Secretary Chertoff.

Mr. Morales: That's great. Admiral, the Coast Guard has a strong reputation for leadership development, a long history of being in to develop strong leaders in government. Can you give the listeners a sense of your career path, and how the Coast Guard helped you to be able to develop your leadership skills?

Mr. Allen: Well, I think every job I've had in the Coast Guard has involved increasing responsibilities and exposure to leadership opportunities. In a way, the best way we can help the Coast Guard is to grow leaders, because we put people in leadership positions much, much earlier than a lot of the other services do. Junior officers coming off their first assignment on a ship can be assigned as commanding officers of patrol boats. We have pilots qualified very, very young; they're out there flying. And we put a lot of responsibility on folks' shoulders early on in their career. That's good, and that's bad. It's good in that we get them seasoned early on, and by the time they mid-grade and senior officers they've had a lot of operational experiences. The bad part is we've got to make sure that the organization is doing its part in preparing those folks to meet those responsibilities, and that's a tremendous challenge for us. The way we do that, we've developed 21 basic leadership competencies, and whether we're talking about enlisted personnel or cadets at the Coast Guard Academy or officers coming in through OCS, we try and train and teach to those 21 leadership competencies.

Mr. Morales: So how critical are the concepts of strategic intent and mission focus in this leadership approach?

Mr. Allen: Well, one of the things I'm trying to do as commandant is trying to get us to focus a little bit more strategically, and kind of look up over the dashboard to the horizon a little bit. One of the things I tell my folks -- and it's very, very easy to fall into this trap in Washington, as we get caught up in what I call the tyranny of the present. Those are the data calls, the questions for the record, the preparations for hearings, all the budget submissions that just pervade our daily life around here. And you get so caught up in the annual budget cycle, the annual hearing cycle, that it's hard to kind of lift your head up, look over the horizon, and see where you're going.

Since I was a one star Admiral back in 1998 and 1999 working for Jim Loy, who ultimately became the commandant, we have been trying to create a way to have officers think more strategic about the context the Coast Guard is in in government, what we are trying to do, and make decisions with strategic intent. If you think about it, when you enlist somebody in the Coast Guard, you're potentially making a 30-year decision. And I don't think we always realize that day with everything else that's going on, that we're laying out, where the organization is likely to be that far down the line. And I think when you take a small step, you ought to know the general direction we're moving towards. So I've stressed to the greatest extent possible to my flag officers and the folks who work for me that we have to develop the competencies in our senior leaders to think more strategically, and then when you're dealing with budget or anything else, you need to source the strategy or act with strategic intent.

Mr. Morales: Admiral, how have your experiences as previous chief of staff of the Coast Guard, and more recently as the principal federal official during Katrina, shaped your outlook and prepared you for your current role as commandant of the Coast Guard?

Mr. Allen: Well, first as chief of staff, I was the chief operating officer of the Coast Guard as opposed to the chief executive officer of the Coast Guard. So I handled most of the business end, and that included budget, the management of headquarters -- I was also the commanding officer of headquarters. And as part of my portfolio of duties there, since when I came into the job we were actually part of the Department of Transportation, I was the departmental executive who was responsible for transferring the Coast Guard from DOT to DHS, all the various line items of support, and services that we shared with DOT, and how that transition took place was my responsibility.

So I gained a great deal of insight into the structural underpinnings of the Coast Guard that had to be transferred from one department to another. I think that helped a lot in understanding our organizational context within the department. My assignment as the principal federal official to Katrina probably gave me the same type of insight, but in the operational dimension of the department, in that how FEMA, Coast Guard, Customs and Border Protection all work against the larger problems that are mission tasking, and how that all comes together, and that informed a lot of my thinking when I was interviewed by Secretary Chertoff to be the commandant on where I thought the Coast Guard needed to go under his leadership.

Mr. Morales: Fantastic. How is the Coast Guard partnering with other Homeland Security agencies? We will ask Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad Allen to share with us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.

(Intermission)

Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I am your host, Albert Morales, and this morning's conversation is with Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad Allen. Also joining us in our conversation is Dave Abel, director of IBM's homeland security services.

Admiral, how has the integration into DHS impacted the Coast Guard, and what have been some of the critical macro issues related to this integration, as well as the benefits?

Mr. Allen: Well, I think our integration into the department has been a great thing for the Coast Guard. We've had a hard time over the years finding a home because we're so diverse and multi-mission you don't find a perfect fit in any particular department. In 1967 we were moved from Treasury, our original home, and put in the Department of Transportation when it was formed, and then in 2003 moved from Transportation to Homeland Security. I think the integration is going along very nicely. We feel like we're a contributing member in the department. We think we add stability and maturity, because we were basically transferred over without any impact on our mission set or our resources, and I think we bring a lot of stability to the department.

I think that we're working very, very well with our component partners in the department. We always had relationships with Customs and FEMA, but those are stronger than they ever before. I tell a lot of folks I think that FEMA is better off because they are in a department with the Coast Guard, and I think the Coast Guard's better off because we are in a department with FEMA.

Mr. Morales: Admiral, we talked earlier about the deep culture and the leadership within the Coast Guard. How has this leadership style influenced the broader DHS?

Mr. Allen: Well, I think in a lot of ways. The example we set through our delegation of authority and putting responsibility at the lowest levels in the organization is something that I think everybody would strive to do, and hopefully we are an example in the department to do that. One of the things that allowed us to be successful during the Hurricane Katrina response is that we expect that our operational commanders will exercise what we call on scene initiative, and when we were cut off from higher echelons and communications weren't working down there everybody knew how to do their job, and they did the right thing, and they did what was expected of them. And I think in the long run, I think that's what the American public and the secretary would like to see out of this department.

Mr. Morales: Great. The Coast Guard has developed its maritime security strategy. Can you tell our listeners about this strategy, and how does it directly support the national strategy for maritime security, NSMS, and the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002?

Mr. Allen: One of the things that we've been working very, very hard on in the Coast Guard since the attacks on 9/11 is what this means in the maritime environment. And we were very, very pleased last year when the president issued the national strategy for maritime security that lays out an overall umbrella concept on how they intend to look at maritime security issues. We've never had an overarching umbrella document like that before, and we are very pleased with it. There are several supporting plans that are required under the strategy that directly either impact the Coast Guard or we are responsible for executing. The first one is maritime domain awareness. And that's creating a system by which you're able to sense what's going on offshore and create the ability to act so you can defeat a threat as far offshore as you can before it gets close to the coast. But to do that you need to have information about what's operating out there and you have to be able to know which vessels are legitimate and which ones aren't. So maritime domain awareness is a very big part of that national strategy for maritime security. The other one is maritime operational threat response. And that's how you actually put forces together and go out and deal with the threat that's out there.

And then global maritime intelligence integration, which is taking all the different pieces of information and putting them together into what we will call a common intelligence picture so you know why you're acting and you have good intelligence on which to base your operations, and finally there's a requirement for a maritime recovery plan. We hope we never have an incident in our ports, and we're going to try and prevent them, and then we're going to try and respond as best as we can if there is an event. But the reality is, if there's an event in a port, how you restart the waterway, how you deal with the impact on commerce is going to be very, very important. And there's requirement for us to develop a plan for that also.

Mr. Morales: I'd like to go from the very strategic topics that we just talked about in maritime security to one very tactical one, I think is at the forefront of the issues that you face. The Coast Guard must combat the potential threat of watercraft coming close to U.S. ports with IEDs, improvised explosive devices. How is the Coast Guard tackling this issue?

Mr. Allen: What we're tackling is part of a broader strategy on how to deal with maritime security regimes for the country. There's been a lot of focus on container threats, and container threats are important. I believe in the long run there is a technological solution to threats posed by containers either through tracking containers or non-intrusive inspection technologies, and all those are being worked right now. And I think you are going to see within a few years a fairly robust program that will address container security issues.

When you look at port security or maritime security, though, you have to look at the broad spectrum of threats and vulnerabilities that are out there, and you have to kind of allocate resources based on risk, and you have to try and mitigate the threats that are liable to cause the most damage. Based on the research that we've done since 9/11, and this includes extensive surveys of our ports regarding vulnerabilities and threats that exist, we do believe that more attention needs to be paid to improvised explosive devices carried by small boats.

And in general we need to look at the small boat population out there that is not as governed or regulated as well as the larger commercial traffic. This is in regards to how they're registered, how they're operated, what they might be carrying, how we can discern legitimate from illegitimate activities out there. This is anywhere from fishing vessels to small work boats to recreational vessels. And it's something that we're starting to engage in a conversation around the country, because I think we need to build a consensus about what constitutes a maritime security regime for this country that goes beyond containers and looks at a full spectrum of threats that we might encounter in our ports.

Mr. Morales: Let's shift gears from threats against assets to the assets themselves. The Coast Guard has embarked on a comprehensive recapitalization of its critical asset platforms through the integrated Deepwater System program. Can you elaborate a little bit on the Deepwater program?

Mr. Allen: I can. A few years ago, actually when I was a commander I was part of a program that extended the service life of our large cutters. And we engaged in a conversation way back then, that we did not have a good plan for when those ships ended their service life about what was going to replace them. As a result of those conversations we decided that it would good to take a look at our mission requirements in the offshore operating environment, and rather than going for a one-for-one replacement of these ship hulls to take a look at acquiring a system of cutters, aircraft, and sensors that were networked together, and focus on the entire performance of the system as opposed to a single platform. We thought if we did that we'd have more capable platforms, we'd have a more capable system, and we would be a much more intelligent acquisition of our capital plan.

Now, that ultimately evolved into our Deepwater System. We awarded the contract in 2002. We're into our fourth year of that contract. We recently launched our first major cutter, the National Security Cutter. Associated with that acquisition we recently have flown our first aircraft associated with that system. And what we're trying to do is build this architecture of platforms that are all networked together, and at the same time take the legacy platforms that are operating, the old cutters and the old aircraft, and backfit them with command and control systems that will allow them to integrate into the new stuff, and slowly phase the old stuff out as we build the new platform.

Mr. Morales: With the contract having been awarded in 2002, much of the requirements for Deepwater were developed prior to September 11, 2001. Has there been any impact from the post September 11th world to the requirements in Deepwater?

Mr. Allen: There was, and we were in quite a quandary. After the attacks of 9/11 we were faced with two choices, one was to withdraw the requests for proposals and start the acquisition over, or to go ahead and award the contract and then go back and look at our system performance specification, and go back and adjust the requirements for the platforms. A good example would be we had no capability in our cutters to survive a chemical, biological, or nuclear attack. Well, we know now, faced with the current threat environment, if you're going to operate in and around a port we may need a vessel that can go into a noncompliant or non-permissive environment and be able to operate in those environments. So we went back and we changed the requirements for the National Security Cutter, for instance, to include survivability against these threats.

When you do that, that changes the requirements that get rippled through, and there are some cost issues associated with that, and we're working through those now. But we generally have had those post 9/11 requirements validated through the joint requirements process at the department. We briefed up on -- it won't be in on the Hill, and everybody generally understands that; we rebaselined the program, and now our focus needs to be on mission execution.

Mr. Morales: Let's move from assets to talk a bit about people within the Coast Guard. In order to perform multiple missions, Coast Guard has developed specialized units that can be deployed on short notice. Can you elaborate on the plans to reorganize these units under a single command structure called the Deployable Operations Group?

Mr. Allen: I'd like to do that. That's a very important issue to me personally because I am vested in it, if you will. Over the years the Coast Guard has developed what I will call specialized deployable forces. But they've been developed within programs for specific program goals, and employed within a narrow stovepipe as far as operations go. For instance, we have oil and hazmat strike teams, and they're some of the best in the world. They can do level A entry. They participated in the anthrax attacks in the Capitol building. They have been employed traditionally only for oil and hazmat spills.

We also have port security units, which are reserve units that we have deployed to the Persian Gulf and other places that secure the ports of embarkation and debarkation to actually move military equipment in and out. Since 9/11 we've also been authorized to build maritime safety and security teams which are deployable into ports to provide on-water boat teams and then law enforcement tactical teams to lock down ports, and they include dive capability, K9 capability, and remote operated vehicles for searching underwater hulls.

All of those operated independently within different chains of command for different mission requirements. My intent is to bring them all together under a single command, not to move them, but to create a command structure by which we can optimize their employment and be able to what I will call adapt a force package. So if we have a particular event like a Katrina, taking down New Orleans, or a massive oil spell locking up a port, or an earthquake, let's say in San Francisco, you can take the elements you need for each one of those deployable teams, put them together, and deploy them through Coast Guard aircraft, and get the right force package on the ground, and be able to do that within four to eight hours, the flyaway package.

Mr. Morales: Admiral, earlier you used the term "aquatic holding company." And we understand that many of the Coast Guard's shore facilities date back to the 1915s. What are your plans to evolve and transform the shore-based forces in order to meet the new demands facing your agency in this post 9/11 threat environment?

Mr. Allen: Well, there are two issues. They are one of the shore-based forces themselves, and the second one are the facilities they occupy. We organized the shore-based forces into sector commands, and that was the right thing to do. And now we have shore-based commands that are capable of all-hazard response with a single commanding officer. Before, we used to have multiple commanding officers in and around our ports based on their mission assignment. We have done away with that and we have consolidated the command structure.

The challenge we have before us is we have very, very old shore facilities, we have search and rescue stations that date back to the -- some of them go clear back to the 19th century. And we have not done a good job keeping up with the recapitalization of what we will call our shore plan, or the actual physical facilities that our shore operators operate in.

There are three significant challenges that I don't think we have spent enough time assessing, estimating the impact of and then moving forward in the budget process, that I have to deal with as commandant. One of them is the condition of our shore facilities. The second one is the condition of our polar ice breakers. And the third one is, where are we going to go with our AIS navigation mission. And especially in a post 9/11 environment where we can be expected to try and reestablish AIS navigation in a port as we had to do following Katrina.

Mr. Morales: Great. What are some of the United States Coast Guard's key organizational priorities? We will ask Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad Allen to share with us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.

(Intermission)

Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm your host, Albert Morales, and this morning's conversation is with Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad Allen. Also joining us in our conversation is Dave Abel, the director of IBM's homeland security services.

Admiral, can you describe to us some of your key organizational priorities for fiscal year '07?

Mr. Allen: I can. One of them is maintaining our legacy fleet while we build out the new deepwater fleet and making sure that it's supported. We have used our assets up faster since 9/11 than we'd anticipated. And the gap between our old equipment and the arrival of new equipment has created some problems, especially in air patrol hours and patrol boat hours for us down south. So I guess the number one priority would be to make sure we maintain our current fleet so we can execute our mission.

A second priority is to establish our new mission of air intercept for the national capital region which we started last week. Fiscal year '07 carries the resources for us to do that. And we'll be operating out of Reagan Airport, and we'll be intercepting general aviation aircraft that happen to stray into the national capital area. Continuing the deepwater project is important for us too to make sure we keep our capitalization on track. And we've had great support from the administration and Congress in that regard.

And finally, to make sure that we are sustaining our homeland security missions, there are also extra resources in the budget for us to increase our inspection of waterfront facilities and overseas ports.

Mr. Morales: Could you describe the Coast Guard's principles of operation as outlined in the publication America's Maritime Guardian? How do these principles empower and enable the execution of your critical missions?

Mr. Allen: Well, a few years ago we decided to boil down the essence of the Coast Guard, or quite frankly sketch out our organizational DNA, the doctrinal publication we call Pub 1, and it's very similar to what they do in the DoD side of the House. There is a joint staff Pub 1 that lays out this is what we expect, these are the principles by which we operate under. In the Coast Guard Pub 1 we have laid out principles of operation, and they include things like the principle of restraint. Since we are a law enforcement organization, when we're not operating with DoD we need to understand that the constitution applies when we're dealing with our fellow citizens, and so we need to treat them with respect. In fact, Alexander Hamilton wrote a great treatise admonishing his revenue cutter captains to make sure that they understood that they were dealing with fellow citizens in doing boardings.

Another one would be the principle of on-scene initiative that I mentioned earlier. That's the notion that if you're on scene, you have the resources, and you have the capability, and you're empowered to do that, we expect you to act, and do what you are supposed to do out there. And that was shown no better than in the skies over New Orleans.

Mr. Morales: Speaking of the skies over New Orleans, the Coast Guard received much praise in most post-Katrina assessments, rescuing over 33,000 lives. Is there something unique about the organization of the Coast Guard that allowed such an exceptional response to a complicated circumstance like Katrina?

Mr. Allen: Well, I think most folks in the Coast Guard would tell you that we were just carrying out our normal mission under our normal doctrine, but we just encountered an anomalous asymmetrical event that completely was off the scope in terms of scale. But we were able to get enough aircraft into the area to have a meaningful impact. We didn't rescue everybody down there. There were some wonderful people from Fish and Wildlife from the State of Louisiana and other folks that really contributed. But as a result of our air forces, our small boat forces in the evacuations of the nursing homes by our people there, we were able to save between 33,000 and 34,000 people.

The reason that was possible is that we have multi-missioned aircraft and we have multi-missioned people. We basically took every existing aircraft that wasn't being flown for search and rescue in the Coast Guard and brought it down to the New Orleans area, in excess of 40 aircraft. And in fact to the point where we asked the Canadians to come down and assume the Search and Rescue Guard in New England so we could take the helicopters and move them down there. Once we did that, because we train our people as multi-mission, we were able to intermix pilots, crews, and maintenance crews from all over the Coast Guards. One day I was flying on an 860 helicopter from Cape Cod with a pilot from San Diego, a co-pilot from Michigan, and a rescue swimmer from Mobile, Alabama, all in the same airframe working seamlessly because they operate under the same doctrine, and there's repeatable training and tactics that they use, and you can go to any aircraft, put the crew together, and they can fly.

Mr. Abel: One of the things that was very complicated in the overall response to Katrina was the necessity for communication and interoperability between federal, state, and local organizations. How has the Coast Guard's relationship with different levels of organizations changed or strengthened since the response to Katrina?

Mr. Allen: Well, I think it has changed and I think it has strengthened. This is not a Coast Guard issue, this is an overall federal issue, and there are two components to this. I testified recently on the Hill and I try to break this down into an organizational component and a technology component. The organizational component is interoperability at all levels of government, and then horizontally, and that's the ability to get into the same command center, share the same spaces, understand the doctrine, understand what you're trying to accomplish, and be able to work seamlessly across all the federal agencies and then down through the state and local governments. That's the organizational component of command in control.

There's a technical component to that, and that's interoperability of communications. And that's who's got what radios, what frequency they operate on, and who can talk to whom. That was probably the bigger problem in New Orleans than anything else. Number one, they lost the communications infrastructure in and around the city, and when they were trying to bring that back up, to have all the different first responders down there, sometimes operating on different radio spectrum was a problem, and it was identified as a problem. It's being worked right now as a result of the lessons learned, reports that came out of Katrina.

In relation to the Coast Guard, we operate under maritime mobile radio frequencies, and we have a coastal radio system that's set up to get the mayday calls when they come in. We were able to reestablish our system, but our system ultimately needs to be able to talk with the land first responders, which are in a different frequency spectrum. We're in the process right now of changing that, our Coast Guard radio system, under a project called Rescue 21, that will allow us to be more interoperable with state and local responders. And I would say that is an enduring challenge for the entire United States. And when the state and localities are buying radio systems they need to really think about the interoperability with the federal first responders.

Mr. Abel: You referred to the flooding of New Orleans as a weapon of mass effect unleashed on a city without criminality. It's an interesting view. Can you elaborate a little bit on that assessment?

Mr. Allen: I can. The reason I used that term is it invokes a different paradigm than normal hurricane response. And I think one of the failures in the Katrina response was the failure to understand that we weren't operating in a traditional mode against a traditional hurricane, as far as mounting a response, that something else had happened that made it more complex, that made it asymmetrical, that made it anomalous. And that was the breaching of the levees. If the levees had not breached in New Orleans, you would have found what I would call ground zero of the event to be Waveland and Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, which were almost wiped off the face of the earth by a 25- to 30-foot tidal surge. But with the flooding of New Orleans, you had a different degree of a problem set, and what you're really dealing with was the equivalent of a weapon of mass effect being used on the city without criminality.

And the reason that I say that's significant is if there had been criminality involved, we would have known what to do. There would have been a senior law enforcement officer in charge. We would have been trying to fight the thing as a crime scene. We'd have been trying to deal with the implications associated with criminality involved in that. But since there was none, there wasn't a cue for anybody to understand that it was something different. And in the absence of understanding that there was something different and anomalous about it, we treated it as a regular run-of-the-mill hurricane, which was not the right response.

Mr. Abel: You mentioned some of the things that we can do going forward technically, to be able to prepare ourselves for similar responses. Are there things that we need to do organizationally or operationally to be able to do that as well?

Mr. Allen: There are and we're already working on those. For instance, FEMA is the federal coordinator for what we call mission assignments. If there's something that needs to be done, FEMA is not expected to provide that particular service. They're expected to go find it and provide it to the state and local governments. They do that through what's called a mission assignment. And they can issue a mission assignment to the Coast Guard, to the Corps of Engineers, and that's how they handle things like debris removal with the Corps of Engineers.

Between FEMA and the Coast Guard over the last year since Katrina, we have come up with pre-scripted mission assignments. So we come up with a scenario on which you need let's say Coast Guard airlift or Coast Guard surveillance of a coastline, we write it out. With the exception of filling in the date and the time, we both hold the piece of paper. When the event occurs and they need to move us, it's a matter of filling in the blanks on the paper, and we're gone. And we can actually launch on verbal notification, which is what we would.

It's this pre-negotiation of mission assignments plus we have trained Coast Guard admirals to be principal federal officials similar to the duties I perform, and have jointly trained them with FEMA's federal coordinating officers. And we have deployed as teams, we have evaluated evacuation plans, and we have tested the deployability of this folks. And that's way far ahead of where we've ever been before.

Mr. Abel: Admiral, with the very broad mission that the U.S. Coast Guard has, collaboration must be critical to your operations. How is the Coast Guard enhancing coordination and collaboration amongst all the other components of the Department of Homeland Security?

Mr. Allen: Well, I think the first big example is something I've been involved in for the first three years at the department, until I went down to Katrina last year, and that's the Joint Requirements Council. That's an entity that takes a look at all the requirements of the department. And as major acquisitions are being looked at at the department, they review them, see whether or not there are commonality requirements so you're not buying two platforms when you can buy one. And this relates to everything from aircraft clear down to -- one of the most successful projects that they ran was a consolidated handgun buy for the entire department, where whether you were Secret Service, Coast Guard, or Customs and Border Protection, we were buying off the same handgun contract with a tremendous cost savings.

They've done also the same thing for IT licenses, software licenses and things like that. And I don't think there's probably any end to the particular partnerships that we can form that will achieve better efficiency and effectiveness inside the department. But the Joint Requirements Council would be one example of that.

Mr. Abel: Along the same lines of collaboration, how does the Coast Guard plan to better integrate operations and assets with the Department of Defense, specifically the U.S. Navy? And how does the national fleet policy assist in facilitating this integration?

Mr. Allen: Well, you know, we have great relationship with the Navy, it's never been better. And we have an enduring requirement to be interoperable with them in time of war, and when we're needed for a combatant commander. Admiral Mike Mullen and I have a great relationship. And we believe if you take the Navy's fleet and the Coast Guard's fleet and you put them together you have a national fleet. We have the world's best Navy, and we have the world's best Coast Guard; together they make the world's best maritime force. So he and I are working very, very hard to operationalize this concept. And a good example of that would be Littoral Combat Ship, which was just launched a couple weeks ago. It has a deck gun, a 57-millimeter deck gun. It is the same deck gun that we will use on our large cutters. And wherever we can, we're looking that where we have commonality of requirements, to have commonality of systems or platforms, and that would be a good example of that.

And that's needed because -- you talked about interoperability with DoD, we have negotiated as part of the national strategy for maritime security, protocols under which the Navy and the Coast Guard and other forces will work together, and whether or not it's a Homeland Security or a law enforcement issue, if you will, or whether it's a Department of Defense homeland defense type of a mission. And under the agreements and the protocols that we have negotiated, you could have Coast Guard forces working for a naval component or you could have Navy assets working for a Coast Guard entity in trying to intercept a boat offshore, let's say, and do a boarding.

Mr. Morales: What does the future hold for the U.S. Coast Guard? We will ask Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad Allen to share with us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.

(Intermission)

Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm your host Albert Morales and this morning's conversation is with Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad Allen. Also joining us on our conversation is Dave Abel, director of IBM's homeland security services.

Admiral, the role of the Coast Guard has evolved over the last five years. How would you characterize this evolution, and how do you envision the Coast Guard over the next five to ten years?

Mr. Allen: Well, I wouldn't say it's evolved so much as we've gone back and resurrected a mission that was given to us years ago that's become prominent again. A lot of people ask us about the maritime security mission we've got right now and how it impacts us, but frankly, we've had this mission since 1917.

There was a piece of legislation passed after a sabotage event by German saboteurs in New York harbor in 1915 resulting in something called the Espionage Act, which is some of the organic legislation that FBI holds right now. That is the original authority for our captain of the ports to be able to direct to close ports, protect facilities, and so forth. So, the port security mission is not new, it just emerges from time to time.

During World War II, the Coast Guard was over 200,000, and a good deal of our authorities then were to direct and control the ports. So it just happens to be a reemergence of a longstanding mission that we've had, that is what the American public needs from us now. And we're capable of diverting our resources, realigning them, putting them where they need to be, and be responsive to the American public.

Mr. Morales: What about the next 10 years, any major changes that you see in the next 10 years?

Mr. Allen: Well, I think the challenge before us is to come up with what the end state is for a maritime security regime in this country. We made a lot of changes since 9/11. We significantly improved port safety and maritime safety, but the question is what is the end state that we are driving to?

We have a very good example in aviation security where there's a 200-mile air defense information zone. If you penetrate that zone and you haven't called in or you're not using a transponder, you get met. We have never thought about the oceans in those kind of terms. And the water is very, very different. We have 95,000 miles of coastline with rivers, lakes, and everything else that are potentially -- have to be covered in this country. 95 percent of all the cargo moving from outside the hemisphere comes by vessel.

But we're not dealing with bright borders like we see in the land areas. What you see are layers of legal structures that overlap on the water because they developed quite differently. They have a 12-mile territorial sea. You have a 12-mile contiguous zone that allows you to enforce customs, immigration, and sanitation laws. Then you have an exclusive economic zone out to 200 miles.

We have never tried to manage the water like we do the air. But the question is how should the water be managed, and I don't think there's been a discussion in this country or an agreement on where we need to go. One of the things I'm going to try and do during my tenure as commandant is lay out what I propose would be a security regime for a costal nation state in the current transnational threat environment. And we're also going to have to make sure that we understand how to do this globally, because if we do it unilaterally and our other partners around the world don't, we're going to create an unlevel playing field, not only in terms of commerce, but in terms of reciprocity on how we're treated everywhere.

So the challenge I've laid down for my people in Coast Guard Headquarters is to start working on this, so when we deal with legislation, rulemaking, our agenda to the International Maritime Organization, which is where we handle international issues, our budget, outreach to stakeholders around the country, we can say here's what we're building to. Here's how we think we ought to regulate the waters, here's where we think people ought to carry transponders, and it's a discussion we need to have with the country. That's what we need to be doing in the next five to ten years.

Mr. Morales: You've been quoted as saying that your enduring goal is to lead a Coast Guard that is steadfast in character but adaptive in its methods. Can you elaborate on this, please?

Mr. Allen: I sure can. We don't want to lose that organizational DNA that goes back to 1790, that started with independent cruising cutters that has evolved into the principles of operation that we use right now, including on-scene initiative. We want to keep that always. But how those resources, how those capabilities are being applied in a different threat environment, what you have to understand, there's an entirely threat and political context that we're operating in right now, so we need to be adaptable.

For instance a few years ago, when Admiral Loy was the commandant of the Coast Guard, he made a very brave decision that was not always well received throughout the organization. He was bound and determined that we should arm our helicopters. That was something that was almost unheard of in some areas of the Coast Guard. But we did it. And it's been the single most effective drug interdiction capability we put out on the waters in the history of the organization. And last year we seized 150 tons of cocaine. Most of that was as a result of warning shots and disabling fire from our helicopters. So what you need is an organization that has the ability to keep those core values and that organizational history of being able to act and do the right thing but be adaptive enough to coming threats where you're able to bring in technology and manage change so the organization gets better every year, as far as dealing with the current threats.

Mr. Morales: Admiral, how does the Coast Guard grow and improve the competency of its workforce going forward?

Mr. Allen: Well, that's probably our biggest challenge, because the requirements are changing radically and we're inserting new technology all the time. And every time you hire somebody in the Coast Guard, you're potentially making a 30-year decision. Being flexible and agile in how you train people and how you develop competencies is extremely important.

I've got a team taking a look at our human resource strategy right now as it relates to the new mission set and where I'm trying to drive the Coast Guard. And within a couple months I've asked them to come back and tell me what the major changes we need to make as far as how we're managing accessions, how we're training them, how we track competencies.

A key thing for us right now is to get much better at training our junior people in law enforcement; we do a lot of that on the job, on cutters. We think a lot of that needs to be in the classroom. We need to have more of a professional certification for some of our folks that operate out on the water. We're closely aligned with what you would see with the CBP or other law enforcement organizations.

Mr. Morales: Picking up the discussion of the classroom, how valuable are service academies such as the United Sates Coast Guard Academy to your long term strategy?

Mr. Allen: Well, they're extraordinary valuable because you need a mix of officers, you need a diversity of background, and you need a diversity of education. One thing the academy does for us is it allows us to produce engineers. Engineers are in short supply; everybody's fighting for them, trying to recruit them and everything else. So there's a certain amount of capability and competency that you need to indemnify the organization against by home growing it, if you will. And the academy is one place where we can do that. It is also a place where we can take young people coming out of high school, give them a college education, but in the four years also imbue them with the history and traditions of the Coast Guard and create a nucleus by which we can build an officer corp. And then we can surge officer candidate school, which is much shorter, and we can vary the sizes of those classes to complement, to fill out the entire officer corp.

Mr. Morales: Admiral, earlier you described a relatively young workforce within the U.S. Coast Guard. But we do talk to many of our guests about some of the pending retirement waves and challenges within government. What are you seeing within the Coast Guard and how are you planning for the future?

Mr. Allen: In relation to our military personnel, we don't have the pending problem that a lot of people are going to see, and that is the retirement of the baby-boomer population and the loss of intellectual capacity and intellectual capital in organizations. I think we've done a good job on the military side. It's more of a manner of how do you manage competencies and reshape that workforce as you need to once you have them for a 30-year career. We need to do a better job in recruiting and retaining our civilian workforce. If you were to take a look at where our shortages are now in the Coast Guard, our major shortages are in our civilian workforce, and our ability to recruit, retain, and then provide promotional ladders for these folks is extremely important.

We're challenged in our civilian workforce in that we don't have as many as other agencies. And they are commingled with the military workforce, so making sure that they have career progressions is very, very important. Our challenge is we may not have a critical mass of those positions that will allow us to be able to promote them up and allow them the virtual certainty they can stay in the organization and still work in their specialty and be promoted. And that's one of our big challenges right now.

Mr. Morales: Admiral, you've had a very successful and distinguished career. What advice can you give to a person who is interested in a career in public service? And in particular for that young person who may be out there who is interested in a career in the Coast Guard?

Mr. Allen: Well, whether it's a career in public service or the Coast Guard, you need to understand that when you're involved in public service, in addition to the compensation that you get that may not be as great as you would be able to enjoy in the private sector, you're being compensated psychologically for doing something for your country. And there's a notion of a service in serving something that's bigger than yourself when you do that. And I think that's embodied in public service. It's particularly embodied in service in the Coast Guard.

And the advice I usually give folks is that, number one, you need to understand that you're serving the country. Number two, you need to get up every day and go to work and enjoy it, and if you're not, then you should do something else. And number three, if you're coming home from work and you're not enjoying it, then you need to look at yourself and what's going on in your personal life.

I think the Coast Guard has got it right in our core values of honor, respect, and devotion to duty. And when people are looking to come in the Coast Guard, I would just say they need to think about those three core values. And I think of them as concentric circles when I'm talking to young folks in the Coast Guard. The first one is honor. And that's a compact you make with yourself on how you're going to conduct your life and the principles you're going to live by. Respect, which is the next one, is how you're going to conduct your life in relation to those around you, the compact you make with your teammates, your officemates, the people in your own organization. A devotion to duty is a compact you make with your country.

So honor, respect, and devotion to duty I see as concentric circles that build the individual from their self out to that larger sense of duty that's related to the blue uniform we all wear.

Mr. Morales: Admiral, that's a great model and great advice I think for all of us. Unfortunately, we have reached the end of our time. I do want to thank you for fitting us into your busy schedule today. But more importantly Dave and I would like to thank you for your dedicated service to our country.

Mr. Allen: Well, thank you very much. I would just advice your listeners if they want to find out more about the Coast Guard, we do have a website, it's www.uscg.mil. You can also go to gocoastguard.com and you can find more information about our service.

Mr. Morales: Great, Admiral, thank you.

This has been The Business of Government Hour featuring a conversation with Commandant of the Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen.

Be sure to visit us on the web at businessofgovernment.org. There you can learn more about our program, and get a transcript of today's conversation. Once again, that's businessofgovernment.org.

As you enjoy the rest of the 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 the government, but who deserve our unconditional respect and support.

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

Reflections on 21st Century Government Management

Wednesday, February 7th, 2007 - 20:00
Our goal with this report is straightforward: to begin thinking about the future of government and the trends and new ideas in government management that a new president should consider as he or she takes office in 2009. The intent of this project is to stimulate new ideas among several key audiences. We wish to spark the imagination of government leaders to look beyond their day-to-day "urgencies" and reflect upon the important challenges the nation will face tomorrow.

R. Allen Pittman interview

Friday, January 26th, 2007 - 20:00
Phrase: 
"Where we need to move from where we are today, how do we transform ourselves -- it is moving from a personnel transaction-based organization into a human resources consulting behavioral-based organization."
Radio show date: 
Sat, 01/27/2007
Guest: 
Intro text: 
R. Allen Pittman
Complete transcript: 

Originally Broadcast Saturday, January 27, 2007

Washington, D.C.

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 www.businessofgovernment.org.

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 Mr. Allen Pittman, Assistant Secretary for Human Resources and Administration, and Chief Human Capital Officer at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Good morning, Allen.

Mr. Pittman: Good morning, Albert.

Mr. Morales: And joining us in our conversation is Solly Thomas, associate partner in IBM's Human Capital Practice, and former Acting Associate Director for Human Capital at the Office of Personnel Management.

Good morning, Solly.

Mr. Thomas: Good morning, Al.

Mr. Morales: Allen, perhaps you could start by giving our listeners an overview of the history and the mission of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Mr. Pittman: Be more than my pleasure to do so. Veterans Affairs actually was established through an Executive Order creating an agency by President Hoover in 1930. In 1989, we became a Cabinet-level department under President Reagan.

Mr. Morales: Could you give us a sense of the scale of the VA? Also, how is it organized, the size of its budget, the number of full-time employees, and its overall geographic footprint?

Mr. Pittman: Absolutely. VA has 235,000 employees, and that fluctuates every month, typically goes up to about 238,000, drops down to about 234,000, but we're currently about 235,000 employees. Of the 235,000 employees, just to give you additional information, we have approximately 190,000 employees that are members of the union. So that's taken into consideration. The VA itself is broken into three major operating groups.

We are kind of different than the rest of the government in that we're actually an operating company if you look at us as a business entity. We have Veterans Health Administration. That has the largest component of employees -- approximately 190,000 employees. Then we have Veterans Benefits Administration, and then we also have the National Cemetery Administration. The remainder would be the staff offices supporting those three operational groups.

We have 1598 locations made up of 156 hospitals, 877 outpatient clinics, 136 nursing homes, 43 residential rehabilitation treatment programs, 207 readjustment counseling centers, 57 veterans benefits regional offices, and 122 national cemeteries.

Mr. Thomas: Allen, perhaps you could tell us a little bit more about your specific role as the Assistant Secretary for Human Resources and Administration, and also as the Chief Human Capital Officer. Could you tell us a little bit about the areas under your purview, the organizations, the size, the budget, the resources available to you?

Mr. Pittman: I have five program areas. There's human resources. There's labor relations management; there's administration; there's diversity management, and then the Office of Resolution Management. I have -- reporting into those five program areas, I have approximately 550 employees, and I have a budget responsibility for around $101million.

Mr. Thomas: Allen, I want to shift the focus now and ask you to describe your career path for our listeners. How did you begin your career? Could you talk about your experiences, and also what drew you to this critical position at the VA?

Mr. Pittman: Well, let me go back a little further than what you anticipate by that question, but I think I have to set the stage. I actually was a money and banking major in college, with the University of Arkansas. I had returned from Vietnam -- I'm a Vietnam veteran -- and I was on the G.I. Bill. And majoring through money and banking, I had reached the last semester of my eligibility out of the G.I. Bill and was running out of money. And I had to take one class which remained in my core criteria in reference to my major. Unfortunately, there wasn't anyone available to teach that class. So I switched to personnel management. That's how I got into personnel management.

Upon graduation, I started interviewing within the area that the University of Arkansas was located in, which is Northwest Arkansas. Unfortunately, the only jobs I was receiving came from Tyson Foods. And at that time, the offer that I was given was actually $2,000 less than the poverty level. And my dad, who was a family physician -- here comes a tie as far as health care -- suggested that possibly I get into pharmaceutical sales. So I ventured into that arena as far as that industry sector, and I went to work for American Cyanamid Lederle Laboratories, and eventually for Pfizer Labs.

So I became a pharmaceutical detail man. In my background in the military, I was a hospital corpsman. Again, you'll see there's a thread of health care. So I was able -- I was a caregiver in the Service, obviously, even though it was in a combat-oriented environment. But with pharmaceutical sales, I started understanding pharmacology. After I left Pfizer and went to work in the private sector, I went to work at a hospital, where I was a personnel manager.

I eventually went to work with Fluor Corporation, which was an engineering construction organization, and that was one of the best moves I made, principally because it was so fundamentally sound in reference to its training and development organizations. And from the human resources component, they soon put me into a fast track program where they wanted to make a general manager out of me. But in order to do that, I had to complete all the various disciplines within human resources.

And at Fluor Corporation, they had everything but labor relations. So therefore, I became a fundamental human resources technician, in that I've been in every discipline that there is within human resources, either as a technician or a supervisor or a manager. With that then I soon went on down the road in human resources, but I was soon contacted in the early '80s by a gentleman that I worked with for about 22 years. And we started two companies, both in health care -- both were ambulatory care, but one was home infusion, and the other one, the last one, was U.S. Oncology, which was a cancer-based community-based organization for the treatment of cancer. That's really helped me out. The background that I had created a situation for me in these operational companies that we started up not only in maintaining the direct responsibility for human resources, but also being the operating executive within those two organizations.

So I bring a different fit into the government in that I'm a true operational executive, and have been for over 20 years. However, I'm also a human resources professional. And I think that's always important. When you look at a career in human resources, it's unusual to have someone that understands health care to the degree that I do, and can apply it through a human resources aspect.

Mr. Thomas: Allen, with such a fascinating background and wealth of experiences, I'm curious: how have these experiences prepared you for your current leadership role, and how has this informed your current management approach and leadership style?

Mr. Pittman: Well, it's been beneficial from this respect. I think that you know I'm a political appointee. And with that, a political appointee comes into an environment that the majority of -- at least 98 percent or 99 percent of the employee base are career employees. At the VA, we only have 15 political appointees. We're treating veterans. This is not political, this is an apolitical environment.

So with that, the fact that I have this experience, that brings credibility. So when I talk, I bring credibility from the standpoint of -- again understanding the business, and being able to relate the business to a human resources decision or strategy. And that's been most important.

The other aspect, too -- in those two organizations in particular that I referenced about starting up, we had approximately 40, 45 acquisitions in those two organizations. So needless to say when you acquire an organization and try to transform and transition those two organizations together, it is very, very difficult. So it requires a lot of selling experience and being to sell the program, but importantly, you have to work collaboratively and participatively. I am a collaborator in reference to my management ability. In addition to that, I believe in participation.

That's where ownership comes in as far as whatever strategy or initiative you may have, and ownership by those that are participating in that initiative. I think that's been crucial, because there's such a short time to be able to come into the VA to hopefully impact and move that organization from a collaborative standpoint to where it should be.

Mr. Morales: Fantastic.

What is the VA's human resource strategy? We will ask Allen Pittman, Assistant Secretary for Human Resources and Administration, and Chief Human Capital Officer of the VA, to share with us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.

(Intermission)

Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm your host, Albert Morales, and this morning's conversation is with Allen Pittman, Assistant Secretary for Human Resources and Administration, and Chief Human Capital Officer at the VA.

Also joining us in our conversation is Solly Thomas, associate partner in IBM's Human Capital Practice.

Allen, could you elaborate on the four-part HR consulting model that you and your team had recently rolled out? And how does it frame your human capital strategy?

Mr. Pittman: Well, to give you just a little bit of background, first of all, VA, unfortunately over the years, has not kept up as far as leading edge technology or actually systems from a people perspective within the VA. And you might understand why. VA is mostly known for health care and also veterans benefits. So therefore, when the budget comes through, from an appropriation standpoint, it's typically for health care and benefits administration, plus for national cemeteries, of course.

So when you talk about overhead, which we are, it's very difficult to get those dollars that are necessary to move forward. What we've done since I've been there is to identify what we need to be within the future. So we're going through an HR transformation process. And I will tell you something that I think is somewhat funny. When I first came here and did an assessment of VA from the human resource perspective, I mapped out what I thought needed to be done before we sat down and did a collaborative strategic plan as far as human capital plan is concerned. Turns out that it matches the President's Management Agenda, and I would prefer to say that the President is following my lead, but unfortunately, that is -- that is not -- as it turns out, it's a pretty good fit.

And this is not rocket science when you look at human resources. If you look at the fact that fundamentally you're a personnel organization, a personnel department, even though we are 235,000 strong, then you'll soon see what we must do. And automation is almost non-existent to VA. We have a payroll system that has a component for human resources in it.

So taking a look at where we need to move from where we are today to where we're going to in the future, and the people involved, and how do we get there, how do we transform ourselves, a lot of it is moving from a personnel transaction-based organization into a human resources consulting behavioral-based organization. But you also need to have the tools that allow you to do that.

We went through that process and soon realized that if we're going to become a consulting organization, then what do we need to subscribe to? And you mentioned the four-step consulting model. Well, it includes the focus on customer needs, exploring solutions, developing and executing action plans, and closing the loop with our HR practitioners, but also the line managers that they work with.

So what we're trying to do is take those four components and develop core competency training programs so we can create an organization that is a consulting organization. We have a three-year plan in reference to that training and development piece as far as human resources and the human resource professionals are concerned. A lot of it's contingent also upon automation.

Mr. Morales: You talk about the scale of transition. Could you elaborate a little bit more on the VA's plan to transition to an HR line of business? And how does this move factor into your strategy, which you talked about, of moving your HR function to a more consultative and less transactional focus?

Mr. Pittman: Well, if one understands -- if you're a personnel transaction-based organization -- I'll give you an example of that: within the federal government, there is a Form 52, which is actually a change of status for an employee that's filled out typically by either the supervisor or human resources. And it's a paper form, and that's the way we do it at VA.

Understanding that that's a transaction itself, and then also understanding that our survey has shown us that approximately 36 to 42 percent of our HR professionals are transaction-based tasks, then you can see just how much labor it's taking in order to move an individual from one slot to another to perform any function within human resources. So just imagine if we automated those functions, then wouldn't that give us more capacity without even adding staff? And that is our strategy right there.

We want to automate, thus increasing capacity of our human resources professionals to allow them to do consulting without adding FTE. In order to do that -- that's where our HR line of business comes into play -- pretty much tells us where we need to go, and that's even better. Why? Because we don't have to build it. The HR line of business goes through a process through OPM. And OPM goes through the due diligence process of not only creating the project teams that represent all the departments and agencies within the federal government, to be able to select going through a due diligence process of who can perform these functions from a transaction-based piece.

Most people call these organizations "service centers." So a service center can offer, for example, classification. What we're doing is buying that service from either another agency and the agencies that have been identified within the federal government have been identified, and there's four that meet the criteria we need from the human resource information standpoint.

However, at the same time, OMB is going through a process of due diligence as far as the private sector is concerned, allowing them the opportunity also to become service center operators. So we're waiting for that one aspect to be complete. But by utilizing a human resource information system, this allows us to go into the database. And the database, in this respect, comes from a personnel file.

Once we automate that personnel file, the official personnel file, then this human resource information system -- an automated system can reach down into that database and pull out all these various aspects of an employee. And that will help us in managing our workforce.

Mr. Thomas: Allen, I want to talk a little bit about performance management. I want to know if you could elaborate on the VA's five-tier performance management system, and your experience implementing the performance appraisal plans. In particular, I'm interested in hearing what kind of findings, what your experience was under your performance management data site.

Mr. Pittman: Well, most people are unaware of this, that there is an awful lot of publicity in reference to the Department of Defense and Homeland Security and the issues they're having to train and to implement a five-tier performance appraisal system, which is absolutely crucial to performance planning. VA is the second largest agency and department within the federal government -- 235,000 strong.

All 235,000 employees are on the five-tier system. We had that ratified by the union six months ago. And we've worked with our union partners to get that. That was an essential piece. If we didn't do that, other than our Senior Executive Service who is on a five-tier system already, and that's approximately 300 of our executives -- if we didn't have a five-tier system, we'd still be on a pass/fail system. Now, the pass/fail system doesn't bode well for lots of different reasons. If you and I -- Solly, for example, are in the same classification and the same job title and we perform the same work, and you receive a pass and I receive a pass, but you work extremely hard and I work just enough to get a pass, then who can the supervisor and who should the supervisor invest in from a training and development standpoint for the future of this succession plan and also strategies of VA?

If the investment goes into you, I have every right to raise my hand and say, "How come you're not investing in me, I also have a pass?" We need to be able to distinguish between the levels of performance to give us a determination of who from a career path and career progression standpoint is going to move forward; also, who needs development, how can we invest those very valuable and scarce resources, dollars, that we get from the Congress, to invest in you?

So from a five-tier system, we started this process just this last six months, with the exception of the Senior Executive Service. So we have gone out and we've tested it, we've implemented it in all parts of the country. We are writing up the objectives as we just speak now that align with incentives, the incentives being defined as the strategies of the VA, strategies of the organization and also the objectives of the individual. So we can have measurable metrics that will afford us the opportunity to move people through the system based upon performance.

Now, the experience we have has been short-lived other than the Senior Executive Service. We've piloted this program and it's working extremely well. We had approximately three VISNs. VISNs are integrated systems within VHA. So it's Veterans Information and Integrated Service Network -- that's what a VISN is. So we've done that, it's working extremely well, and now we are doing a wholesale rollout in reference to the five-tier performance appraisal system. Unfortunately, we don't have that much experience to speak of.

Mr. Thomas: And you mentioned that you worked with the unions. I'm sure they raised some concerns at the outset. How did you address those concerns?

Mr. Pittman: Well, I speak very openly and short and to the point. And if I'm asked a question, I'll answer the question, obviously, but if there is a confidential situation, I'll explain it's confidential, I can't explain it. But in talking with the unions, I've been very, very clear about their relationship. When I first came into the VA, I read the master agreement with reference to the American Federation of Government Employees master agreement and saw that it was a pro-union master contract. In talking with the unions, I expressed that, and I said, well, what we need to do is not to create a pro-management agreement, but to create one that is equitable for not only the unions, but also for management, which would impact, obviously positively, the employees.

It's very, very difficult to manage an employee, the human capital asset, if in fact you can't do it directly. And if you have to give 30 days' notice every time you do something, whether it's a salary increase or whether it's a performance appraisal or et cetera. And that's what we talked about. We talked about how we could collaboratively develop a master agreement that would allow us the opportunity to manage the employees for the benefit of the veterans that we serve. Otherwise, we are too restrictive right now. In addition to that, I did talk about the fact that, you know, there's a trend within the private sector in particular that unions are becoming more and more minimized. And there is an opportunity to work with us in a partnership to develop an equitable plan, an equitable agreement to allow them to participate properly in the future.

You know, I talked about performance planning. Their concern was performance planning. And when there is an issue, whether it's positive or negative, but typically negative, then there is not a performance plan in place that allows the employee a good-faith effort to turn around and to continue employment. We have a philosophy at VA, I have a philosophy at VA -- it's our job to retain an employee. It's not our job to separate an employee. It's difficult enough bringing someone on board, so why not keep them. So through a performance plan request that they had as far as negotiations are concerned, I said absolutely, that's what supervisors are supposed to do.

Again, some of the very basic elements of labor management relations that should have been there were not there. We are creating that.

Mr. Morales: How is VA transforming how it manages its workforce?

We will ask Allen Pittman, Assistant Secretary for Human Resources and Administration, and Chief Human Capital Officer at the VA, to share with us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.

(Intermission)

Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm your host, Albert Morales, and this morning's conversation is with Allen Pittman, Assistant Secretary for Human Resources and Administration, and Chief Human Capital Officer at the VA.

Also joining us in our conversation is Solly Thomas, associate partner in IBM's Human Capital Practice.

Allen, we often talk with our guests about the pending retirement wave in government and the type of impact that this will have on their operations. What are you seeing within the VA, and what plans are in place to mitigate its possible effects?

Mr. Pittman: This is one of the most important areas that not only VA, but also the government, needs to respond to and respond to very quickly. Director Springer of the Office of Personnel Management uses the phrase "retirement tsunami." And I think that's a pretty good graphic, as a matter of fact, when you start talking about retirement. At the VA, which is in parallel to the rest of the agencies, but speaking about VA, we actually have 60 percent of our employee workforce that is eligible to retire within the next five years, not 10 years.

And doing an analysis in reference to where they're at as far as their retirements are concerned -- they being the employees, we've done two things. One is we have started a program of actually asking the employees -- which is part of succession planning -- it really surprises me when I first came on this, has anybody ever asked the employee when they have an expectation of retirement? And it's not illegal to do so. And the reason behind that is anyone can apply for retirement. They have to fill out an application actually to retire. They can actually pull that application anytime they want to, even though they've said they're going to retire. But from a planning perspective, you need to understand that.

What's even more important, not only from a planning perspective, is also understanding the intellectual, institutional knowledge that they have. They maintain a lot of information that's not written down anywhere. And it's absolutely necessary that we try and transition that knowledge base to someone else.

And the way that we are trying to approach it is actually multifaceted. What we're looking at and doing an analysis, which was the first part of what I was starting to answer a moment ago, is we were looking at those eligible to retire from an age perspective. When is it that they will retire based upon tendencies? If you look back over the years and look at the individuals that hold certain positions, you'll see that the higher the level, the shorter the time they will have as far as an age perspective. They may retire at 55, they may retire at 58, depending upon the number of years and combination. But you'll find, for example, senior executives, they normally do not go to age 65. Our senior executives typically go right at 59-1/2. And the rationale behind that is they have their high threes.

But if you look at that, that's when an individual -- an executive -- I happen to be 59, just for your information -- I know that I have a lot of years left. You may not think so, but I do. And you're at your peak. So why in fact should we work hard on trying to retain those individuals, how can we retain those individuals, not just plan for future replacement of the individuals through succession planning, but why can't we -- from a legislation standpoint, why can we retain without impacting their high threes as an individual, moving them into another slot parallel for a year or two-year period, to be able to transfer that institutional knowledge they have, and also to mentor their replacements, et cetera. That's an example of what we're trying to do.

The other aspect as far as succession planning is concerned also: the federal government has a tendency of really spending a lot of time on workforce planning. It has been an exceptional tool for the last two to three years. But it is now time to move to succession planning. Director Springer actually has taken this under her objectives and strategies. I believe VA started that process.

Part of what we need is automation -- if you recall, we need to have a learning management system that catches the skills inventory of each individual, not only their skills, but also their educational licensures, to be able to create a database so we can at that point develop a gap analysis in reference to where their skills and where their experiences and professional knowledge are in reference to where we're going from the VA perspective.

The federal government typically does strategic planning on a five-year basis. We are moving to a 10-year plan. There is nothing that you can accomplish in the five-year period. So why don't you look further out, look out further and see what your lines of business are going to be, what your technologies are going to be, what skill sets are necessary to support those lines of business, and start looking not only internally through a gap analysis, developing those competencies through leadership development programs and/or skill development programs to be able to support the lines of business into the future. And also to sit down and review the strategic plan on an annual basis. Right now, there's legislation out there that you have to review your plan every two years.

Well, typically an agency or department will take that plan off the shelf every two years, dust it off, enhance it, put it back on the shelf. It needs to be a living document, where you are looking at it every year and determining that if your lines of business that have been identified in the future have changed, you need to revise your strategies, which means you revise your skill sets necessary to support them.

So one of the things we need to do is to develop career pathing programs. VA does an exceptional job, and I'm serious, an exceptional job, for the highest levels of leadership. That includes the Senior Executive Service. And we have a program that's called the Senior Executive Career Development Program, which actually is a feeder program into the Senior Executive Service. We also have another program called the Leadership VA. The Leadership VA is actually the first executive-level, usually GS-13, 14 and 15 level development program, that is a feeder into the SESCDP, which feeds into the SES program.

However, the void is this: we don't have anything universally across the VA for the GS-3s through 12s. How do you create the pools of talent, how do you create the developed pools of talent in order to succeed? And this succession plan itself identifies positions based upon not only skill sets, but also careers. We have a tendency of recruiting. When we recruit for future purposes, we don't really recruit for the future. What we are recruiting is for now, for the vacancy. We are changing our recruitment strategies, our recruitment strategies for the future development based upon the skill sets necessary to support the strategies of the future and also technologies in the lines of business. So when we go out and recruit, we actually are offering a career based upon a need for the VA, not the vacancy.

Mr. Morales: I want to go back to some of the earlier comments you made about the -- certainly the size of the VA and its geographic dispersion. I'm curious. How does the VA evaluate HR field performance as well as impart some of these best practices to the HR community? And what steps are you taking to ensure that the policies and procedures are documented and communicated in a timely and comprehensible manner?

Mr. Pittman: Well, this is twofold. Again, when I came onboard and did an assessment, I asked first of all, do we have the human resource information system? That system is absolutely crucial to anyone that is in the profession of human resources. Why? For example, when you are talking about field audits, you can do system audits if you have a human resource information system, it will save you a ton of time to ensure that you have compliance to various policies, to include, for example, veterans preference on the hiring process. So a system that we will have on board over the course of the next two to three years maximum will be on board to allow us to do that.

In the meantime, I looked at also again what OPM was requiring us to do to go green. And by the way, we have gone green. We went green approximately six months ago. So we are the largest federal agency that has a green status at the current time. And part of that process, and what we needed to do, is to create an accountability organization. The accountability organization functions like an audit organization that comes out of human resources.

So it's a manual process, and what we do is we started out with just one individual. And we now have 11 staff that's in the accountability office. That's how important it is to our organization, and also one of the most important strategies we've done to ensure compliance. I think that you know that first of all, we are Veterans Affairs. So therefore, one of our most and greatest priorities that we ought to have is the hiring of veterans. And as you well know, there is veterans preference from a legal perspective that needs to be complied with.

We are the second-largest department behind the Department of Defense, with 30 percent of employment being veterans. And we absolutely believe in the merit system to begin with. I'm a strong supporter of the merit system, which surprised me when I came on board, coming from the private sector. However, I'm a firm believer that that needs to be there and to be maintained. And the other aspect of it, too, is that any preferences that we have as far as legislation is concerned needs to be followed to disability, age, whatever it might be -- needs to be followed.

So this accountability organization has been absolutely crucial. What it does, it checks every aspect, every function of human resources, not only from a recruiting standpoint, but from a classification standpoint, compensation, disciplinary action, it ensures compliance. Unfortunately, being the size that we are, 235,000 employees, and the dispersion that we have geographically as far as our locations are concerned, needless to say, this is a little bit difficult when you have a staff of 11. What we are doing though is, we're now training up the field staff, field human resource organizations, coming out of each one of our administrations -- that's Veterans Health Administration, Veterans Benefits Administration and National Cemetery Administration -- their human resources staff, to function as a team with us.

We've taken an integrated team approach. Those individuals that come from field operations will now be auditing their own facilities or even in their own administration. Therefore, we will have more capability to be able to do that. That's how we do it currently. We are anticipating automation. It will help us as far as system audits.

Mr. Thomas: Allen, you had mentioned some changes you had put into place to focus on the recruitment process. Maybe you could elaborate in a little bit more detail. And on a related matter, does the VA use flexible compensation strategies to attract and retain quality talent?

Mr. Pittman: To answer your question in reference to flexibility, the answer is yes. We extensively use such things as recruitment relocation and retention incentives. We use special rate ranges to attract and retain quality employees that possess mission-critical competencies. So we use all the flexibilities that OPM allows, and we use them very aggressively. The other aspect, too, in mentioning the recruitment strategies, when I first came onboard -- again, and it seems like everything that I have done is being matched by someone else from an initiative standpoint -- either the President or the OPM, so they are following me extremely well, by the way. But I will tell you, we needed help as far as our recruiting strategies, in reference to bringing people onboard.

Our analysis of the general schedule, the GS classifications, in the hiring of the general schedule employees was that we were exceeding in the neighborhood of 95 days to bring on a general schedule. From a Senior Executive Service onboard process, we were in the neighborhood of 220 days. So can you imagine? We're sitting here trying to compete with the private sector, and a private sector employee has been offered a job from us for the Senior Executive Service probably has gone to work for three or four companies during that 220-day period.

So you can just imagine the talent that we were losing. So what we ended up doing is we sought help from the Office of Personnel Management actually. And they have a process; it's called a hiring makeover. We asked them to come in and help us. We are an operational organization, so we don't have that much staff to sit back and assess, analyze. We have to operate an organization, and at the same time try to do these assessments. So OPM offered their services; we took advantage. They came in, and it was most beneficial. From a general schedule standpoint, taking a look at what we were doing and how we were bringing people onboard, we have now gone down to 38 days in reference to the onboard process for the general schedule, which also helps us as far as going green and maintaining our green status.

Also from the Senior Executive Service standpoint, we've reduced the 220 down to 98 days, and we're on our way to an objective of 45 days. Now, one aspect that we've done just recently is the utilization of USA Staffing. USA Staffing is an application of recruitment that also enhances and expedites the process of delegated examining units. So the delegating examining function, which actually rates and ranks applicants and their applications, takes into consideration the preferences and creates a certificate. It's done automatically through the automated USA Staffing approach.

So that's been most beneficial in impacting what we are doing. Now we are in the process of rolling that out. We have 800 licenses that we are going to be going after pretty soon through the Office of Personnel Management, which will help us again trying to bring that onboard process down to something manageable, and therefore not losing the talent as much as we have in the past, because competition with the private sector is just huge.

Mr. Morales: How is VA planning for its future staffing needs?

We will ask Allen Pittman, Assistant Secretary for Human Resource and Administration, and Chief Human Capital Officer at the VA, to share with us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.

(Intermission)

Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm your host, Albert Morales, and this morning's conversation is with Allen Pittman, Assistant Secretary for Human Resources and Administration, and Chief Human Capital Officer at the VA.

Also joining us in our conversation is Solly Thomas, associate partner in IBM's Human Capital Practice.

Allen, you talked about your movement to a 10-year plan. So as you look at this horizon, what types of personnel challenges do you think the VA will face?

Mr. Pittman: From a personnel challenge standpoint, if you're talking about human capital into the future, we have a huge challenge ahead of us. I'd just very briefly talk about succession planning. Obviously, you have to ensure that you have a flow of candidates for employment. That's absolutely crucial that we not only focus there but also understand what we are about in the lines of business that we're going to support in the future.

Again, mentioning our three administrations, if you know that VHA, Veterans Health Administration, is the largest component of our operating units and it is patient care-oriented, then that tells you pretty much the focus that we would have in reference to that administration. Doctors, nurses, health care professionals and health care technicians.

And we need to ensure that there is a constant flow, and we're taking steps to do that. We've developed, for example -- we're trying to brand ourselves within the minority community. It's an unusual approach; again, this is thinking outside the box. The private sector and the federal government typically go after anyone that they can recruit, but the most overlooked segment of our society happens to be the minorities. And that speaks very, very clearly. I mean, if you look at under-representation within the government, that speaks to where we are not getting candidates for employment from.

So why not become the brand within that minority community? I'll give you an example. We developed just recently and implemented in Puerto Rico a community prosperity partnership with one of the nation's largest Hispanic organizations, LULAC, and also the American GI Forum, which is a Hispanic veteran organization that's chartered by the federal government. And what the intent is is to look 10 years in the future and see what our job requirements are based upon the lines of business, the skills necessary to support those, and turn it right around and go into the Hispanic community through the storefronts that belong to American GI Forum and also LULAC; they're inviting us into their community.

The problem with our recruiting strategies typically is we don't understand the culture. So by working with them to develop those strategies, what we're doing is taking those job requirements into their youth development programs and developing that individual to where they are qualified for the job openings. The biggest barrier that we have is finding a qualified candidate for the job posting. So if we have a qualified candidate, that minimizes that barrier approach. Well, there's other approaches, too. Nursing; nursing shortages continue to happen. And it's not that there are not individuals that want to become nurses, the numbers are there. It's just that the nursing schools don't have the number of openings because they don't have enough instructors.

So therefore VA, has taken another unique approach. The Deputy suggested -- again thinking outside the box -- why doesn't VA have a nursing school, a national nursing school? Well, we're looking into that, so we can have people come to us. I also have been talking with the surgeon generals of the British Military Services. And they are very, very supportive of this. The allied health care professionals, for example, the non-nurses, non-physicians, those that have made the actual decision to separate from Service, why can't we bring them into our organization? Remember, we hire veterans. But also, we are bringing in qualified individuals.

If we had someone, for example, that was a hospital corpsman in the navy that wants to come to VA and become a nurse, we have a program where they can actually come in and we'll send them to a nursing school. We'll pay them 100 percent of their salary while they are going to school, and then whenever they get out of school, then they'll sign a contract with us for a number of years of service in order to pay us back for taking them through that process. But in talking with the military branches, they are wholeheartedly supportive of that. The one concern they have is that our program becomes so good that those individuals that were in the military or on the border, I mean on the edge of making decision whether staying in the military or leaving, that they may make the decision to leave or separate. So that's a concern we have is making sure we have a human capital for the future.

Mr. Morales: Along sort of the same lines, what challenges and adjustments do you foresee as a result of the ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Mr. Pittman: There is a program that we have that's actually called Coming Home to Work Initiative. And for those young men and women, the veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, the theaters, that have been severely wounded or disabled, they typically would go through a process of rehabilitation assessment, for example, at Walter Reed -- or it could be Bethesda Naval or it could be in San Diego, it could be at Madigan in Seattle. There is a process they're going through where there's determination being made as to whether they can stay in the service, or unfortunately, from their perspective, being discharged.

And I would tell you, if you ask them, they want to stay in the service, they want to stay, and they actually want to go back to Afghanistan and Iraq. And it makes you so proud when you talk to them. But what we have is in the Coming Home to Work Initiative is actually a compensated work initiative. What that means is while they are going through rehabilitation and being paid by their military branch, by the Department of Defense, we have them come to work for us for 17 hours a week, and our one commitment is and the top priority is getting back for rehabilitation therapy. Any employment they had, we'll get them back. But what we're trying to do is during the 17-hour-a-week process, is to help them develop a new profession, a new occupation.

And we started that program about 2-1/2 years ago, and since that period of time, we have hired onboard with us -- mostly in information technology actually. It's about approximately 45 individuals, but we have more that's coming through the process itself. So we're trying to anticipate, from an employment perspective, those individuals coming back. From a network perspective, from a Veterans Health Administration standpoint, obviously we have health care needs also. And we're trying to adapt to that. And we're doing an extremely good job there. And particularly when it comes to brain injury and spinal code injuries, we actually have Centers of Excellence across the country, eight in number. And we're known now as a Center of Excellence for those severe injuries.

Mr. Thomas: Allen, I want to talk a little bit about technologies that are used in the Human Resources area. There's a lot of talk about commercial best practices, and certainly you have an interesting perspective coming in from the private sector. What emerging technologies do you think hold the most promise for improving federal human resource management?

Mr. Pittman: Well, I really think that what we need into the future is really what we are trying to do now through the HR lines of business. However, to take a step further, we need to have an opportunity to where we created a desktop management, human resources management approach for each manager and supervisor. If you look at the flexibility that we have by automating personnel files through the electronic official personnel file process under e-gov and also the human resource information system under the HR lines of business, the intent is to create an icon sitting on that desktop, that computer desktop, that not only sits there with the other icons you may have, like Word and et cetera, but to be able to tap into this icon that says H-R-I-S.

Now, through access rights to whatever applications may be within the human resources information system and also field rights, that supervisor -- as I had mentioned to you earlier, we have a Form 52 which is a manual process on an employee change of status of some sort -- if that supervisor wants to initiate an action, then they can just tap that icon, go into that -- the certain field of an application, fill out electronically that form and also transmit it -- if it requires upline management approval -- to transmit it.

It also has the learning management system that sits within it. For example, the individual development profiles of those employees that they supervise; what kind of training is necessary; what's necessary into the future? So it's to create a desktop approach that's absolutely essential for every manager in order to manage the workforce of tomorrow.

Mr. Morales: Allen, you have a tremendous passion for the business, and you started your career in the private sector and sort of had a variety of experiences. I'm curious and I'd love to learn, for those folks that are out there possibly thinking about a career in public service, what advice could you give them to get started?

Mr. Pittman: I think it's an honor to serve for the public, with the public, in any kind of opportunity that one may have, whether it's the federal government, state, local, could be the Peace Corps, could be the military. If one were to ask me 35 years ago what I would do for anyone coming out of high school, I would highly recommend having a two-year tour duty in public service. And I'll say the Peace Corps again, or it could be the military. I happen to be one of those individuals coming out of a process to where I was a little bit on the wild side, and I needed to have an understanding of a little bit more discipline in my life.

And what I understood in the military, as an example -- and this happens in public service, it's not about I, it's about we. It's a team. You cannot move anything to an outcome unless you have others to help you and to be part of that team approach. And just by the mere fact that you know that you're giving back to your community in one form or another, truly, truly excites me day-in and day-out.

Some say this is a sacrifice. This is not a sacrifice; it's an honor.

Mr. Morales: Great, that is fantastic. Unfortunately, we have reached the end of our time. I do want to thank you for fitting us into your busy schedule, but more importantly, Solly and I would like to thank you for your dedicated service to our country and our veterans.

Mr. Pittman: Thank you very much. Again, I would just like to emphasize, if one has the opportunity for public service, please serve. I can't miss this opportunity to say something about Veterans Affairs; the Veterans Health Administration itself. If you have been reading anything about the VA over the course of the last two years, you now know that the Veterans Health Administration has the highest quality outcomes of any health care distributing system in the world. It's known for its quality care. What a change.

And our Secretary has a tendency -- Secretary Nicholson has a tendency of saying this is the best story never told. And that's true. We're taking an approach now that every opportunity we have, like I do now, to talk about Veterans Affairs, talk about not only medical care, but the Veterans Benefits Administration, and also the shrines that we have for those veterans that are going be laid to rest.

And again, thank you very much. Again, it's an honor to be here and it's an honor to talk about the Veterans Affairs Department.

Mr. Morales: And it is a wonderful story.

This has been The Business of Government Hour, featuring a conversation with Allen Pittman, Assistant Secretary for Human Resource and Administration, and Chief Human Capital Officer at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

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

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 are improving their government, but who deserve our unconditional respect and support.

For The Business of Government Hour, I am Albert Morales.

Thank you for listening.

Rear Admiral James J. Shannon interview

Friday, December 22nd, 2006 - 20:00
Phrase: 
The Navy and Marine Corps' move toward Open Architecture; Technical and engineering aspects...
Radio show date: 
Sat, 12/23/2006
Intro text: 
In this interview, Shannon discusses: his role as the U.S. Navy's major program manager for Future Combat Systems Open Architecture; Open Architecture defined; The Navy and Marine Corps' move toward Open Architecture; Technical and engineering aspects...
In this interview, Shannon discusses: his role as the U.S. Navy's major program manager for Future Combat Systems Open Architecture; Open Architecture defined; The Navy and Marine Corps' move toward Open Architecture; Technical and engineering aspects of Open Architecture; Business aspects of Open Architecture; and the Benefits and key accomplishments of Naval Open Architecture. Missions and Programs; Leadership; Strategic Thinking; Technology and E-Government; Collaboration: Networks and Partnerships
Complete transcript: 

Originally Broadcast Saturday, September 9, 2006

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 businessofgovernment.org.

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 Captain James Shannon, Major Program Manager for Future Combat Systems Open Architecture of the United States Navy. Good morning, Captain.

Captain Shannon: Good morning. How are you doing?

Mr. Morales: And joining us in our conversation, is Bob Reeve, partner in IBM's DoD practice, and a retired officer of the Naval Supply Corps. Good morning, Bob.

Mr. Reeve: Good morning. Good morning, Captain.

Mr. Morales: Captain Shannon, for those who are unfamiliar with the Navy and Marine Corps acquisition community, can you briefly discuss the mission of the Program Executive Office Integrated Warfare Systems, otherwise known as PEO IWS?

Captain Shannon: Sure. PEO IWS, still fairly new PEO, and it's not necessarily a traditional PEO because in the past all of our programs were aligned to platforms. And in 2002, the Navy decided that they had to figure out a better way to integrate across ship platforms, aircraft, and even submarines, and PEO IWS was stood up. Then the leadership was Mr. John Young, who was the Service Acquisition Executive. And the focus for IWS is to ensure that there is commonality among systems in what we invest in across platforms, primarily on ships and submarines.

Mr. Morales: Great. Can you tell us about your role specifically as the Major Program Manger for Future Combat Systems Open Architecture?

Captain Shannon: Yes, again, because we're still a fairly young PEO, I was in the summer of 2004 the Deputy Program Manager for Integrated Combat Systems, which was the program that brought together all of our AEGIS combat system, every combat system we have on all of our ships and also other various and sundry associated programs. When Mr. Young, in that summer, came out with a new policy that required that all Navy programs had to become open, in the sense of adopting Open Architecture principles, we were not necessarily aligned or to do that we had to reorganize the PEO.

So, PEO IWS 7, Future Combat Systems Open Architecture, was created. And I had been the initial Major Program Manager for that. My role is to look across the family of systems in the Navy and not just a specific system. And by a family of systems, my responsibility is to see how aircraft work with ships, how any elevated sensor may pass information to other elevated sensors. So I tried to work those kind of integration challenges. I also look at future in missile defense threats, and make sure we have the right resources towards building programs towards those things. And what's taking up most of my time is what we're here to discuss today, is this open architecture policy.

Mr. Reeve: Captain, can you give us some background about yourself, and how your career path led you to become the program manager for OA?

Captain Shannon: Sure. I'm a surface warfare officer by profession, and spent most of my career going to sea, primarily in cruiser or destroyer platforms. Early in my career, I was an engineer, below-deck engineer. And as I became more senior and served in different ship platforms, different types of combat systems, my training kind of led to combat system development and training. Eventually I commanded two guided missile frigates, and in between my executive officer tour and my command tour, I became very interested in the acquisition of systems. I felt that I could contribute in that way. After my command, I led a project, the evolved Sea Sparrow missile, and I've had a couple of other projects since then, and it's led to this program manager job.

Mr. Reeve: Excellent. You talked a little bit about your role as the program manager, but can you expand on that and tell us what it's like to be the Navy OA Program Manger?

Captain Shannon: Well, I'm defining it day by day. In my role as the program manager for Open Architecture, I'm trying to help establish policy and processes that other program managers can use and adapt to use Open Architecture to help them move forward and follow through RDA's policy, RDA being the Service Acquisition Executive for Research Development and Acquisition. My role as a program manager is to be a leader, to understand the vision of the Navy leadership, and make sure the people on the deck plates can go out and execute the things that we're told to do. We're treading new ground here. We're blazing a new trail. We're learning everyday on how to do it, but my role is to try to manage people in processes and new developments, new systems, new hardware even, and see how we can share that information across programs.

Mr. Morales: Captain, I realize that we've now been talking a lot about your role in the program that you manage. But we haven't specifically addressed what is Open Architecture. When we use that term, exactly what does that mean and what are the business drivers behind Open Architecture?

Captain Shannon: Right. I love that question, by the way, because I think the best way to describe Open Architecture is first to ask what is a closed architecture. And by closed, it's an architecture that only the developer will share within its own specific community or within its own specific company. And it won't be shared outside of that company or outside of that program. When you start talking about opening things, you're letting non-traditional partners develop, and you're allowing some sort of collaboration to happen. So, there is no single architecture in the Navy. There are many architectures to do the various things that the Navy has to do. How we share these architectures, how we understand the interfaces between them is only going to happen as we open them up, and let people look in and see those interfaces. And so the role in Open Architecture is to make that happen.

Mr. Morales: So it sounds like this is really a fundamental shift in the thinking of the way systems are built.

Captain Shannon: It's a big change in the business model, not just for the Navy, but also for industry, and that's what makes it really hard because it requires a cultural change. First thing that people respond with is, what's wrong with the way we're doing it now? Because, don't we have a great Navy? Don't we have great programs in place? Why do you want to break something that's good? And that's tough to answer because the fact is we do have very good ships, we have very good systems and very good programs. But the challenge is not in terms of performance. The challenge is in terms of cost. We simply cannot afford the fleet that we want, and to do that, to get that fleet, we need to change the way we do business.

We have to change it in-house in the Navy, and we have to ask industry to follow us along the way. And that's tough for industry. You know, we're not trying to dismiss this as something that's not important, because industry relies on stockholder investment, it relies on them being able to prove that they're making a profit that they have the right revenue, and for us to simply say, "Change your business," is really not that easy to do. So we're trying to work with industry to do it, but I always try to describe things as either an issue or a problem, or a fact of life. And when you have a problem, that implies a solution. If there is no solution, you have a fact of life, and the way we are doing business today, it's a fact of life we have to change.

Mr. Morales: Great. How is the Navy moving toward Open Architecture across systems? We will ask Captain James Shannon to share with us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.

(Intermission)

Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I am your host, Albert Morales, and this morning's conversation is with Captain Jim Shannon, Major Program Manager for Future Combat Systems Open Architecture of the U.S. Navy. Also joining us in our conversation is Bob Reeve, partner in IBM's DoD practice. Captain Shannon, why did the Navy decide it needed to move towards Open System Architecture and when was that determined?

Captain Shannon: Well, first there has been, I think, a movement at first in the technical community for several years about moving towards Open Architecture. But nothing in government really moves until there is an instruction or a policy that comes out, and first it came from OSD. The Department of Defense came out with a policy towards Modular Open System Architecture, and some of the listeners may have heard of MOSA, which is the acronym for that. And that requires some sort of test or evaluation of a program before any one of its milestones, and they run through a tool to do that. And the group under acquisition technology, ATNL, OCATNL, they have a program called the Open System Joint Task Force, and they lead this MOSA strategy. So that's how we've been ongoing, but the Navy particularly started looking heavily at Open Architecture in the '90s.

First, it happened in the submarine community.There is a program called ARCI, Acoustic Rapid COTS Insertion, and the Navy had a challenge in that we had an increasing threat to be concerned about, and at the same time an affordability problem on our submarine systems. And the investment in submarine systems is, first always in safety and in the hull and mechanical and electrical part of it. And we had to do some trades, system trades, in the combat system piece of submarines. So they looked at the acoustic processing, and wanted to figure out how we can improve performance there. And so they tested Open Architecture in that program and it was successful over a period of time.

As we learned from that program, the surface Navy then realized that they needed to be able to take advantage of COTS processors. COTS is Commercial Off The Shelf processor, computing technology. And they had to get away from the monolithic legacy development that we have done so well, and is to perform well for us in many of our ships.

And through a series of meetings in the 2002-2003 time frame, the Navy realized that we shouldn't just focus on the surface Navy community of interest, but we had to approach this as an enterprise, really looking at the Navy as a business, and across the whole Navy. And so that's when PEO IWS got the role in 2004 officially to do that, and we set up this enterprise and broke it down across five different communities of interest.

We call them domains, but a community of interest is probably a better way to term it.

One community of interest is the surface. PEO IWS is the lead for that, and we work with the other PEOs, and PEO Ships, PEO Carriers, and PEO Littoral Mine Warfare. Then on the air community of interest, that's the other domain, and that's led by PEOT, and they work with the other PEOs in NAVAIR, the Naval Air community. And then it's a little bit easier to break up the domains for the next three. One is submarine or undersea warfare, and that's PEO Subs. Then there is communications, what we call, C4I & Space and that's the PEO out in San Diego. And finally, PEO Space. So those five communities of interest were set up, and that's when we kicked off the effort that I laid down.

Mr. Morales: Captain Shannon, by any measure, we've established our Navy as the most technologically advanced in the world. And you referenced the AEGIS combat system earlier, and you did talk about some of these points. But why do we need to change the way we're doing things today?

Captain Shannon: You've probably heard the term "stove-pipes" before. The computing infrastructure we have today in the fleet is performance-limited, and it's very expensive to upgrade. And by a stove-pipe system, it's built from the ground up, and it doesn't take into consideration like systems on other types of platforms. The reason we had to change is because that's just too expensive, and we had to figure out a way to take advantage of what's going on in the computing industry. Instead of relying on building our own computers, the question is why can't we take advantage of what we're witnessing out in industry? The demand for computers is so great, that the speed of computers, the processing capability of computers, is better than many of the computers that we had onboard ships to do some of our most difficult combat system problems. So it didn't make sense to continue down that path. It only made sense to take advantage of COTS processors.

Mr. Reeve: This sounds like an awfully large endeavor for one program manager to be responsible for, and I understand you've recently picked some additional duties as well. And your office is setting up the infrastructure that will help change the way the entire Navy enterprise does business. What other organizations are a part of the transformation effort, and how do you manage all of this?

Captain Shannon: You're right. You know, a captain, by himself or herself, cannot do this alone. It requires everybody in the Navy, especially from leadership, making sure that everybody at my level and below are working together. You mentioned that I have a new responsibility. The program manager in Integrated Combat Systems, Mr. Reuben Pitts, was detailed down to the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Dahlgren Division, to work some organizational challenges down there. And my PEO, Admiral Frick moved me over to fill that gap. So my responsibility in that role is I'm responsible now for the computing infrastructure onboard all of our ships, and also the integration effort of our sensors and our weapons through that computing infrastructure.

Again, one person alone can't do this sort of thing. One of the things that we set up in the OA side of the house was something called the OA Enterprise Team. And it's among the five different communities of interest that I already said. We have representatives at the captain or senior government level, GS-15 level. And we meet regularly and discuss things often because each community of interest has their own path forward, and it's too hard and too unwieldy to make everybody travel down the same path together. Somehow, we have to share information where we can build synergy. At the same time, we need to be able to go off and do what we're chartered to do, whatever that may be.

So we set up this organization, the OA Enterprise Team, and from that enterprise team, we've been able to work out issues. And it has required a lot of the typical new organizational challenges, the storm and form and norm kind of thing. But after two years a lot of same people are still around. We're working very well together. We've built a trust. It's, you know, like any family, sometimes there are problems, and sometimes we have to work out those problems. But the thing is we are all headed down the path together, and so that's the good news.

Mr. Reeve: What are the technical and engineering aspects of developing an open system architecture?

Captain Shannon: Well, I kind of described the legacy systems that you had, and when you have a closed architecture, typically the applications, the algorithms, the codes, the source code that's tied to that closed system are unique to that system alone. It might be a specific language. It may be some nuance just associated to that specific system. When you say, "Okay, we want to introduce COTS into the combat systems onboard our airplanes, and submarines, and ships," the companies out there, they're building computers today like Dell or IBM, or any other company like that, you know, they're not building military applications and selling them out to the general consumer.

So we have legacy applications which are unique military applications that we have to then write onboard these COTS processors. So the challenge there is how you make that happen, how do you translate the languages of something very unique and military-specific to write on something that's designed to be used maybe even in the workplace with a commercial technology. The way we do it today is first by breaking apart the operating system code from the unique military code, and we're using Middleware to do that. And we've been fairly successful in doing that. Even in the AEGIS Combat System today, the most recent baseline, they've been able to test that and out in the fleet today actually have systems that are open in the sense of modular openness. Not total business openness, but certainly in the technical side.

Mr. Reeve: And is OA just technical, or are there business aspects or business architecture that goes along with that?

Captain Shannon: No, again, I probably didn't say that well enough in earlier questions, but that was probably the biggest thing that we learned when we set up this OA process. When I took on the job and talked to many industry leaders and people within the Navy, and various engineers, they said, "Hey Jim, all you have to do is get the standards down. Just get the standards straight, and everything will solve itself." They made it sound very easy to me and actually very attractive. Unfortunately, nothing is that easy. And I found soon enough that that technical solution is exactly the way people have tried to approach it for several years, and they were failing because that's all they were trying to do.

Business in industry does exactly what we tell them to do, and they do it well. And that happens only by getting your contract language correct, your business models correct, and setting it up in the way that makes the ultimate product successful. The industry has always done exactly what we've asked them to do. But we have not asked them contractually to open up their business lines, and they're not going to do that until we get that business part set up. There is no forcing function. There is no incentive. There is no way to award them for that type of behavior that we want. So we have to change the business model as well. And it turns out, that's probably one of the key things in this whole policy as we move forward.

Mr. Morales: Typically, we also hear the words "Net-centricity" and "Interoperability." And it sounds like optimally that this effort around Open Architecture would extend beyond just the Navy and Marine Corps. And that the Army, Air Force, and other national defense and intelligence agencies should be doing projects like these as well. Are they, and do you work with them regularly?

Captain Shannon: Yes, and yes. Let me describe it this way. A few years back you may have heard the term Sea Power 21 when Admiral Clark came out for the future of the Navy, and kind of gave us a strategy to focus on the Navy of the future. And one of the elements in that was something called FORCEnet. And people at times have a very difficult time describing what FORCEnet is, but there's really a simple definition for it. FORCEnet is the integration of people and systems, and systems of systems, and family of systems to give some sort of distributive capability by the latter half of next decade.

So when this policy came out or when this strategy came out, there was time to figure what this all meant because we weren't even working the Palm processes or the budgeting process for the latter half of next decade, but we are doing that now. And the budget cycle that starts in 2008, it ends in 2013. And what you build in 2013 gets fielded in 2015, latter half of next decade. So with FORCEnet, the focus there is on this distributive capability which requires some level of interoperability. But you cannot engineer FORCEnet. It's too futuristic. It's something that we still truly do not understand. So you need some sort of tool. You need some sort of enablers to make FORCEnet happen, and Open Architecture is certainly one of those enablers, maybe not the only one, but we're out front on Open Architecture, and it's going to help us along the way.

Mr. Morales: Great. How is the current budget environment impacting the Navy system development efforts? We will ask Captain Jim Shannon, Major Program Manager for Future Combat Systems Open Architecture of the U.S. Navy, to explain this to us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.

(Intermission)

Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I am your host Albert Morales, and this morning's conversation is with Captain Jim Shannon, Major Program Manager for Future Combat Systems Open Architecture in the U.S. Navy. Also joining us in our conversation is Bob Reeve, partner in IBM's DoD practice. Captain, what is the Navy's current budget, and how much do you expect the Navy to save through Open Architecture?

Captain Shannon: Navy's budget, what's appropriated, and really anyone of your listeners can get this information off the Internet I'm sure, is about $30 billion per year. That's in the fiscal year 2006 National Defense Authorization Act, and I think in 2007 it's going to be roughly the same amount. There is no single dollar amount in savings to the Navy that we'll be able to directly attribute to the implementation of Open Architecture. In fact, when you talk about Open Architecture and return on investment, sometimes people are overly sensitive. They're looking for cost savings to move money around and spend it on other things, but there are other ways to measure return on investment that Open Architecture can help.

And we've already talked about one of them, which is interoperability. Certainly greater interoperability is a return on investment. Cost avoidance is a return on investment. There's different ways to measure it, and one of my challenges is to come up with those metrics, which we're trying to develop now.

Mr. Morales: Are you beginning to see, in fact, some of these benefits as you deploy this program? And if not, what are some of the key accomplishments and specific efforts of the OA approach?

Captain Shannon: There are pockets of goodness throughout the Navy in Open Architecture, and I don't want to come off sounding like I'm the first one to be really leading the way in Open Architecture. There have been program managers before me who already understood the benefits of it and have preceded down a path to make Open Architecture work for them.

I already talked about the program ARCI, or A-R-C-I, the Acoustic Rapid COTS Insertion program. It's already there. They're leading the path, and actually they've evolved that into the Virginia class submarine combat system processes. So we're seeing that happen. We're seeing great return on investment in those areas. And in other programs, we're coming along the way. The Advanced Hawkeye Program, the E2Delta -- that's its designation. They've made some tremendous strides in mission computer development using the tenets of Open Architecture. And I would say, in most things involving the anti-submarine warfare communities of interest, they tend to be blazing the trail there because of what they learned from ARCI. And that is now crossing into the surface ship Navy because of sharing of information, being more open, and making our overall performance in synergy and undersea warfare across any kind of platform, because of this openness, improved.

So I'm seeing that. As far as key accomplishments go, I kind of just hit on a couple, but we've recently come out with a program manager's guide. In fact, it's on our website. But through this program manager's guide, which we just released, we had our legal and contract community to help us develop these guidelines, so that everybody has an equal understanding of what kind of things the Navy is looking for in terms of Open Architecture.

From that, and from all the efforts that led to that program manager's guide, we've seen improved coordination with and across domains to better aligned programs, and develop their domain-specific Open Architecture roadmaps. For example, the C4I domain is synchronizing requirements with resources and mapping programs to joint capability areas to better support Open Architecture. The air and surface domains are undertaking similar efforts. We are really working to build an enterprise view of Open Architecture. So we're learning as we go. And like I said, today there are many pockets of goodness. What we need is an enterprise view, and we're still not there yet.

Mr. Reeve: Navy and Marine Corps ships, planes, ground vehicles, and the accompanying combat systems last a long time. You mentioned the ARCI program. Is this the approach about how you integrate those platforms that are already in service as opposed to just working on the new systems in the future?

Captain Shannon: Yes, that technology insertion is really one of the fruits of our labor. We have to figure out a way to not just focus on new development, but also the legacy systems that we have. I actually don't like the word legacy. It implies old and used. Many of our ships and platforms are going to be around for many years. And we have to make sure that we have the tactical edge with these systems. We have to make sure that our sailors are on ships that are safe and can perform, whatever the threat may be. So we are trying to determine where are the opportunities to open up these systems.

In the surface Navy, we're looking at the AEGIS computing plan. We're focusing first on just breaking apart the hardware from the legacy applications. I mentioned that earlier. And we're finding success in that. But we're maybe not moving as fast as we would like to, and we have to, as we understand the technical openness and we are learning more about the business openness, we're moving out even faster. We're at a time now where we have to step on the accelerator in this process, and really take advantage of the opportunity. There are great challenges in budgeting. The whole nation is feeling these challenges and the Navy owes it to the nation to figure out the best and most efficient way to invest in our ships and airplanes and submarines.

Mr. Reeve: How does the Navy then evaluate which programs can cost-effectively be migrated over to open systems? You know, which programs are these that you're working on today?

Captain Shannon: Super question. One of the ways we are addressing that is we came up with something called the Open Architecture Assessment Model. This model was agreed upon throughout the Navy in the winter of 2005. And to make this model easier and user-friendly for program managers, we came up with a tool, the open architecture assessment tool, which helps baseline any discussion in terms of openness. So every program in the Navy has to run through this tool and from this tool you get a sense of how open you are on both the business and technical side. Any of our listeners will be able to have access to this tool through our website and I'll even say the website right now, just it's acc.dau.mil/oa and that anybody could get into that website and you can look at this tool and it walks you through, it's user friendly, and it gives you a sense of the questions that we're asking.

From that, a program manager then has to make a business case if he or she finds out that, "Hey, I'm not as open as I thought I was," or, "I may be less relevant if I don't open up more." They have to make a business case to move forward and that's the traditional way that program managers compete among themselves on where should the investment be. But in Open Architecture, as you open up and share information, the idea is to do your system engineering and make your trades in a more global manner.

To be able to make them so that everyone understands why this trade is better than that trade instead fighting each other to get the resources you need, making the best decision based on sharing of information and good collaboration, making the right investment decision. And that's going to be a great benefit and a change in the business model that the Navy should see.

Mr. Morales: Captain Shannon, we've talked a lot about the technical aspects of OA. We've even touched upon some of the business aspects. However, I would imagine that it takes significant amount of organizational and cultural change throughout an organization like the Navy and the Marine Corps to really bring this to life. What are you doing to help change behavior within the Navy? And I don't mean you specifically.

Captain Shannon: Yes. Well, it's very hard. Cultural change is always difficult. You see it your whole life, you see it as you grow up, you see how some people are left behind just because they won't make a change. We're working through a variety of outreach programs. Coming here today and talking to you is one way. Going to conferences is another way. Putting out the program manager's guide.

We've also developed a continuous learning module that Defense Acquisition University has helped us develop. That all of our workforce could get actual two hours of credit because we have the counseling due training and they could do that at home on a web-based tool. We have worked with the Naval Post Graduate School and one of their system engineering curriculums has adopted a lot of the things that we are advocating and actually getting some of our young officers to understand Open Architecture and how they can apply it.

So, you have to start at a young level. You have to get your current work force to change. And you have to go out and talk and help people understand what you're doing. It's not easy. But education training and a lot of outreach to our industry partners is important. And hearing good news and good stories from industry partners who have been successful by opening up their systems.

You know, that's always fun when I can sit in a room with a specific company who says, "I don't understand I could do it." I can say, "Hey, company X, you need to talk to company Y because they did it and if they could do it, why can't you do it?" And there's no one way to skin this cat. It's just a matter of trust, it's a matter of understanding that we have to get a little greater balance between intellectual property and intellectual capital.

Mr. Morales: It's interesting you bring that up, because based on what you've told us so far, it sounds like it's not just the Navy personnel that need to change, but really the entire defense industry that develops and builds these security systems as well. What has been the reaction so far of industry as you move down this path?

Captain Shannon: To answer that question, depends on which industry member you're talking about. All of them are listening. Some are more cautious. Some are very excited. Small business today is very excited at the opportunities to get into system designs or system work that they before felt that they were not allowed to get into. We are working this together. We're trying to understand the challenges that industry is facing. But they're listening to us and they're trying to answer our needs.

Mr. Morales: As you mentioned earlier, it's certainly a partnership, right?

Captain Shannon: It is definitely a partnership. We can't be successful without industry being successful. That's important. And everybody understands that in the Navy. You know, we don't want to see businesses suffer. We don't want to see companies suffer. But this is also a national problem. It's bigger than any individual company. It's bigger than the Navy. We have to change the way we do that for us to remain the edge that this nation is used to.

Mr. Morales: What does the future hold for Navy systems? We will ask Captain Jim Shannon, major program manager for Future Combat Systems Open Architecture in the U.S. Navy to discuss this with us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.

(Intermission)

Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm your host, Albert Morales, and this morning's conversation is with Captain Jim Shannon, major program manager for Future Combat Systems Open Architecture of the U.S. Navy. Also joining us on our conversation is Bob Reeve, partner in IBM's DoD practice. Captain Shannon, what are the major challenges that you see our Navy and military in general facing over the next ten years?

Captain Shannon: The biggest thing, and you read this in the paper, it's weapons proliferation. Proliferation of rapidly advanced weapons systems based on low cost, ubiquitous technologies in the hands of unstable entities. I mean, we read about it in the paper every day. Potential enemies that are flexible and dynamic. That's what we're dealing with in the improvised explosive device challenge that we have in Iraq. Rising cost of our weapons systems to counter those threats. I think that in a nutshell is what the public reads about every day.

Mr. Morales: So this really is a lot of the impetus behind OA. So what are some of the biggest obstacles that you've encountered in your efforts to implement OA and can you share some of the lessons learned?

Captain Shannon: The most significant obstacle is frankly the fear of change, of the unknown. Naval Open Architecture and the things that we've been talking about today is disruptive. It represents a new business model for how our Navy acquires complicated systems. It requires a new way of designing these systems and demands new skills and processes from a wide variety of stakeholders. Communication is a critical element of change. Communication and documentation, I guess, for that matter.

Today, we've conducted a couple Open Architecture industry days. We've spoken to numerous conferences. We've held and attended symposia, and we've created and maintained a public Open Architecture website that had seen over 13,000 hits. And that's only 11 months since when we started it. So that's how we're learning from it, that's how we're implementing it.

Mr. Reeve: How does OA fit in with all the changes to, and modernization of the military that the Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, is interested in implementing?

Captain Shannon: Open Architecture directly supports defense modernization and simply put, we cannot continue to do the business the way it's done today. That's the message I'm giving you. Open Architecture breeds innovation. It breeds competition. It ensures that we get the best product out there at the right time. Beyond the considerations of affordability, the traditional way of doing business simply cannot react fast enough to get the new capability in the hands of our war fighters as quickly as it is needed in the world environment we have today.

Today's environment is different than the environment that I came in. When I was a young officer, I came in and there was a single threat. It was the Cold War. And what we face today is much more complex. The integration of all these challenges and all these threats and trying to solve these problems, I refer to as the mother of all calculus problems. It's incredible and it's hard and we need Open Architecture to enable us to solve these problems.

Mr. Reeve: Captain, you talked about innovation and competitiveness, and there is a lot of talk nowadays about how important that is to business and to American global competitiveness. That sounds like it fits very well with what you're trying to do in the OA movement. Does OA enable or inhibit that innovation and how can smaller firms -- as you mentioned, they're excited about this -- how do they participate in this movement?

Captain Shannon: Well, by adopting Open Architecture, the Navy and Marine Corps will be able to take advantage of the substantial ongoing investments by commercial industry that's driving advances in many areas in the computing technology. And I kind of hit on that earlier. Open standards and open business practices will lead to better compatibility between the Navy systems and the available COTS technology, the commercial, off the shelf products I mentioned earlier.

And improving compatibility will result in opening competition up to many new providers. Our efforts are focused at opening up opportunities for any qualified vendor to participate. Now the term, when I say "qualified," it's just not anybody coming off the street. There are certain qualifications that are listed in our federal acquisition regulations. But any qualified vendor, and any-sized company should be able to play.

Sometimes I hear people say, "We need small business," and I actually say, "any business." I like competition. David-and-Goliath-type competition is okay. The point is to get the best product out there. It's important that modular software components with fully disclosed interfaces give us the agility and ability for us to get the product that we need. When we talk about Open Architecture, I'm not talking about getting the source code or the niche product or that thing that's truly intellectual property out there.

I don't think that's fair to any company. But the interfaces to those modular systems we need to understand. The government should own the data to do that. We should be able to just provide that information to anybody we want to and we are walking down that path. We're trying to understand how to build our repository or our library, if you will. And this library will require people to have a library card. Some kind of qualification just like when you get a book out, you have to be a citizen of that town where you are.

Well, we need some sort of qualification and somebody comes in and we'll sign out a license and share this information with them, and the government ought to be able to that. And it shouldn't be by program. It should be across all programs. And we don't have that today. And that's one of the challenges in the requirement that I'm trying to define for leaderships, so that we understand how to do that.

Mr. Morales: Captain Shannon, you've enjoyed a very distinguished career in the U.S. Navy and in public service. And I understand that your son is embarking on an equally distinguished career. What advice could you give to any individual out there who is perhaps interested in a career in public service?

Captain Shannon: You mentioned my son. He's a midshipman at the Naval Academy. I'm really proud of where he is going and he joined the Navy in spite of anything I've done wrong in the past. So I'm really happy with that. But my advice to anybody who wants to embark on public service is public service is not just the military service. There are many ways to serve the public and it doesn't always have to be in a government position. You could serve the public by coaching a little league team or a soccer team.

I have three children, actually, and I tell all of them that they need to serve in some way and they need to dedicate their life with some level of service. Because that is the only way that we can work together, that we can survive as a community. So my advice is figure out what your talents are and figure out how to share those talents, and if government service is the way to do it, I encourage you to do it. And there is civilian government service as well. And in the business I'm in, there is more civilian government servants that there are military government servants.

Mr. Morales: Great. That's an excellent perspective. Unfortunately, we have reached the end of our time and so I do want to thank you for joining us this morning. But more importantly, Bob and I would to thank you for your dedicated service to the public and our country in the various roles you've held in the U.S. Navy.

Captain Shannon: Thank you very much for having me. This was a great opportunity for me to help get the message out. I'm proud to be in the Navy and I'm proud to continue to serve and help the Navy get on this path. I'd like the listeners just to write down this website if you didn't have an opportunity to do that already. The website is acc.dau.mil/oa. And thank you again.

Mr. Morales: This has been The Business of Government Hour featuring a conversation with Captain Jim Shannon, Major Program Manager for Future Combat Systems Open Architecture in the U.S. Navy. Be sure to visit us on the web at businessofgovernment.org. There you can learn more about our programs and get a transcript of today's conversation. Once again, that's businessofgovernment.org.

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.

Lt. Gen. Roger A. Brady interview

Friday, October 20th, 2006 - 20:00
Phrase: 
"Our job is to make sure that we have the right airmen with the right skills in the right place at the right time."
Radio show date: 
Sat, 10/21/2006
Intro text: 
In this interview, Brady discusses: the Air Force's transformation strategy; Force development initiative; Personnel Services Delivery (PSD) initiative; National Security Personnel System (NSPS); Supporting Air Force families; and the Air Force's organizational...
In this interview, Brady discusses: the Air Force's transformation strategy; Force development initiative; Personnel Services Delivery (PSD) initiative; National Security Personnel System (NSPS); Supporting Air Force families; and the Air Force's organizational culture.
Complete transcript: 

Originally Broadcast Saturday, October 21, 2006

Washington, D.C.

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 businessofgovernment.org.

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 Lt. General Roger Brady, Deputy Chief of Staff, Manpower and Personnel, United States Air Force.

Good morning, General.

LTG Brady: Good morning.

Mr. Morales: And joining us in our conversation is Bob Bleimeister, partner in IBM's Human Capital Practice.

Good morning, Bob.

Mr. Bleimeister: Good morning.

Mr. Morales: General, can you tell us about the mission of your office and how it supports the mission of the Department and the Air Force specifically?

LTG Brady: Well, as much as it might seem like a clich�, we like to say that our job is to make sure that we have the right airmen with the right skills in the right place at the right time. That's important for the Air Force; obviously for the individual as well. But we support Air Force commanders, and by extension also combatant commanders around the world, in the variety of missions that airpower is assigned.

Mr. Morales: General, can you give our listeners a sense of scope and scale, how big is the Air Force in terms of military personnel, Reserve civilians; how big is the manpower budget and how big is the overall personnel community?

LTG Brady: Well, it's rather large. When you add civilians and all the components that you talked about, active Guard and Reserve, about 700,000 people. About 350,000 of that is active, about 75,000 Reserves, 105,000 Guard and about 160,000 civilians. So it's a large enterprise of very talented people.

Mr. Bleimeister: General, could you focus a little on your role as Deputy Chief of Staff for Manpower and Personnel, and tell us more about your specific responsibilities?

LTG Brady: Yes, I'm responsible at the headquarters Air Force level. I guess you'd think of it as corporate headquarters in the civilian context for the Air Force's policy on education, training, development, benefits, compensation, also services; the services that we provide our people on bases for family support and recreation as well as manpower. We kind of handle a lot of the cultural issues of the Air Force, like we do uniforms and things of that nature, and currently, we're -- as you may have heard, we're working on a rather significant personnel reduction within the Air Force, which occupies a lot of our effort at the moment.

Mr. Bleimeister: You've had a pretty lengthy career. Could you give us some highlights of that, and perhaps what some of the most important things you did that may have prepared you for this role?

LTG Brady: Well, I think -- I'm not sure that anything prepares you for this role, actually, but I started out during the Vietnam era. I in fact went toVietnam as an intelligence officer, as a lieutenant, then later went to pilot training and flew in the mobility world for a number of years. Also, I was a training command instructor -- pilot training instructor for a long time. I've served in plans jobs, in acquisition and maintenance, personnel operations for many years. So I've seen a wide spectrum of the Air Force.

Mr. Morales: General, I'm curious, you mentioned earlier you have about 700,000 personnel in total in the Air Force community. About how many individuals are in your organization that service those 700,000 people?

LTG Brady: I have a little over 200 people here at Air Force headquarters, but then I have -- we also execute the assignment system for the Air Force, which is -- unlike most industries you would see, we move -- transfer about 160,000 of our people every year, and that execution process is accomplished by an organization in San Antonio that's another 2,500 people. That's our personnel center, and they're kind of the execution arm of Air Force personnel policy.

Mr. Morales: That's a large number. You surely don't see numbers like that in the private sector.

LTG Brady: That's rather large.

Mr. Morales: Great. You talked about some of your earlier experiences going back to the Vietnam War. How have these experiences, such as being a command pilot involved in a variety of major deployments, prepared you for your current role, responsible for Air Force manpower and personnel issues?

LTG Brady: Well, I think the most -- as I look back on my career, I don't think anybody planned back in the late '60s for me to be the Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel. But as it happens, I have a great background for doing this because I've seen so many parts of the Air Force. Obviously, being an aviator I think teaches you lots of intangibles about situational awareness and knowing what's critical and what's not and what decisions have to be made now and what decisions could be made later. But I think specifically for this job, I have pretty good familiarity with a lot of the different -- as we like to call them -- a lot of the different tribes in the Air Force, the different functional communities, and so they have a different kind of -- sometimes a thought process, cultures within the Air Force culture, and an awareness of those is very helpful in dealing with them in what can be very personal and sometimes emotional issues.

Mr. Morales: Well, I've got to expect with 700,000 people, it's probably several cultures within an organization of that size.

LTG Brady: Yes, there are -- there are.

Mr. Morales: Excellent.

How is the Air Force transforming, maintaining and shaping its force structure? We will ask Lt. General Roger Brady, Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff, Manpower and Personnel, to share with us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.

(Intermission)

Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm your host, Albert Morales, and this morning's conversation is with Lt. General Roger Brady, Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff, Manpower and Personnel.

Also joining us on our conversation is Bob Bleimeister, partner in IBM's Human Capital Practice.

General, many pressing issues have required the United States Armed Forces to reassess and transform the way they operate to properly meet future challenges. Could you give us an overview of the Air Force's transformation strategy?

LTG Brady: Sure, I'd love to, but let me first spend just a moment telling you the environment that we are in that makes this transformation critical. We find ourselves in a situation, as you can well appreciate, fighting the Global War on Terrorism, which we refer to as The Long War. It's going to go on certainly for the rest of our careers, if not the rest of our lives, we anticipate.

So we have to win that war. We also have to be prepared for the next war, whatever that is. And so we find ourselves with a very high tempo operations tempo. We find ourselves with operating costs that are very high, and there is not much flex there because the tempo is so high, and we find ourselves flying very old equipment; the oldest equipment we have ever flown -- the most effective equipment in the world but old -- 23 years old on average -- we'll be over 30 years old, even if we get everything we are trying to buy in the next few years.

So we are way behind in our investment strategy, and people -- as any business will tell you, the cost is going out of sight, particularly health care. So where is our flex? We need to look at our portfolio of human capital and see what we can do there to be more effective, because we can't affect our operating tempo; we have to win. And if we don't want to fly 75-year-old airplanes, we've got to find a capability to recapitalize ourselves.

And so our flex is in people, and we also have to get -- people are our most important asset, and when I say that, you would ask, well, then why are you getting rid of them? I say because they are very valuable, but at the same time, they are very expensive. And the people we have have to be the most flexible, the most educated, the most appropriately trained, and we have to maintain the capability to sustain the benefit -- the benefits that our people have had over the years and have come to expect and deserve, including health care, et cetera.

So we cannot afford to have too many people. We got to have the right number. And so that brings us to the transformation that led to a reduction of some 40,000 full-time equivalents in our people over the next few years, which gets me to your question of strategy. What's the strategy for doing that? Well, again, warfighting is job one. If you do nothing else, you got to win the war. You can't get to be second place in our business. So we're focused on warfighting skills and those capabilities that deploy forward.

We then worked ourselves back from the deployed locations and said, okay, what does it take to sustain the institution, and as you go further back, what does it take to sustain garrison locations, and look at how efficient we are there. We do not want to take risk forward. We will manage risk in the rear, in CONUS, which drives us to seeing how efficient we can be in our organization and our processes, and the use of our very precious human capital resource to affect the future and to be as good and better than we have been in the past.

Mr. Morales: General, you alluded to these reductions in manpower, and I believe you alluded to the program name AFSO21, which stands for the Air Force Smart Operations 21. With all of these reductions and this change, what do you expect the impact to be on the corps airmen and women, especially those that remain?

LTG Brady: Well, I think that we're going to have -- as I said, we're going to have to use our people more efficiently, more effectively. Now, if we don't change the way we do things -- I mean, we can't just expect people to run faster. So we have to help our people learn to work smarter, and that's what AFSO21 is about. Air Force Smart Operations 21 is a combination of all those great management process improvement efforts that have been successful in industry and within the Air Force, such as lean initiatives and things of that nature, so that we can use the people that we have more effectively, help them work smarter and not harder to get the job done. And in many ways, we will broaden the capabilities of our people. We want to enhance their educations in every way that's appropriate, and I think we will make many of the jobs that our people have much more fulfilling. We will expect more of them, but we will prepare them to meet the challenge, and they will.

Mr. Bleimeister: General, given the reductions you've talked about, what actions are being taken to make sure that's the right number, and the shape of the force, once that reduction is taken, meets what you need to do for your strategy?

LTG Brady: Well, we have a -- as you know, we have a volunteer force, which is a huge challenge over time. It's the force we want. 100 percent of our people want to be with us, but they can also leave when their tour of duty is up, if they want to. So we have to be on top of taking care of our people, and we have to have some good analytics that tells us historically what our people are going to do -- you know, we always say it's easy to make personnel policy, but you don't always know how your people are going to respond to it in a voluntary environment.

So we have a very rich history, career field by career field, specialty by specialty of how a career field tends to behave over time, how it relates to market forces, et cetera, and obviously, this is -- I have to tell you, there is a lot of science involved, but it's frankly more art than science in my view. But we have a lot of people who have a lot of talent in this regard to determine, you know, what the force will look like, what it takes to maintain a certain force.

Some of our highly skilled technical people, for example, are the same people that are greatly valued in the outside world. So you find yourself having to perhaps recruit more of those kinds of people, because they tend to not retain as long because there are other attractive opportunities for them. So throughout your force, you have to look at all of those things to make sure that you have the right number of folks, and that you retain the right number of folks for the future to have your force structure look right.

Mr. Bleimeister: A lot of alternatives to work with, but you still have to meet mandated end strength targets each year. For our listeners, end strength refers to the limit set by Congress on the number of people the military can have on active duty.

General, how did you do on end strength in FY '06 as far as those targets went?

LTG Brady: Yes, at the end of fiscal year '06, which ends, of course, at the end of September, and we will -- we came in about 6,000 under, and that's good because we are going down. We're coming down at about 20,000 people in fiscal year '07, so being 6,000 ahead at this point is a good thing. So we would like to stay within one to two percent of our authorized end strength. Given that we are in a reduction mode, we are pretty happy with where we are at the moment.

Mr. Bleimeister: And will normal conditions get you to the '07 number, or are you going to have to implement other force-shaping actions? In the past, things like reduction boards have been held.

LTG Brady: Right. We will do some of that. We have greatly relaxed the requirements for people to get out in terms of -- we've expanded their opportunity to leave if they want to. We've relaxed some of the requirements to serve out commitments that they've made in the past. Career field by career field, as I implied earlier, you know how many people you need in each year group, because at the Air Force, unlike a civilian business, we can't go to another company and hire somebody of a certain grade, certain skill level and certain rank.

So all of our people are all homegrown, so we have to pay attention year group by year group to how big that force is. And so you know how many people you want to leave in each year group. We will provide some monetary incentives and some voluntary separation pay for some year groups, and for people who are already retirement-eligible; in other words, those people at 20 years and out, there will be a selective early retirement board. And again, we will allow some of those people to, who might not be eligible to retirement by virtue of a recent promotion, we've relaxed those rules as well. So we've tried to put together a portfolio, and with the help of the Congress, we are getting the authorities we need to shape our force by a combination of methods.

Mr. Morales: It sounds like there's many levers that you can actuate to meet those goals. I'm not going to ask you which is more complicated, doing that or flying an airplane, although I think many of our listeners may be interested in that answer.

In addition to maintaining and shaping the active duty force, we understand that you also spend a fair amount of time focusing on some of the specialties between the regular, the Air National Guard, the Reserve components as well the civilian components and the contractors, and this is usually described as the total force. Could you describe some of the total force initiatives being pursued to ensure that this balance such as Blue to Green and Palace Chase, among others?

LTG Brady: Right, yes. And I'm glad you mentioned the total force. We are extremely proud of all the components of our force. Our civilians are just absolutely top notch, and our Guard and Reserve are absolutely second to none. They are maintained -- we maintain them at exactly the same level of proficiency as the active force, and when we go forward there -- it's absolutely transparent as to who they are. You wouldn't be able to tell a Guardsman from an active duty from a Reservist.

So they are very critical to that. So we look at -- as you imply, we look at what size we needed those components to be. A lot of our young people that leave us from active duty will look for opportunities in the Guard and Reserve, and there are some opportunities for them to do that, because we need to keep them robust. We are also looking at opportunities for people who are perhaps in skill sets that are overmanned to stay with us as civilians, and there is some opportunity for people to do that and to stay in government service. So you're exactly right, we do pay attention to the size of each component and where those reductions are taken.

Mr. Morales: So it's really a very large portfolio management process in terms of managing the blends of all these characters of people?

LTG Brady: Yes, it is.

Mr. Morales: Excellent.

How is the Air Force personnel function specifically being transformed? We will ask Lt. General Roger Brady, Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for Manpower and Personnel, to explain this to us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.

(Intermission)

Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm your host, Albert Morales, and this morning's conversation is with Lt. General Roger Brady, Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff, Manpower and Personnel.

Also joining us on our conversation is Bob Bleimeister, partner in IBM's Human Capital Practice.

General, force shaping and reductions are only part of the equation. The Air Force is involved in numerous force development programs as well. What is its fundamental purpose of the force development initiative, and can you provide an overview of some of the initiative programs in place to enhance force development, such as the International Affairs Specialist Program.

LTG Brady: The fundamental purpose of force development is to deliberately connect education, training and experience with the goal to be, as I said from the very outset, producing the right number of airmen and with the right competencies at the right time. And recall what I said earlier about we can't hire somebody off the street, you know, mid-level in their career. So we grow our own. So the development part of the personnel business, the human resources business in the Air Force, is absolutely critical to us. And so through the force development initiatives, we want to deliberately develop a cadre' of airmen equipped to tackle our toughest challenges.

Now, before we instituted force development, frankly, it was more ad hoc. Members accrued the right sets of skills eventually, but most of the time the skills were required outside of a formal system, and perhaps sometimes even in spite of the formal system. So force development in its latest iteration, which began about 10 years ago actually, started with a realization that at some times at our most senior levels, our people were too stovepiped.

In other words, their background was too narrow, and so we had very senior people who were very deep in a particular part of the Air Force -- operations or maintenance or whatever -- and yet we needed them and their expertise in a broader set of skills. So the initial effort began with this realization, and the desire perhaps to develop along the way some second competencies for people. A primary competency perhaps and a secondary competency.

And that has become even more important as we find space operations becoming even more important, and now, of course, cyberspace operations. So we need a set of leaders and certainly mid-level people who understand the operational and the strategic level of war and can operate in the different media, the domains that we operate in airspace and cyberspace. So our efforts are along that, with that side picture.

Now, in terms of specific efforts, what we look at is, young airmen and young officers come into the force, and initially their focus is on technical competency and what you might call an occupational skill. But as they get further into the career, we need to broaden them so that they see more of the operation, so they understand how their particular specialty contributes to the overall joint effort within Air Force and with other services.

So when we do that then, we focus on education, we focus on training in schools in which you put all of these people together and they gain a renewed respect for the different talents that are in the Air Force, and they learn how to bring all the different talents of the Air Force to bring to bear combat capabilities that are required. And we have -- we send people to school. We spend a lot of money educating our people.

We send them to a school called Squadron Officer School, for example, at about the four-year point. Now, these are captains, essentially. We then have an intermediate school, when people have made major, and that's at about the 10-, 11-, 12-year point. We bring them -- and that's where they learn more about command and staff. In fact, we have a school called the Air Command and Staff College. Then they go usually and have their first command, squadron command, or go to a staff position. And they will come later to a senior development opportunity at our Air War College, et cetera, where they learn more about the operational art of war, and how you bring all the forces together.

These people are lieutenant colonels and colonels, and they've been in the Air Force around 20 years by this point. So we then continue even after people -- those people who go on and perhaps become general officers and senior leaders in our Air Force, we provide them educational opportunities within the Air Force and also in the civilian world so that we can be as broad as we need to be, at the same time be technically proficient.

Mr. Bleimeister: And how are you aligning these programs to support joint officer requirements as well?

LTG Brady: That's a very good question. As you may know, there was an act passed, I believe in 1986, the Goldwater-Nichols Act, which required -- which dictated joint service -- service in joint assignments with other services at certain times in your career, particularly for those individuals who were going to rise to general officer rank, to flag rank. And so there are times in your career -- that usually comes about the time, for most people, at the major, lieutenant colonel realm -- between, you know, 10 and 15 years, that's about the time that you would get into joint assignments.

And that's where you learn a great deal about not only your own mission, you bring to that effort the expertise of an airman, and so the services provide interdependent competencies that are unique to that service. And we feed the joint fight that way to be what we are, which is the best military in the world. So joint experience gives -- exposes our people to that environment where we see all the competencies of the services and the unique capabilities that they have to come together to perform a mission.

Mr. Morales: General, obviously you are making large investments in people, and whether you are in the public service or even in the private sector, you lose very talented people with critical skills at any given point in time. How do you go about correcting these potential skill imbalances, especially as a result of trying to drive towards a particular end strength requirement?

LTG Brady: Well, as I said earlier, first of all, we have some experience with what the retention rates you might say are -- how good we are at retaining different kinds of skill sets. Now occasionally, the economy will throw us a curve on that, but we have pretty good indications year-in, year-out on what people are going to do in the different skill sets. And quite frankly, we have some skill sets that are very difficult to retain because they have -- people have, with the skill sets, have lots of options. But we are able to deal with that now. As you get more senior, we are able to use people more broadly, so specific technical expertise becomes less -- relatively less important than managerial skills and leadership skills.

So as we get more senior, we can use people a lot more broadly, and we typically, just like industry would do -- you know, you might move a CEO from one company to another, where he really knows nothing about the business, but he understands business. It's the same in the Air Force; you can move many times a colonel or a general officer from one portion of the business to another, where he may not have a specific technical tactical expertise, but he or she understands the Air Force and how things fit together in the fight, and the leadership skills and certainly the talent of the people below you make you successful.

Mr. Bleimeister: General, I'd like to shift our discussion to the personnel function and the personnel organization. We understand there is a lot of transformation being worked with the organization itself called an initiative, Personnel Services Delivery. Could you tell us about PSD and what some of the goals are?

LTG Brady: Certainly. And this is perhaps one of the most challenging things that we've done, certainly in the personnel community, in a long time. To be quite candid, personnel services, or HR, as your audience might be more familiar with, in the Air Force has been and still is to a large degree very much a hands-on operation. If you want something done with your payroll, if you want something -- if you need to talk about benefits, if you want to talk about your next assignment, if you want to talk about another training opportunity, in the Air Force, you can go talk to a human being.

You can go talk to someone. And that's both good and bad, because in many cases, it means you leave your job, you get in your car, you drive across base, you find a person who knows something about what you want to talk about. It's very much hands-on. About 90 percent of our operations are hands-on. In the civilian world -- industry have kind of moved away from that model long ago.

So our challenge that we find ourselves in is how do we do that more efficiently without losing the personal touch and taking care of people? So we have really gone to school with looking at a lot of the civilian world and how HR has done, and so we are looking at how we use call centers, how we transform our processes so that we can reach back from overseas to get thing done. How people could go online and take care of a lot of the purely transactional things that have to do with personnel. If they need to change allotments in their pay, if they want to volunteer for an assignment, if they want to retire for that matter, they can now do that online.

They don't have to get in their car, drive across base, find a parking spot, et cetera, et cetera. So what this means is our personnelists, HR in civilian terms, our specialists in the human capital, are now going to be focusing less on transactional activities and more on being advisors to commanders as to how to train, develop, and take care of their people. So this means, quite frankly, that you are going to need fewer personnelists then we've had in the past, but I think it also means that it's going to be a richer job.

Something that is different in the Air Force that will not change, different from much of the civilian community, is again that cradle-to-grave business we have with our people. And so a large part of human resources in the Air Force is cradle-to-grave development of our people, and so a large part will be advising and being strategic advisors to commanders about how we take care of and mentor, evaluate, motivate, et cetera, our people. So I think it's an exciting possibility.

But it's changed, which means it's challenging, people view it with some suspicion sometimes, some fear, perhaps, a little uneasiness about something that is that significant -- because it's a very significant change in what personnelists have traditionally done in the Air Force. But our folks are starting to embrace it, and I think it's going to do great things for our people and for our Air Force.

Something that's very interesting about this is that the change is also generational. Those of us who are a little older in the force and were around before computers came -- as I like to say -- were used to having our hands held by personnelists. So it's a more difficult change for us to take care of ourselves online or in a call center. But the younger generation has never known anything but that, and so they are eager for it. So it's an interesting challenge, as you relate to the different generations in the Air Force, as to how we take on this issue.

Mr. Bleimeister: So it sounds like the personnel field isn't exempt from the reductions and force shaping initiatives that are going on?

LTG Brady: No. Absolutely not.

Mr. Bleimeister: And what about -- are there initiatives to better integrate from a total force perspective how you manage civilians, Reservists, even the contractor work force --

LTG Brady: Absolutely. In fact, we use our civilians and we use our Air National Guard and our Reserves interchangeably with active duty. And that means that you've go to be as consistent as you can in how you manage those people. So what we are looking at is, as part of our transformation, is when we transform a process, an end-to-end global process -- and because, as I said -- because we move about a third of our people every year, we have to have global processes, because if you move from here to Germany to Japan in your functional community, you need -- we don't want to have to retrain you every time you go there. So it's very important that we have global end-to-end processes.

And when we change a process, unless there is a legal or statutory or Secretary of Defense directive that requires that we treat a component differently, those processes need to be the same. So that's a change for us, but we will work through that. So unless there is a bona fide reason to do something differently in one component from another, we won't.

Mr. Morales: General, we've talked a lot about the focus on the core of the Air Force, and you talked about the 106,000 deployments that occur every year. With these ongoing deployment demands, I'm curious, how are you helping the airmen and their families maintain a total life balance? Are there any key initiatives focused on supporting the Air Force family?

LTG Brady: Now, that's great, that's a great question. It's long been understood in the U.S. military that you recruit the member but you retain the family. And regardless of how happy the military member may be, if the family is not, you're eventually going to lose that person. So families are absolutely critical to us, and unlike a military of generations before us, we are largely a married force. So we are principally a family organization.

So yes, we are. We have great programs in our airmen and family support centers that provide support to people when -- to their families, when they are gone. We have great programs where the individual is left behind, the spouse and family that's left behind, we stay in contact with them. They can always rely upon the service for support. We have sponsored programs that do that. We have capabilities to provide child care for people, to give spouses a break.

We have a very robust program when we reintegrate people back into a family after a deployment. Sometimes separations do interesting things to family relationships, and so if there are challenges or frictions, when that happens, we follow up with people and we do -- we stay in contact with people so that we can provide families whatever support they need, and so there just lots of effort that goes in to make sure that we take care of the entire family unit.

Mr. Morales: That's fantastic.

How will innovative change shape the Air Force of the future? We will ask Lt. General Roger Brady, Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff, Manpower and Personnel, to discuss this with us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.

(Intermission)

Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm your host, Albert Morales, and this morning's conversation is with Lt. General Roger Brady, Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff, Manpower and Personnel.

Also joining us on our conversation is Bob Bleimeister, partner in IBM's Human Capital Practice.

General, as you look over the next 10 years, what type of personnel concerns do you think the Air Force will face?

LTG Brady: Well, I think there are a couple of challenges as we go forward. We are becoming more and more a technical force. We always have been on the leading edge of technology. But as we go into space and cyberspace, and as we operate in those domains, as equipment becomes more technically oriented, we -- that requires a skill set of people, that requires us to have really good people and to continue to develop, educate, and train them and provide them with a wide variety of experiences. We also find ourselves operating around the world in coalition environments. We need to understand whoever the hostile force is, in a cultural sense.

We also need to understand our partners; our coalition partners, and we will inevitably go to war in the future with coalition partners, as we have -- as we are now and as we have in the recent past. So continuing to develop our people to operate effectively, both in terms of the interface with the technology that we have and the equipment that we have, and also with our coalition partners will be increasingly important to us. And we're placing great focus on that.

Mr. Morales: General, in our time, we haven't had a chance to discuss in too much detail the BRAC and QDR, but I am curious -- how is Personnel and Manpower involved in helping ensure seamless transition to some of the new structures and missions while preserving its unique vital capabilities?

LTG Brady: Well, that's a great question. And obviously, when you move people around and you have units move as we have had associated with the Base Realignment and Closure activity, you have missions that change, you have particularly -- Guard and Reserve, you'll have units change missions. So you've got a lot of people that you've got to train for the -- retrain for the new mission. So there are challenges there.

And as we -- as we draw down also, as I said earlier, we have a reduced manpower pool, but at the same time, we have a mission that's demanding as ever. So that means that we have to pay even more attention than we have in the past -- what we call our tooth-to-tail ratio. So you've got to look at your management structures, because management structure's our tail. And so we have to look and see to make sure that within our processes at every level of the organization, we don't have redundancy in the things that we do.

And as we like to say, we can't have checkers checking checkers. And so a lot of work that we're doing is to make sure that our process is aligned and then we cut out as much redundancy as we can, and we make our organizations as flat as we can.

Mr. Bleimeister: General, I would like to shift to another force of change; the National Security Personnel System, NSPS. Can you give us your -- that will impact the civilian workforce. Can you give us your understanding of NSPS and how you think it will impact the Air Force civilian workforce and your own organization?

LTG Brady: Yes, NSPS is critically important to us. Our civilians are absolutely vital to everything that we do, and we're using them more and more, in fact, right up to a general officer level, and in many cases we're using them interchangeably with general officers, which gives us great flexibility in our general officer corps.

But what NSPS does -- unlike the system that we now live under, NSPS will give us the flexibility to reassign people more easily. It will give us the capability to reward our best people. It greatly cuts down on the bureaucracy associated with skill levels and reclassification of jobs and things like that that make reassignment of people painful for everyone; for the individual, for the organization, et cetera.

I think it will be a great boon to our people. It allows us to move our people around more easily and identify our best people with greater precision, and give people the development that they need so that those civilians who want to serve at higher levels have the capability to get development to do that. So I think it's a wonderful initiative and we're trying very hard to implement it now, and it will pay us great dividends, both to the institution and the people.

Mr. Bleimeister: Organizations going through large scale change like you're going through often conflict with the current culture of the organization. How do you think the Air Force will adapt culturally over the next coming years as this change is implemented?

LTG Brady: Well, we like to believe that we're the most adaptive of all military folks, but you raise an important question. We are a large organization, and some would say a large bureaucracy, and that's true. However, we're an organization that is used to change. We have been, for example, operating in the deserts of Southwest Asia since August of 1990, constantly. So a lot of our people have seen the sandbox.

And when you do that, from the people who have come from the various parts of the Air Force and perhaps grow up in a particular functional area, all of that -- to even a greater degree than at home base, gets melded together, because you are focused on a absolutely critical mission, you live together, you eat together, you work together, and there is a great bonding of airmen in that experience. You gain an incredible appreciation for what the services people do, for what the personnelists do, for what the fighter pilots do, for what the aircraft maintainers do. And if you didn't have that appreciation before, you come away from that experience understanding that it takes all of us to make this work.

So I think we're looking forward to this challenge. And it is change, and because we're humans, we tend to resist change, and change is difficult, but at the same time, I think we've proven over many years that change is something that we can accomplish and we'll thrive in this environment.

Mr. Morales: General, your passion has given us a window into the exciting personnel transformation going on in the Air Force. What advice can you give to a person who is interested in a career in public service, especially in the military? And finally General, what do you say to a young enlisted Lieutenant Airman about the career opportunities and climate of the Air Force in the future?

LTG Brady: I think we would like to say that we have a rich heritage and we have an endless horizon. We're a force that operates in air and space and cyberspace. It is the ultimate high ground. There are incredible challenges. We ask our young people how can we do things better, and they tell us. There is great opportunity for people who want to serve a cause that's greater than themselves. And it is an exciting place to be.

And when you go forward and particularly -- you go to the most difficult, what might be the seemingly most difficult place to serve in our Air Force, you will find the highest morale among our people, because they know they're serving a cause that's greater than themselves. They have come to trust, rely on, and respect each other. It's a wonderful thing to see. It's a very rich life, it's a very demanding life.

I think that many Americans -- young Americans are going to continue to want to do this. We need very talented people who are willing to serve this country and be a part of something very important. And so I think there is great opportunity across a whole array of educational backgrounds and skill sets, men and women -- women have done an incredible job in our force. They represent about 20 percent of our force now, almost, and they're involved in virtually everything that we do and are succeeding marvelously. It's an absolutely -- a great team to be a part of and I'm excited every time my -- every day I come to work to be with great young people -- and they're looking younger and younger to me -- but to be with young people who want to succeed, who want the Air Force to succeed, and want to serve this nation, it's very gratifying.

Mr. Morales: General, that's fantastic. Unfortunately, we have reached the end of our time. I want to thank you for fitting us into your busy schedule today, but more importantly, Bob and I would like to thank you for your dedicated service to our country in the various roles you've held in the United States Air Force.

LTG Brady: Thank you very much. And again, thank you for having me here. I always relish the opportunity to talk about our Air Force and the great young men and women who make it such a great institution.

Mr. Morales: Thank you. This has been The Business of Government Hour, featuring a conversation with Lt. General Roger Brady of the United States Air Force.

Be sure to visit us on the web at businessofgovernment.org. There, you can learn more about our programs, and get a transcript of today's fascinating conversation.

Once again, that's businessofgovernment.org. 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.

Dr. Reginald Wells interview

Friday, September 29th, 2006 - 20:00
Phrase: 
"We recognized that because of the retirement wave and the importance of maintaining our workforce, our competency, and our commitment to service, that we needed to revitalize our recruitment program and efforts."
Radio show date: 
Sat, 09/30/2006
Intro text: 
Wells discusses how SSA is assessing and planning for the pending retirement wave. He describes some of the solutions to the retirement problem that SSA is considering, including workforce transition planning, succession planning, and new recruitment...
Wells discusses how SSA is assessing and planning for the pending retirement wave. He describes some of the solutions to the retirement problem that SSA is considering, including workforce transition planning, succession planning, and new recruitment techniques. Wells also talks about SSA's training programs and the challenges facing new and long-time employees. In addition, Wells explains how the Office of Human Resources tracks and uses customer satisfaction information. Human Capital Management
Complete transcript: 

Originally Broadcast Saturday, September 30, 2006

Arlington, VA

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 this center in 1998, to encourage discussion and research into new approaches to improving government effectiveness. You can find out more about the center by visiting us on the web at www.businessofgovernment.org.

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 Dr. Reginald Wells, Deputy Commissioner of Human Resources for the Social Security Administration.

Good morning, Dr. Wells.

Dr. Wells: Good morning, Al.

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

Mr. Hess: Good morning, Al.

Mr. Morales: Dr. Wells, some of our listeners may be familiar with the Social Security Administration, but why don't we start with an overview of the history and mission of SSA.

Dr. Wells: I would be happy to, Al. The Social Security Administration came into being after President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed into law the Social Security Act, back in August of 1935, and it began as a board but then evolved into an independent agency, and over the years it has really been like most federal agencies. As our government tends to enact laws in very incremental ways with lots of amendments and changes, it has morphed into something much larger, serving many more people. The original mission was to serve and basically provide income security for individuals who retired from gainful work.

Over the years, it's evolved, continuing that basic mission, but also evolving into serving or supporting people with disabilities, so it's essentially a social insurance program aimed at making sure that people have the subsistence they need to live in our society. And we do a tremendous job, in my opinion, on carrying out that mission. Essentially, we provide, for example, some 48 million folks in our nation with benefits that, I believe, are worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $521 billion, so it's really evolved into quite a substantial program. A very successful domestic program, obviously.

The Agency has actually once again returned to independent status. It had been part of the AGW; then HHS; Health, Education and Welfare; and Health and Human Services, but in 1995, once again it became an independent agency.

Mr. Morales: You have teased us a little bit with the size of the organization, can you give us a better sense of the scale, in terms of budget, number of employees, and geographic footprint of the organization?

Dr. Wells: Right, the total budget in '06, was $595 billion and the workforce is 65,000. As I think most of our listeners probably know, social security, we estimate, affects at least 95 percent or more of the public, and that range goes all the way from getting a social security card to receiving disability benefits. The mission is carried out through a network of field offices, hearing offices, teleservice centers, and program service centers that essentially allow us to be in communities around the country. And the commissioner often says that social security for many people is the face of the government, because most folks know where their social security office is.

Mr. Morales: Great. Can you give us now, a sense of the role and mission of your office, specifically, the Office of Human Resources? How big is your team and how are you organized?

Dr. Wells: I am responsible for the Office of Human Resources, and that is a cadre in headquarters of about 400 people. Because we are so decentralized as an organization and because we have 65,000 employees scattered over the entire country and beyond, actually we have some international involvement, the Social Security Administration has to administer that HR or human capital role through those regional offices that we have out there. And we have another 300 employees who work technically for the operations part of our organization, but because of our responsibility to oversee the policy for human capital and human resources, we oversee them technically.

One of the things we do in order to ensure that we have consistency across the agency is to be responsible for going out and monitoring the hiring, retention, and support of employees in the field. And of course, we do a similar thing for headquarters under the supervision, in a sense, of the Office of Personnel Management. In addition, my budget is roughly $100 million that includes obviously a lot of the service that we render to the employees for things like training. I have the Office of Training under my responsibility, the Office of Personnel, the Office of Civil Rights and Equal Opportunity, and the Office of Labor-Management and Employee Relations. Then I have a very small, actually new, component, a very small unit we call the Human Capital Planning Staff.

That allows us to do a lot of the coordination between my components and also it tends to oversee the national recruitment for the Agency. The gentleman that heads that component is responsible for our national recruitment campaign and he works through the regional offices and with local managers. It's a relatively small group, given the demands on it, but it allows us to do some of the tracking that is necessary under the President's management agenda. That's one of the important initiatives that all federal agencies are engaged in right now. They are being tracked by the Office of Management Budget and the Office of Personnel Management on how they go about certain lines of business, human capital being one of those.

Mr. Morales: Perhaps you could tell us a little bit more about your specific role. Although, your title is much longer, many of our guests will understand your role as being the Chief Human Capital Officer at SSA?

Dr. Wells: I wear those two hats. My social security formal title is Deputy Commissioner for Human Resources, but the government has the role, similar to the Chief Information Officer and the Chief Financial Officer, a Chief Human Capital Officer for many agencies. In some agencies the HR lead is not necessarily the Chief Human Capital Officer. At social security, the Commissioner's thinking was that those responsibilities should be contained under a single individual who can then coordinate and make sure that what we are doing internally is certainly consistent with what we are being expected to do externally. I will explain that a little bit.

As Deputy Commissioner for Human Resources, obviously, I have the responsibility for managing those areas that I have described a moment ago, personnel training, civil rights and labor management. In addition though, there is an expectation I think with this administration to look across government to make sure that we are achieving some consistency in the way we administer our strategic management of human capital, and so the Chief Human Capital Officers Council, and the Chief Human Capital Officer role was established in 2002 to make sure that we are achieving some continuity and that we have Chief Human Capital Officers coming together in a central place and sharing issues and working on planning for things that will further our interest as a government.

Mr. Morales: And that's very interesting. We also understand that you come from a family of public servants. Perhaps you could tell us about growing up with a family culture of federal government work?

Dr. Wells: Yeah, I do. I come by this work, pretty honestly, through my mother who worked for the Internal Revenue Service for 44 years. And growing up, of course, I heard a lot about the importance of public service, and I was fortunate to have both parents. My father worked in a factory in the private sector, but my mother worked in government and so I heard a lot about what that was like, and I never envisioned necessarily going into a government work, but I guess that acorn doesn't fall too far from the tree.

I also have a brother who works for the Veterans Hospital System. He was a Vietnam vet, came home, and, wanting to counter balance what he had experienced over there, he went to medical school and is now working in the VA System.

Mr. Morales: That's a great history. You obviously have a very distinguished career, including running the District of Columbia's Department of Human Services as well as Associate Commissioner of the Administration of Developmental Disabilities, how have these roles shaped your current management style?

Dr. Wells: Well, it obviously impacted it a great deal. I grew up, if you will, a little bit every time I had a new management experience, a new leadership challenge, and all the way from my early days working in New Jersey in what they called citizen services, the equivalent of what Health and Human Services does at the federal level, and also in their Health and Rehabilitation area, I got a lot of opportunity to see how things work at the local level; how local issues and concerns from direct service to the public sort of challenge you and force you to do your very best and to deliver that service. And working through people to get it done, is what you learn obviously, when you have a team.

And I got a lot of experience with those challenges in New Jersey. And then when I came into the District of Columbia it was probably a good time for me to experience that. I started out managing one of their institutions located in Laurel, Maryland, and was later asked to come into the city proper, and manage some of the programs; initially, the disability programs, but later I was asked to serve as the Deputy Commissioner for social services, and it really was that everything that was in public health and mental health fell under social services, so it really was a challenge and a lot of crisis management. You learn very quickly how to adapt to situations.

And I guess what really impacted me and influenced me was operating without all the tools and all the resources one would ideally like to have. And I think that is one of the challenges that public servants, no matter where they are, whether at the federal, state, or local level are sort of challenged with. There is never enough money to meet the needs of the public, particularly when you are talking about the kinds of programs that we are responsible for and the types of populations that rely on our support, so my management style has evolved into one that's pretty participative. I really believe that we get things done through teamwork, through collaboration, through effective communication, and those have been hallmarks of how I have tried to conduct myself as a leader and as an executive.

Mr. Morales: Excellent. How is the Social Security Administration managing the government retirement wave? We will ask Chief Human Capital Officer, Dr. Reginald Wells, to share with us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.

(Intermission)

Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour, I'm your host, Albert Morales, and this morning's conversation is with Chief Human Capital Officer, Dr. Reginald Wells of the Social Security Administration. Also joining us in our conversation is Tony Hess.

Dr. Wells, not that this topic is immediately going to impact anyone in this room, but it is an important topic, and that's the pending retirement wave. What's happening now at social security in terms of staff retirement?

Dr. Wells: Well, and I'm glad you asked me that question, Al, because that is something we have been tracking as an organization at least for the last decade or so, maybe even a little longer than that. It was the foresight, I think, of the leadership at the time to pay attention to the baby boomers moving through employment and getting to a point in the not too distant future where they would be retiring in larger numbers. I think the leadership felt they needed to take stock of that and social security, maybe because of the role we play, tends to be an organization that is very data driven.

We have, just to give you a sense of the actuaries on staff who project well into the future, the solvency of the program and the service delivery trends and that kind of thing. So we started looking at how many folks are we likely to lose and at what points in time are we likely to lose them over a decade ago. So we do what we call a Retirement Wave Analysis. We update it every year. Right now, approximately 23 percent of our workforce is eligible to retire. Fortunately, most folks work a little beyond their eligibility and that's something that we have experienced at social security.

I think a lot of federal agencies have that. I think our rate beyond eligibility is something like 3.7 years. In five more years that number of people eligible will go up to 40 percent of the current workforce and in 15 years it goes up to about 54 percent, so obviously we had best be in a position to replenish that workforce and to have some sense of when they would be likely to retire. We do projections and we use a model for determining what those numbers are likely to be. And what we are projecting right now is that over the next five years we are going to lose about 21 percent of our workforce.

So it moves us to really pay attention to that and to have some strategies for keeping it from being such a spike. I think the way the model projects are right now, we are looking at the peak of losses between 2008 and 2010. We have been using some strategies however to try to flatten that curve so that we don't have a tremendous spike at any particular point in time over the next few years.

Mr. Morales: So you just referenced this wave of baby boomers retiring across the country, and told us a little bit about how this puts additional pressures on services that supported the SSA. How are you preparing for this perfect storm of resource challenges?

Dr. Wells: Well, it isn't easy, as you might imagine, and I knock on wood every time I talk about this, because we really have not had the difficulty yet. That's why I knock on wood, because I don't take that for granted, recruiting and hiring people. But to address your question about the baby boomers moving into those disability-prone years and moving into retirement causing a greater obvious demand for our programs, we are doing things like a lot of agencies. We are trying to automate as much as we can.

The Commissioner recently announced that we have new regulations for our disability program. We were making some disability service improvements, which should allow us to move them through the process more quickly in general, but where there are appeals, we should be moving people through that process a lot quicker as well so that they have an answer much quicker about whether they are going to be eligible and entitled to benefits. On automation, there has been some reform of some of our systems to try to make it less cumbersome, less labor intensive obviously for us. Technology is not going to be a panacea, but I think it is going to help.

More and more people are applying for benefits over the internet. We are pushing that and promoting that a lot. In my area, people will be able to apply and that's been something that the Office of Personnel Management has been working on as well so that the opportunity to apply for federal jobs is streamlined from what it has traditionally been. So we are using various techniques, technology, systemic reforms, and I guess speaking regarding the human capital issues. We are really emphasizing training within the organization.

We want our employees to be the best they can possibly be. Part of that are the concerns about the loss of institutional memory when these very seasoned employees we have now move onto retirement, well-deserved retirement. We want a group of younger employees coming behind them to get up to speed very quickly. And I think, the retirement wave is a challenge for all federal agencies, and actually, is a challenge for all organizations, because it's not just a public sector phenomenon. But I think you really do have to invest on the front end to make sure you bring people into the organizations who really want to be there and want to do that kind of work.

Our training programs or entry-level training programs are pretty extensive. People can come in and end up in 16 weeks of training before they are even are allowed to attempt to serve the public and that's a substantial investment. So you don't want a serious retention problem early on. If people come into the organization and work five or ten years, and you get a really good service out of them and they choose to move on to other things, so be it, but to have someone new come into the organization, you give them 16 weeks of training and they punch out almost immediately would be a tremendous waste. And fortunately, particularly with new recruits, we have a pretty good retention situation.

Mr. Morales: Perhaps you could tell us a little more specifically about some of the activities your office is doing to develop and manage this kind of challenge? For example, what is the workforce transition plan?

Dr. Wells: The workforce transition plan, actually, was the precursor to the human capital plan. Truth to tell, it actually attempted to do a lot of the same kinds of things. It sort of, describes what the workforce is, what kind of succession planning we should be engaged in, where our greatest needs are from the human capital perspective. We have since adapted it to become really more like a tracking document for us, so we updated quarterly to see in specific detail what kind of activities we are engaged in, in our human capital work. And it just helps us stay on top of what we are doing and allows us to self evaluate whether we are doing all the right things and working on all of the important things.

Mr. Morales: You alluded to succession planning, and certainly this sounds like one of the keys to success in managing this whole retirement wave. Can you provide some lessons or advice to other government leaders who are facing this challenge of succession planning?

Dr. Wells: I think I can offer a little bit of advice. I think that it's very important, first of all, to know what your needs are as an organization. If you have a core mission that requires a certain competency or a certain classification of employee, then obviously you have a little bit of a sense of what kind of skills and abilities the people need and if there are logical pathways to hire or to work, obviously, you want to wait to try to identify the people who are most likely to do the best job there. Obviously, we always have to be engaged in merit principles and you want to never have instances where you regress into prohibitive personnel practices, but it is important to try to identify employees who are interested in moving up into other types of work that are important to the organization.

One of the mechanisms we used to do that, which certainly withstands the scrutiny of meeting merit principles is we have a number of career development programs which allow us to compete within the organization for identification into one or more of these groups where you would be on developmental assignments, getting training, doing this developmental work that allows you then to be a prime candidate for promotional opportunity down the road. We have four mechanisms that we use dealing with the various levels of our organization. For example, we administer our own senior executive service career development program, which is geared toward our GS-15 employees who aspire to be senior executives and they go through a year, or 18-month developmental process where they receive a lot of training.

Some of it is formalized training provided by the Office of Personnel Management at FEI, Federal Executive Institute. Some of it is actually working in areas outside of where they may have come from. So if you were a GS-15 working in operations, you might work in systems, or you might work in human resources and get a better appreciation for the organization as a whole. The next level down for our developmental programs is our advanced leadership program, and it's geared to our 13 and 14 graded employees.

A very similar program, it demands having a mentor, someone that can work with you around your development, developing an individual development plan so that you have some very specific skills you are expected to live up to and meet, and you identify through this collaborative process, what goals you are trying to achieve in terms of self development and professional development. We have a leadership development program, which is the next step down for 9 through 12 graded employees and it's very similar to the others. It is just the level of complexity for the work that you do and the exposures that you get. And then the Presidential Management Fellows is a mechanism we use to bring some pretty talented people into the organization. They may not have grown up in social security, but they have advanced degrees and are willing to come in and get on that track toward leadership.

Mr. Morales: This is a very extensive program. How is the Social Security Administration recruiting new talent? We will ask Chief Human Capital Officer, Dr. Reginald Wells to explain this to us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.

(Intermission)

Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm your host Albert Morales, and this morning's conversation is with Chief Human Capital Officer, Dr. Reginald Wells of the Social Security Administration. Also joining us here on our conversation is Tony Hess.

Dr. Wells, we spent a little bit of time in our last segment talking about the folks currently within the administration. What changes are you making to the recruitment process at the Social Security Administration?

Dr. Wells: We recognize, because of the retirement wave and the importance of maintaining our workforce both the numbers that the public, and the Congress, and the President expect, and also the competency, and the commitment to service. And so we, a few years ago, decided we needed to revitalize our recruitment program, our recruitment efforts, and we came up with a tagline: "Making a Difference in People's Lives and Your Own," as a way of branding social security, the service agency that it is.

It was very important for us to do that because, within our mission, the Commissioner, with our strategic plan, has identified four areas: service, stewardship, solvency, and staff, and it's extremely important to bring employees into the organization who bring a skill set that and an interest in service that allows them to really apply themselves to what we expect them to do and what the public expects in the way of service. So we developed this integrated marketing campaign, and we have really updated our materials so that they can be specific to individuals interested in particular career paths.

Social security is a huge organization, and if you have a systems background there is a place for you in one of the largest computer systems in the world. Collecting all of that payroll data, the information on payroll taxes, social security numbers, and the new disability system which is paperless, so there is obviously a lot of work going on in that area.

We have an agency that's large with a tight budget. We have a pretty large budget staff. And well…it's not large. When I say large, that's relative.

Mr. Morales: Be careful what you say.

Dr. Wells: Yeah, exactly. It's not large in the sense of large numbers of people, but they manage a large budget, and they have to be really good at that. So we obviously recruit and hire people who are very good at that. So if you have a financial management background, you are the type of person we would want to bring in to the organization. In that area, our largest operation obviously is our Deputy Commissioner of Operations component. And we need people there who obviously bring a very strong service ethic and who are very good in dealing with the public across the counter and across the desk and who bring an empathy for the types of people who rely on us for economic support.

And in the Office of Human Resources, where it's, as I said, relatively speaking, a small staff, we want people who understand and have a commitment to that type of work. My point is that it's a very diversified organization. And if a young person or even a mid-career person had an interest in this kind of work, we are trying to reach them, so we developed this integrated marketing campaign. We put an emphasis on communicating with people using technology, so we do as much work as we can over the internet.

And we try to get ads and magazines that cater to various populations, because we have to be a diverse organization. Diversity for us is a business imperative, because we serve the entire population. And in order to do that, you obviously have to be able to relate to them. We need that sort of diversity of thinking within our organization to be effective, and so that's very important. We've attempted as have the government as a whole to streamline the hiring process so that people don't have quite the cumbersome role they have coming in.

In fact, the Partnership for Public Service just put out some information from a study that they've done that is focused on college graduates. And what they reported was that people were basically very interested in doing public service, but they very often found it cumbersome or they didn't know where to go to pursue that interest. And so we do go out to colleges and universities and we do job fairs that try to let people know just what kinds of career opportunities there are at the Social Security Administration.

It really requires a lot of outreach, a lot of coordination, and we, because we are so decentralized, while we have recruitment lead and headquarters, we actually work through lead recruiters in all of the regions so that we can have a local presence. And they can cultivate relationships with local colleges and universities, and people who can refer the best and brightest to us.

Mr. Morales: You touched upon, in the last segment, some of the leadership programs that you have at SSA as well as potentially up to a six week training program for some of the new hires. Many of our guests across government share that a great deal of their focus is on ensuring that staff have these appropriate skills. With such a large organization distributed across the entire country and in some foreign territories, how do you manage this at SSA?

Dr. Wells: It's not easy, as you probably appreciate. It requires a lot of focus and attention. We have an office of training, as I mentioned at the outset of this discussion that is solely focused on trying to make sure that our workforce is receiving the best training they can possibly receive. And we've put a lot of emphasis, as you would probably hope we would, on our entry level folks coming into the organization. Our programs in one sense are very basic in terms of providing income security for people.

But in other ways, they're very complex, because there are a lot of rules around eligibility and assets that people bring to us when they come in requesting support. And so it's vital that we do that entry-level training and that we get our new employees up to snuff. But the employees who stay with us, and work with us over the years, and do an entire career with us, of course, have to be nurtured as well. They have to be kept as interested and committed in work. And so you have to replenish them, you have to give them support.

We have a significant e-learning mechanism that employees have access to. It allows them to go online and take over 2000 courses that are available in a variety of areas. Some of it is technical, but it can also be self development; it can be courses that allow them to perhaps make a career or transition to another part of our organization. It's really a tremendous resource, and folks can access it either from their PC at work, or from home. So that part of it is good.

We are really focusing on honing in this year and last year on our leadership training, because we like a lot of organizations when resources are tight, tend to not do as much of that as is really warranted by the needs of your management cadre. And so we have dedicated ourselves. And I'm really pleased that the commissioner in her foresight felt that in order for us to really be effective into the future, we have to cultivate that talent, and build a leadership cadre that will take us obviously into the next 30-40 years of this program.

Mr. Morales: Can you tell us about the role the Office of Human Resources plays in promoting diversity at the SSA, and do you have any advice you'd like to share with other government leaders?

Dr. Wells: Well, my Office of Human Resources plays a major role with the support and the commitment of all of the senior executives. As I said earlier, diversity is a business imperative for us in a lot of ways, and I'm defining diversity in the broader sense, not simply the EEO compliance focus that I think a lot of organizations focus on very appropriately. But we broaden it, because we feel that in order to be inclusive, we have to have a diversity strategy that encompasses all employees, not simply certain groups of employees. So we basically pay attention to the data. Once again, SSA has always been a data-driven organization.

We track, very closely our hiring, and promotions, and training and on a lot of dimensions. I am proud to say that as of today, because it's constantly changing, we are at parity with all of the numbers for all of our protected groups. And our workforce is comparable to a civilian labor force across the board. And that's something we're very proud of. In addition, we really do well hiring employees with disabilities. And it's not something we rest on our laurels about, because it is a very underemployed group of folks in this country.

But we feel, given that it is part of our mission to serve people with disabilities, that we really should have a workforce that also reflects and has empathy for that population. So we do real well there. Some noted magazines: Careers & the Disabled, have recognized us as one of the better agencies in this regard. And we put a lot of emphasis into things like reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities.

We are bullish about hiring veterans, and we're working as a matter of fact, with Veterans Affairs to basically step up some of the things we are doing in that regard.

One of the things we're talking with them about, because we do serve people with disabilities as a core part of our mission. We're really interested in some of those vets coming back from the war, who may choose to get employed with another federal agency. And we're hoping it can be us, because of the insights they'll bring, and the commitment that they have to service. But I think the important thing really is to pay attention to your workforce, understand the ways in which it's diverse, and the ways in which it is not and be deliberate in going about addressing that.

And obviously in doing so, you have to be sensitive, as I said earlier, to avoid prohibited personnel practices and maintain merit principles. Those are always a given. But I think within that, there's still a lot of opportunity to reach out and communicate to populations that you may not have traditionally talked to or approached about coming into your organization and being a part of it. The other thing we do, which is a little unique, although I think there are a few other agencies that do it, is we have a number of advisory groups that we charter and work with very closely.

Most of them represent those protected categories. But we have found that has been a really good resource, because at the Social Security Administration, those people not only advise us on how to recruit and hire members of their group, but they also do a lot of volunteer work in the community, building relationships with the community, and of course, that then accrues back. People who they may have helped, or people who may have observed them helping others will want to come and work for an organization that's willing to do that.

Mr. Morales: What does the future hold for the SSA? We will ask Chief Human Capital Officer, Dr. Reginald Wells to explain this to us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.

(Intermission)

Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour, I'm your host Albert Morales, and this morning's conversation is with Chief Human Capital Officer, Dr. Reginald Wells of the Social Security Administration. Also joining us in our conversation is Tony Hess.

Mr. Hess: Dr. Wells, we know that customer service plays an important role in the SSA's strategic plan. How do you track customer satisfaction within the Office of Human Resources, and what kind of feedback do you typically receive?

Dr. Wells: Well, Tony, we get a lot of feedback. Fortunately for me, most of it is very positive. There are no shrinking violets among the executive team at Social Security, and so I get a lot of weekly feedback. The Commissioner holds an executive staff meeting once a week, every Monday. We gather as a team and we share important things, we discuss things. Very often, before and after, and sometimes during those meetings, people are commenting on the level of support we offer from HR, and I'm fortunate, because as an executive, most of that feedback is very important.

And when there are issues, I think what they understand is that we are there to serve them. We are there to facilitate their ability to serve the American public, and so it's very important for us to meet the needs of our workforce. And that's not always easy, because we do have legitimate limitations in things that we can do. Certainly as a public sector organization, you're protecting stewardship which is one of the things I mentioned. It is very important to our Commissioner and our strategic plan, and you really do have to utilize the public dollar in a very responsible way.

So there aren't opportunities to do Cadillac things sometimes for employees. But I think the fact that we focus on their needs and we try to meet them where they are, and support them when meeting the needs of the public, I think goes a long way. We have a number of programs that we do under the group of work which we call "All Ages All Stages." And that is really a way of trying to address the needs of the workforce as an intergenerational group, particularly now, with a lot of new employees coming in, and a lot of senior folks, you know, moving to retirement.

So we do surveys of employees. We often get feedback unsolicited, good and not so good, when people feel that way. And we just remain very receptive to any and all feedback. I think that having me at the table as a partner goes a long way. And there are some organizations that don't have that opportunity. In fact, the Chief Human Capital Officer role was intended particularly for those agencies where the HR human capital interests were not always sitting at the corporate table. At Social Security, that has been true for a long time. They've had a Deputy Commissioner for human resources for a while, well before the CHCO was established. So it really has worked very well for us.

Mr. Hess: We understand that the Social Security Administration was involved in providing relief to the hurricane victims. Can you tell us about SSA's involvement, and what lessons did you learn that can provide insights into possible future emergency responses?

Dr. Wells: Well, I've been with the agency for over four years, it was four years in April. And I don't think I've ever seen a better example of public service than I saw with that particular crisis. Last year when hurricane Katrina, and then Wilma and Rita hit, I think everyone became painfully aware of the devastation in that part of the country. We have countless examples of where our employees, even though their houses were washed away, were, within a day or two, mobilized in meeting with hordes of people who obviously were reeling from the devastation of the hurricanes.

And it doesn't get any better than that as far as public service is concerned. They worked, 12, 14, 16-hour days, 18-hour days, or more. They were reeling back and forth between Baton Rouge and the New Orleans area in shifts, keeping around-the-clock service to the people, and we got checks out within a matter of days. It really was one of the success stories. I didn't get the sense it got a lot of publicity in terms of the main media, but within government, I think, we were recognized as having really hit the ground running.

And it really was not a surprise to us within the agency. I mean, obviously there was no storm as devastating as that one. It was a once in a lifetime kind of catastrophe. But that's what we do. Every year, there are hurricanes some place. Every year, there are earthquakes of some sort. Every year there are brush fires that may destroy the peoples' homes and displace people. And our agency always adjusts to it. It always has been on a smaller scale obviously, but we apply the same approaches in terms of this large scale catastrophe.

And really the lessons that we can offer are things like the importance of communication, making sure that people know what they're supposed to do and being prepared, having done that planning, or having that experience, even if it's on a smaller scale, addressing those kinds of needs is really, really important. And being visible, I think, one of the things we took away from it was that leadership really does matter, and our people stepped up when the need was there, to become the leaders for distribution of checks or whatever was necessary to keep people going.

Mr. Hess: Many in government encouraged folks who are starting their career to think of government as a stop in a long career. Do you encourage this philosophy and can you tell us what advice would you give a person who's interested in starting a career in public service?

Dr. Wells: There is a lot of discussion about that today. I know that Director Springer is trying to address that issue. Director Springer, the Director of Office of Personnel Management, she's doing a lot of very fine work, and she is looking at the fact that some people are not necessarily looking at government as their final stop in terms of their career path. At Social Security, we've had a little bit different experience, and again, I knock on wood, because it could change. But we've had a lot of young people coming into the organization.

And I think because we are so big, relatively speaking, and because we do direct service, which gives that sort of tremendous intrinsic reward feedback to people, we've had a lot of our young people coming, and saying, "You know, we think we do want to spend a career with you." Of course the caveat is, "as long as we're able to continue to progress in the organization and advance and move into areas that we really want to move into as we get older and more established in our careers." So we're really sort of shaving it that way. As I said earlier, we do a lot of training on the front end.

And we ideally don't want to lose any of those people even after 30-40 years. But where people are looking at us as maybe the first stop, obviously you've got to be prepared to address that too, and if you only want to serve for 10 years we're still interested. And, you know, it's not servitude. We happen to think if you come and work for us, you'll probably want to stay for a career, because I think there are a lot of opportunities working in the Social Security Administration.

Mr. Morales: That's great. So what advice would you give a young individual who's getting ready to launch their career?

Dr. Wells: Come work for us.

Mr. Morales: Excellent, excellent. This has been a wonderful conversation, and unfortunately, we've reached the end of our time. I want to thank you for fitting us into your busy schedule. But more importantly, Tony and I would like to thank you for your dedicated service to the public and our country in the various roles you've held at the SSA and in the federal government.

Dr. Wells: Well, as a follow-up to your last question, I just want to offer to anyone listening, our website: it's www.socialsecurity.gov/careers. And if you go into that site, you will get a really good sense of all that we offer, and as I said earlier, I think there are a lot of opportunities not only in terms of direct service delivery to the public, but also all of those support roles behind the scenes, that infrastructure that allows our frontline workers to be so effective.

Mr. Morales: This has been The Business of Government Hour, featuring a conversation with Social Security Administration, Chief Human Capital Officer, Dr. Reginald Wells. Be sure to visit us on the web at businessofgovernment.org. There you can learn more about our programs and get a transcript of today's fascinating conversation. Once again, that's businessofgovernment.org.

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.

Lisa Schlosser interview

Friday, September 15th, 2006 - 20:00
Phrase: 
"We are modernizing our backend infrastructure, upgrading our desktop computers, mainframe systems, and servers. We hope to have state-of-the-art technology using open standards platforms to be flexible in responding to our business needs."
Radio show date: 
Sat, 09/16/2006
Guest: 
Intro text: 
In this interview, Schlosser discusses: Modernizing HUD's business and information technology (IT) systems; "Getting to green" on the President's Management Agenda (PMA) e-government initiative; Adopting enterprise architecture and a service-oriented...
In this interview, Schlosser discusses: Modernizing HUD's business and information technology (IT) systems; "Getting to green" on the President's Management Agenda (PMA) e-government initiative; Adopting enterprise architecture and a service-oriented IT approach within HUD; HUD's IT system challenges; HUD's Technology Investment Board Executive Community (TIBEC); and HUD's future technologies and investment plans. Technology and E-Government; Managing for Performance and Results; Leadership; Strategic Thinking; Collaboration: Networks and Partnerships
Complete transcript: 

Originally Broadcast Saturday, September 16, 2006

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 this center in 1998, to encourage discussion and research into new approaches to improving government effectiveness. You can find out more about the center by visiting us on the web at www.businessofgovernment.org.

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 Lisa Schlosser, Chief Information Officer at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Good morning, Lisa.

Ms. Schlosser: Good Morning, Al. Thanks for having me.

Mr. Morales: And joining us in our conversation also from IBM is Pete Boyer, Director of Federal Civilian Programs.

Good morning, Pete.

Mr. Boyer: Good morning, Al.

Mr. Morales: Lisa, let's start at the beginning. Can you tell us about the mission and the history of the Department of Housing and Urban Development? And could you mention some of HUD's major programs?

Ms. Schlosser: Sure, HUD has been around really since the 1930s. Our mission during that timeframe has been pretty consistent, really, to open doors to homeownership to all Americans; to help to ensure affordable housing, and to help to build communities at both the state and local level.

We're really proud to say today over 70 percent of Americans do own their own homes.

Couple of the programs that HUD does focus on, we are very excited this year, we are focusing on our Federal Housing Administration, modernizing some of our programs to help support that -- that mission of HUD and that is to increase homeownership, and we're modernizing the program to ensure that all Americans have access to a safe mortgage product at a fair price. And we are building some flexibility into our mortgage insurance program.

Flexibility in terms of mortgage terms and loan terms, which again we hope to use to increase homeownership across the U.S. Also some of our other programs are Public and Indian Housing Area. We are providing housing authorities with more flexibility to help to service lower and middle income personnel, help them get affordable housing.

In our Community and Planning Development group, now, we're helping to rebuild the Gulf Coast by providing grants and loans and other support in that area.

Mr. Morales: Great, I do want to talk a little bit later on about your work down in the Gulf area, but can you tell us a little bit about the mission and scope of your office, specifically within HUD, and give us a sense of the size of the budget you have and how many employees are in your organization?

Ms. Schlosser: Okay. The Chief Information Officer, we have about $300 million budget which we spend on using technology to help support the mission and goals -- the business goals of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

We have approximately 300 folks who are providing the support, everything from developing policy, investment processes, developing an enterprise architecture, and supporting our businesses in developing the systems that help them provide support and also to accomplish their missions in supporting homeownership and some of the other goals I mentioned.

Mr. Morales: Now, Lisa, can you describe your role as a chief information officer and what are your official responsibilities?

Ms. Schlosser: My role as HUD's information -- chief information officer, obviously, is to ensure that HUD capitalizes on the use of modernized technology to support our three main goals and missions within HUD, that's to increase homeownership and ensure that everyone has access to affordable housing and also to build communities and provide support to community development.

So again, our primary functions there are we develop the policies and develop the -- and implement the investment processes to make sure that we are spending our money wisely and spending money on technology that's truly going to help us further our business goals across the department.

The other major goal and major role that we have within the Chief Information Office is to ensure the security and the privacy of the information that we hold and collect.

Mr. Morales: Lisa, we understand that you came to this role after serving as Associate Chief Information Officer at the Department of Transportation for both Security and Investment Management. How did these experiences impact your current role?

Ms. Schlosser: By serving in the Department of Transportation before coming to HUD, I was really able to see and get across agency perspective and really see how many commonalities, even though we really have different missions within the federal government architecture.

We really have a lot of commonalities among the agencies, so by serving in that role and then serving in the role at HUD, I was able to see how we could capitalize and work together and collaborate on different opportunities, both at the business level and especially, at the system level, by collaborating together on common systems as opposed to having to go out and build individual systems. We were able to work together with other agencies and see where there are commonalities.

Mr. Morales: Lisa, we also understand that you spend a portion of your career working in the technology field in the private sector. How has this affected your perspective at HUD?

Ms. Schlosser: Well, I think by working in the private sector always gives you an advantage as a chief information officer within the federal government. You are able to see both perspectives. You are able to work and negotiate better with the private sector, kind of, understand where both parties are coming from.

And I think you are able to negotiate better successes for both the private sector and the government side on the various partnerships we work, and it really comes down to a good partnership between your industry partners and the government is what equates to success on some of our big computer system development projects.

Mr. Morales: Lisa, prior to the show, you had mentioned that you were in the military at one point in time, and in fact, are still are in the U.S. Reserves. How is this experiencing adding to your capabilities at HUD?

Ms. Schlosser: Well, again, it's by seeing how different agencies operate you can kind of take the best of the best, take the best practices, the best solutions from the various agencies you've been to, and bring those experiences.

So for example, the Department of the Army has an incredible portal, Army Knowledge Online, and we've been able to capitalize on that model based on my experiences there to help lead us towards a better solution at HUD, so we are able to capitalize on that as opposed to having to reinvent the wheel, on using that type of technology.

Mr. Morales: Great. What steps is HUD taking on the President's Management Agenda? We will ask Chief Information Officer, Lisa Schlosser, to share with us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.

(Intermission)

Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm your host, Al Morales, and this morning's conversation is with HUD Chief Information Officer, Lisa Schlosser.

Also joining us in our conversation is Pete Boyer, Director of Federal Civilian Programs at IBM.

Lisa, we understand that you've emphasized a few goals for your organization in 2006. Could you share these goals with our listeners?

Ms. Schlosser: Sure. One of the first things, really, that we wanted to tackle at HUD is to really improve our processes. Again, make sure that all of our investments in information technology really truly support our business goals at HUD, as I mentioned before. So one of our first goals was, you know, to improve our processes and I think that's been demonstrated by getting to green on the President's Management Agenda.

So, you know, as of last quarter, HUD was one of only five cabinet-level agencies that was at a green status on the President's Management Agenda in e-government.

So we are very proud of that and we think that reflects that we have really focused on improving our processes, improving security, ensuring that we have a good architecture to work against. So that's -- really, our first goal was to do that and we're continuing to improve those processes.

Secondly, we've been focusing on the modernization of our backend infrastructure, upgrading our desktop computers, upgrading our mainframe systems, upgrading our servers, making sure that we had state-of-the-art technology using open standards platforms so we are more flexible in responding to our business needs as our programs are changing, as our programs are being modernized.

The third goal was really to focus on implementing something we are calling Vision 2010, which is our information technology strategy, bottom-line being that we want to get off of our old antiquated systems over the -- by the year 2010, so that we are in a purely open type environment using web services capitalizing on service oriented architecture.

So that's the three main goals that we're focusing on within HUD in the information technology arena.

Mr. Morales: I like to expand a little bit more on the President's Management Agenda in your efforts to get to green on e-government. Can you tell us a little bit about some of the activities that you undertook to get there and what some of the next steps may be?

Ms. Schlosser: Well, I think with any initiative like that the first step is always to get the support of the Secretary, the Deputy Secretary and the key business leaders, the key executives in the organization. And one of the things, I -- since, I've been at HUD that I've noticed is that there are executives from the Secretary, the Deputy and each of our assistant secretaries and deputy assistant secretaries, they really truly understand technology, they understand the power of technology and how to use that to really improve the way they deliver their programs.

So right off the bat, they were very supportive of all the goals of the President's Management Agenda, you know, using e-government, using shared services where we can, investing in new modernized technology and helping us go through that changed management process and helping to get folks to accept the new technology within the organization.

So it was really the first step, and then we had a very, very clear outline, clear goals, clear milestones. We focused on our capital planning process, you know, again, making sure that we have good investments; we have a good process to evaluate how we are investing money in information technology.

We also worked very hard with Dick Burk in the Office of Management and Budget and adopted all the models that have been put out from there for enterprise architectures. So we have a real strong architecture, we build to a consistent architecture, consisting group of standards.

We've shared those standards with all of our partners across HUD on our various development efforts. The third thing in, not necessarily in priority of course, this was actually overriding, is we really worked hard to improve our information technology security program.

We focused on really understanding where all our systems were and what our systems were doing, where the data was within our systems, we focused on certification, accreditation of systems, i.e., assessing the risk to those systems in putting in the right solutions to mitigate those risks, whether it was new policy or other type of technical controls.

So we accomplished those goals, we got all our systems 100 percent certified and accredited, we spend a lot of time training our folks within HUD. 96 percent of our folks go through mandatory training every year. 96 to 100 percent of our contractors also complete security training.

So we focused on those main areas of the President's Management Agenda, and I think through that executive commitment as well as the clear focus on milestones and goals, we were able to accomplish the green status.

Mr. Morales: Lisa, you mentioned modernizing HUD's business systems, how are you prioritizing the systems being modernized, and related to that, how are you involving the business owners in the modernization process?

Ms. Schlosser: Oh, we are starting with the Secretary's Strategic Plan, so for the first time, HUD has actually incorporated a specific strategic goal within the Secretary's Strategic Plan that specifically states that HUD will use and capitalize on modernized technology to improve the way we deliver our services to our stakeholders, be it a business, be it a citizen, be it another government agency.

So everything really starts from that strategic plan, it starts from that strategic objective, and then we have a very sophisticated process where we involve all of our business leaders at the program levels, our Community and Planning Development folks, our Federal Housing Administration, our Public and Indian Housing.

We collaborate together to determine what should be enterprise wide solutions for HUD. For example, this year we invested in a new collaboration tool. We invested in enterprise wide Correspondence Tracking and Document Management System, and then we work with each of the individual business leaders, each of the individual programs to identify their key business goals.

So for example, Federal Housing Administration has just initiated these new efforts to modernize the way they provide loan insurance to citizens, again with the goal of increasing homeownership, so -- because that is the top goal -- one of the top goals of the Department, the top business goals of FHA.

We are also prioritizing their system development needs to ensure that their systems are ready to deliver those new innovative programs.

Mr. Morales: And how are you tracking progress?

Ms. Schlosser: We track progress several ways. Every single one of our programs is accounted for in our Capital Planning and Investment Control process, and on a monthly basis we do program reviews with our business partners with the system owners for each of the projects and the project managers, and we track adherence to cost, schedule, and performance objectives for each of those programs.

So if we see any variance in staying within 10 percent cost goal, or 10 percent schedule goal, or not meeting the business objectives, you know, we do that through a series of surveys through customer participation.

Then we would put a program on a watch list and just try to get it back on track by putting additional resources, whatever it took to mitigate the risks of that program. So that's the way we watch over them.

Mr. Morales: All right. Lisa, you're seen as a leader in adopting enterprise architecture. How are your enterprise architecture efforts supporting the speedy modernization process?

Ms. Schlosser: Well, if you do enterprise architecture right, you start with the business process, so by really understanding what your business processes are, and then what the key goals of the business leaders are, you can really take that then to the next level.

Understand where you have any gaps in providing good technology solutions to your business, identify where you have any issues with that technology, and be able to make fixes based on those identified gaps or issues.

And so by having a good perspective on your business process, by understanding where technology is or isn't supporting those business processes, you can really use your architecture to know where you need to invest or where you need to focus on for your business.

Mr. Morales: Lisa, we know that HUD has adopted a service oriented and component based approach to enterprise architecture enabling HUD to "build once and use often." Could you elaborate on this approach?

Ms. Schlosser: Sure, again, what we've done is, we've really used the enterprise architecture principles that have been set out by Office of Management and Budget and other professional organizations.

We've really analyzed our business and we looked for gaps that could be filled, you know, or closed, performance gaps that could be closed by the use of technology and as part of our process in doing that, we just don't automatically go out and build a new system. We look across our enterprise and determine if there is technology in our enterprise that can mitigate, you know, a performance gap.

Our second part of our process is that we go and look across the government, and look at different repositories, work with other government agencies, determine whether there is other good practice solutions that we can capitalize on, and take advantage of those systems. Instead of again building our own, we're happy to outsource to other services that exist across the government.

Mr. Morales: Okay. What lessons have you learned when developing EA blueprints that you could pass on to the other government leaders who might be listening?

Ms. Schlosser: First and foremost, the most important thing is that enterprise architecture is about your business, and you have to make it real to your business, and demonstrate to your business partners, both internally and externally that you understand what their business is, and that you're using their business to drive the systems that you're developing or the technology that you're investing in.

Mr. Morales: Lisa, on the scene of business, over the last few years, there have been a number of federal government initiatives, including lines of business and centers of excellence. Could you speak to HUD's involvement in some of the important new focus areas and how these initiatives are affecting HUD's progress forward?

Ms. Schlosser: As I mentioned earlier, HUD's strategy is to take advantage of crosscutting services anywhere in the government to help close our performance gaps and to help support our business. So we were happy to see e-government solutions and other shared services come about and in fact HUD was one of the early adopters of the pay and personnel.

We have outsourced our pay and personnel to the National Finance Center, very happy with the service we are getting there. We have outsourced our human resource systems and worked with the Department of Treasury, used their shared service for human resource systems, and we also take advantage of the Environmental Protection Agency's online rulemaking service.

So we are a big adopter, we share these services, we use these crosscutting government services, where it makes sense for our business, particularly, in non-core mission areas.

Mr. Morales: And you found that this has been a pretty good program for HUD?

Ms. Schlosser: It's absolutely been a great program. In one particular case, in one of these programs, we spent two years on development of a new system; when we decided to go to the crosscutting service, we had it implemented within six months.

Mr. Morales: Wow! That's incredible. How is HUD preparing its systems for emergency response needs? We will ask Chief Information Officer, Lisa Schlosser, to explain this to us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.

(Intermission)

Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm your host Al Morales, and this morning's conversation is with Chief Information Officer, Lisa Schlosser from HUD.

Also joining us in our conversation from IBM is Pete Boyer, Director of Federal Civilian Programs.

Lisa, we know that HUD like many other organizations faces IT challenges from a number of fronts, including requirements to quickly respond to policy and result in system changes from events such as, in your case, FHA reform or natural disasters such as the hurricanes from last year.

How has HUD reacted to these challenges from a systems perspective, and how can industry help to prepare the Department to be able to react quickly and efficiently to these evolving IT changes?

Ms. Schlosser: Well, HUD's really been investing in standard open architecture using web services, using standard reporting formats, using standard information sharing protocols and formats as well.

And we've found, since we've been investing in this type of standard spaced architecture, we're able to share information quicker, we're able to make changes quicker to our systems to accommodate a lot of changes that are happening today. Everything from responding to various hurricanes across the country, other natural disasters, and program changes.

So I would say that's the first thing that we are really focusing on is using open standards, using commercial off-the-shelf products as much as possible, so that we can rapidly put in place new systems to adapt to these changing business requirements.

And also not from a policy perspective, we did, as we talked about earlier, invest quite a bit in ensuring we had a good business based enterprise architecture, so we know where to invest our funding, and we're investing in the areas where we anticipate we will have to make system changes quicker.

And that's where we are investing in the -- in the, you know, commercial off-the-shelf packages as much as possible, you know, where we're investing in web services and using web and portal technology to its fullest capabilities.

In terms of how industry really can support us, to continue to really understand our business, to understand our business processes, and to develop the commercial off-the-shelf products that we can rapidly integrate in kind of a plug-and-play type scenario into our environment.

So we can rapidly take advantage of technology so we can shorten lifecycles, you know, from the traditional years of development to the six months that we are starting to see.

When you have a new business requirement, you can capitalize on the COTS product on our web services, a portal type technology, so that's what we need to continue to have from our industry partners.

And a tight collaboration in sharing of best practices and bringing best practices that the industry has seen, you know, across the government, in other agencies bringing those solutions to us and helping us identify and capitalize on other shared services that could help to meet our business requirements quicker than before.

So for example, you know, HUD has, as I mentioned earlier, our Community and Planning Development group has really taken the lead in providing a lot of support in rebuilding communities in the Gulf Coast, and we rapidly put in place a web-based system with a series of controls to track and report on that funding, and to get the grants out, for example, quicker than we ever have before using again a web based technology, using open standards.

We can get that information out, we can get reporting and we can get access, secure access to the right people at the right time using that technology

Mr. Morales: Lisa, I'm sure one of the hot buttons for most CIOs these days is the issue around information technology security, and certainly, it's been in the news quite a bit these past few weeks and months with a variety of penetrations and stolen laptops, which cause a variety of major problems within different government agencies, and it fuels our citizen's concerns over issues such as identity theft. What does this mean at HUD and how has the Agency reacted to these types of events?

Ms. Schlosser: It's interesting about HUD, like I said, I think, earlier is, I've been there about a year-and-a-half, just a little bit more than that now, and one of my observations about the leadership at HUD is they're very aware of technology, capitalize on technology and not just technology itself, but also information security.

The Deputy Secretary who I worked for, Deputy Secretary Bernardi is very, very supportive of information technology security. In fact, when he started reading about some of these incidents, the first thing he did is call me, and say, "Lisa, what can we do to mitigate our risk?"

And fortunately, because we've had this support at that level, the support of our business leaders, we've actually been improving our security over the past, you know, since I've been there, certainly, at HUD.

And a couple of things that we've been doing other than the executive support, we really have focused on making sure we have a good solid inventory of systems, and eliminating redundant system, where we didn't need them.

There is not use having a system, just to have a system, so where we didn't need it, you know, we've decreased the systems or combined systems or reengineered to one platform, so less systems, obviously, I think you can have a better handle on security.

The other thing HUD really has an advantage on, and one of the really critical success factors, I believe, in protecting your data, is to have a centralized architecture, a centralized network, one helpdesk operation, one network, one way that you go ahead and implement patches across your environment by pushing a button basically.

HUD has that advantage, we are centralized. Again, we have one network, we have one helpdesk, we have one infrastructure, and I think that's been a real benefit to us.

We are able to have a standard image on every single one of our servers, on every single one of our desktops, so if a new virus comes out, we are able to implement the patch very, very quickly after we test it throughout our environment.

Other things that HUD's done obviously when some of these incidents started to occur, you know, we went out and we did a review of all our programs.

We updated our data architecture, just to make sure we truly understood where all our data was, where there was potential Personally Identifiable Information or PII, you will hear that term. And we made sure we had the right protection and controls in place.

We also went out and retrained all of our folks that had mobile access to HUD systems or to data, put in place strong policies about removing that data from HUD and had our user sign statements indicating that they realize their responsibilities in protecting that information.

So we've been very proactive as with most of the agencies now in putting in measures or enhancing the measures we already had in place to improve security.

Mr. Boyer: Lisa, on a different subject, one of your roles is to serve as both a member of the HUD Technology Investment Board Executive Community or TIBEC, and to coordinate the efforts of the TIBEC. Could you tell our listeners about the HUD TIBEC, for example, what criteria does the TIBEC use to evaluate the portfolio?

Ms. Schlosser: HUD has a governance process in place that's also embedded in policy where we have, what's called a, actually, a technology investment board working group that consists of individuals representing each of our key business areas within HUD.

This group gets together, establishes what our business goals are for the year, based on the strategic plans and others things we've talked about, and this group also goes out to each of the programs, asks for the programs, anybody who wants to invest in technology to put together a business case to justify why they need investment dollars.

The group then evaluates each of those business cases against the set of criteria as you just asked about, Pete, and in this case, this year -- this criteria change based on, you know, our business needs or you know, the direction of the Secretary or the Office of Management and Budget at the time.

This year, for example, we had a very clear set of criteria. Every single business case was evaluated against how well it met the new strategic objectives of the Department.

So, for example, did the proposed investment or business case support the FHA modernization program, did it support the Public and Indian Housing modernization programs, did it support some of our internal modernization programs, you know, or how well did it support those programs, was there a qualified program manager, you know, assigned or proposed for that project, okay.

If that project had been ongoing, was it meeting its cost schedule and performance goals? Was it showing value to the business of HUD and showing good business outcomes? And did the program or the project, is it taken into account, does it understand security and how it's going to protect the security of the data that will be embedded in that system.

Once that group pretty much puts together and evaluates each of the projects. In our case, we have about 13 major projects that get evaluated and another 50 non-major programs that are evaluated. The group gets together and decides which get funded and how much.

And then this is presented to what we call, as you mentioned, Pete, the Technology Investment Board Executive Committee, and that's the TIBEC. And the TIBEC is comprised of deputy secretary chairs that the CIO is a member, the Chief Financial Officer is a member, the Chief Acquisition Officer, and of course, each of our assistant secretaries is also a member and the General counsel.

So the budget is presented to that group and the group says, "Aye" or "Nay" on that particular budget and then the CFO takes that budget, and then incorporates it as part of the Secretarial budget, so everybody really has a say in where those dollars get invested and to what priorities those dollars get invested in.

Mr. Boyer: Now, how has this process changed the outcome of HUD's systems?

Ms. Schlosser: I think by having the business folks involved at a couple of different levels in the governance process -- it's not that just the Chief Information Officer obviously making these decisions, it's the business folks.

And so I think our systems are becoming more valuable or becoming more a critical part of the success of our programs, and I think you're starting to see some really positive business outcomes based on our enhanced use of modernized technology that's been derived from this process.

So I will give you two quick examples, I mentioned that obviously one of our goals in HUD is to increase homeownership. Well, we do that primarily through our loan insurance programs, so one of the areas that our businesses last year wanted to invest in was to automate or electronic the process whereby we get submissions on loans from the lender community.

It used to be that the lenders would submit a loan application to HUD in a paper-based format, which resulted in millions of pieces of paper a year. While, as of last year, we made that an electronic process.

So we cut processing time by 20 percent, cut costs by approximately 30 percent for that processes, so ultimately those reduced costs equate to quicker processing of applications, and getting loan insurance and ultimately loans to the citizen quicker than ever before.

Another quick example, I think, all government programs tried to increase efficiency in the way that we give out payments to recipients of our programs. In the past couple of years, HUD put in a system to help to ensure that our funding for various programs only went to qualified individuals or qualified organizations.

We put in a new database that we actually worked with HHS and SSA on, and we've reduced improper payments on this particular program by 57 percent just by using modernized shared technology.

Mr. Boyer: What are your next steps for the TIBEC?

Ms. Schlosser: We continue to improve the process in the TIBEC. We are increasing the representation of the business community, so our housing leaders, for example, Federal Housing Administration leaders are even more engaged than in the past in that process.

And I think you will ultimately see more and more our systems really supporting good solid business outcomes in measurable performance improvements in HUD's programs.

Mr. Boyer: Now, in our research for the program, we noticed your website includes significant information about the IT development cycle at HUD. Could you tell us about this information?

Ms. Schlosser: Well, we'd like to post the information to -- so that all of our partners really who help us develop these systems really understand what our processes are and how they can build systems to support, you know, to support HUD using a very standard, you know, standards based process.

So we do make sure we keep that updated, we make sure that it's out there so that anybody who would like to participate or bid on a HUD program has access to the methodology that we use and can apply that methodology to their solutions.

Mr. Boyer: Now, how has posting this information changed the activities or outcomes at the OCIO?

Ms. Schlosser: Oh, as we post more and more, we're finding that we're getting solutions that really fit into our architecture. We're -- it's really resulting in a fewer redundant systems. It's also resulting in better lifecycle delivery of new systems development.

Mr. Morales: Lisa, we also noticed that you've included a fair amount of information regarding privacy. What information is available for HUD customers? And when does your officer interact with the Chief Privacy Officer?

Ms. Schlosser: There are a couple of ways we get that information out. Number one, you will see on our website, we do post a privacy policy, so everybody understands what we collect, why we collect information.

Secondly, we also complete something called a Privacy Impact Assessment on every single one of our computer systems, so the documents, what information we collect, what might constitute privacy information, and we post the results of those assessments on our internet sites.

So anybody -- anybody in the public can have access and understand where and how HUD is either collecting or again using privacy act or personally identifiable information.

Mr. Morales: What does the future hold for HUD? We will ask Chief Information Officer, Lisa Schlosser, to discuss this with us, when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.

(Intermission)

Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm your host Al Morales, and this morning's conversation is with HUD Chief Information Officer, Lisa Schlosser.

Also joining us in our conversation is Pete Boyer, Director of Federal Civilian Programs at IBM.

Lisa, what trends will have the largest impact at HUD and its customers in the next ten years? And how will HUD need to adapt to meet these changes?

Ms. Schlosser: I think first and foremost, as I mentioned a couple of times -- several times throughout the interview, that our primary mission is obviously to increase homeownership opportunities, provide affordable housing, and help build communities, and invest in communities.

And so obviously the direction of the housing market and the economy related to the housing market really impacts our business first and foremost, and that's what we have to plan for and react to as time goes on.

Second major trend, of course, which none of us can predict is disasters. What kind of disasters are we going to have? What areas of the country, and how can we provide the quickest support to getting folks into temporary housing, working with various agencies to do that, and also to rebuild any communities that are impacted by disasters as we go through.

Mr. Morales: Lisa, HUD, like many other federal agencies, is currently dealing with a reduction in budgets. How will the OCIO's Office incorporate budget reductions into modernizing planning in other ITI efforts?

Ms. Schlosser: Well, obviously, we have to continue to get better and better and again as I mentioned earlier, we've really worked on our investment processes, and we've really made sure that we have included our businesses and our strategic goals of the Department into our planning process for Information Technology Investments.

We will continue to do that. We will always have a handle on what the business priorities of the Department are, what the key priorities, again, from the business perspective are, and we will invest where the priorities are the highest.

And also we will invest where it makes good sense on the technology side, where we can build once and service many different programs at once.

So the way we will confront those things is through again better understanding of the business and consistent understanding of the changes in the environment impacting our business and also understanding the technology that's available where we can share technology to get the biggest bang for our buck.

Mr. Boyer: Lisa, on a related topic, there are many exciting technologies that are vogue in the marketplace today, such as SOA, that promise significant advantage in cost savings and improve systems integration. Could you please describe HUD's plans for future technologies and investments?

Ms. Schlosser: Certainly, the service-oriented architecture principles as we talked about before are something we want to continue to look at, continue to invest in.

Obviously, we want to share services, build once and service many, capitalize on economies of scale, you know, actually, use the products in an environment to service multiple business needs is what we want to continue to do.

And specifically, from a technology standpoint, we want to incorporate web services technology. We want to web-enable all of our business applications, so any stakeholder, be it a business, another government agency, or the citizen can access the HUD information that they need when they need it, and customize it to their particular needs, and their particular requirements.

And government-wide, HUD is also going to, you know, ensure that we invest in moving towards Internet Protocol Version 0.6, and we're going to take advantages of smartcards and other technology solutions on the horizon, better and quicker encryption.

The third thing that we really want to do is capitalize on the power of wireless at many levels where we can. We have an increasingly mobile workforce. We have less funding for travel. We have less funding for government employees, so we really want to be efficient about the way we use technology.

I really see remote access web mobile type solutions, handhelds, some of the other technology that gets our mobile workforce connected no matter where they are, they can access securely HUD resources that they need to do their business.

Mr. Morales: Now, related to that, how much of HUD's workforce is mobile today?

Ms. Schlosser: That's -- it's hard to pin on an exact percentage of how much. I would say somewhere between maybe 30 to 40 percent of HUD's workforce travels to conduct inspections, you know, to promote some of our homeownership opportunities. So I would estimate, though roughly, 30 to 40 percent of our folks out there needs some sort of mobile capability, but you also have to consider really your whole workforce as a potentially mobile workforce really.

In the event of a disaster, and in the event that you have to deploy rapid response teams to a disaster area, you have to assume that anytime, anyplace, you can enable your people with a wireless solution, tele-working, obviously.

You need to build in remote access capability, so for example, HUD's implemented a web basis remote access solution. We use the mobile computers, obviously, that are wirelessly connected, so again, we do equip our mobile workforce and we are prepared to equip more of our workforce as more mobility is needed down the line.

Mr. Boyer: Now, Lisa, we talk with many of our guests about the government employee pending retirement wave. How are you handling the retirement wave?

Ms. Schlosser: Well, a couple of things, the Department overall has really an incredible intern program. We bring in -- I think we probably had a couple of 100 interns this year from various programs, from various universities across the nation, and we have a structured program where we bring these folks in, we offer them training throughout their time here as an intern. We really invest in the interns because we want them to come back, we want them to be HUD employees.

Within the Office of the Chief Information Officer, we have an Emerging Leaders Programs, where we meet on a quarterly basis with some of our emerging leaders. And we train them on various things, not just technology, but we train them on how to be good leaders, you know, what to expect from their leaders.

How to be good program or project managers and to understand the technology. We also spend a lot of time teaching them about the business of the government and about the business of HUD, so we want them to get invested, to be excited about the incredible mission and opportunities that we have, so that they come in and so we have a workforce that's ready to move up the ranks, you know, as some of our other members of our workforce get ready and actually do retire.

Mr. Boyer: Lisa, we also talk to many of our guests about the topic or on the topic of collaboration. What kinds of partnerships are you developing now and how will these partnerships between HUD other federal agencies or the private sector change over time?

Ms. Schlosser: Well, I think we're finally really getting into a mindset across the federal government that it does really make sense to collaborate on areas of commonality and I think collaboration will continue to grow.

I think e-government initiatives from the current administration has -- have really opened our eyes to wow! you know, we really do have a common need. We do have a common way we can do this particular business and of course, that translates into technology that we -- we really can capitalize more on shared services across the government.

I think a couple of areas where you're seeing even more collaboration is say in the disaster recovery arena, HUD works very closely with the Veteran's Administration and the United States Department of Agriculture on making sure that we can take personnel and get them into housing as quick as possible and help to build the community, so you're seeing a good collaboration occur there.

We've also -- in that particular case, we've also put -- worked together with those two agencies. We have kind of common housing mission areas.

We put together a website called homesales.gov, where we list any properties that the government owns that we would like to sell, we list it on those websites, and anybody is able to get to that website, make an offer on those homes, or at least pursue how to make an offer, if they're interested.

So it's been a very good opportunity to work together to get that information out. I mentioned a program earlier, Enterprise Income Verification, where the Social Security Administration, Health and Human Resources have gotten together and shared a database that has income data from various recipients of federal programs, and by building that database once and sharing it, we have increased the quality, we have reduced the improper payment.

So there is some real tangible, quantitative benefits of collaborating particularly as we've been talking about in the area of information technology. Again, you build it once let multiple folks use it and you can really create some efficiencies in your process and some cost savings.

Mr. Morales: Lisa, you've certainly enjoyed a very exciting and distinguished career and you've made the migration from the private sector over to public service. What advice could you give to a person who is interested in a career in public service?

Ms. Schlosser: Well, I'd say, first thing is to really understand what aspect of government you'd like to get involved with. There are various opportunities out there, specifically, in the area of security type career fields. Always opportunities in the information technology, and my best advice would be to capitalize on usajobs.gov.

It's a great website, a great resource. It lists opportunities, talks you through what a career in the government is like and it definitely lists all the different job opportunities that are available across the United States, you know, in a variety of different areas of expertise as well.

So I would encourage folks to periodically look at usajobs.gov, and take advantage of the opportunities that are listed there.

Mr. Morales: Great, that's fantastic. Unfortunately, we have reached the end of our time. I do want to thank you for fitting us into your busy schedule, but more importantly, Pete and I would like to thank you for your dedicated service to the public and our country in the various roles you've held in public office, as well as in the U.S. Army.

Ms. Schlosser: Thanks and I appreciate you taking the time to have me here today, and allowing me to share some of the things that HUD's doing. Obviously, HUD's continuing to, what we think, provide a great service to the American public, homeownership, that's the American -- that's America's dream, right, it's to own a home.

And the mere fact that now over 70 percent of the American citizens do own their own home, I think is quite a testimony to Secretary Jackson, Assistant Secretary Brian Montgomery, the head of Federal Housing Administration, and other key leaders within HUD, and I think you're going to see some exciting things coming out of HUD.

They are really going to help people even have more opportunities for homeownership, modernization programs within the Federal Housing Administration.

That's going to allow more flexibility to first time -- particularly, first time homebuyers, and I encourage everyone to look for those programs, look for those opportunities.

Again, I thank you for asking me to be here today.

Mr. Morales: Great. We look forward to your continued success. This has been The Business of Government Hour featuring a conversation with Chief Information Officer of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Ms. Lisa Schlosser.

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

Once again, that's businessofgovernment.org.

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 Al Morales. Thank you for listening.