PMA

 

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Weekly Roundup: March 26 -March 30, 2018

Friday, March 30th, 2018 - 9:26
Michael J. Keegan

Dana Michael Harsell

Sunday, March 28th, 2010 - 12:49
Dana Michael Harsell is an assistant professor at Hartwick College and will complete the requirements for a PhD in Political Science from Syracuse University in May 2005.

Jonathan D. Breul

Sunday, March 28th, 2010 - 12:49
Career Overview Jonathan D. Breul was the Executive Director of the IBM Center for The Business of Government and a Partner in IBM Global Business Services. The IBM Center for The Business of Government helps public sector executives improve the effectiveness of government with practical ideas and original thinking. The Center sponsors independent research by top minds in academe and the non-profit sector, and creates opportunities for dialogue on a broad range of public management topics.

Government Reform: Traditionalist's Perspective

Tuesday, August 12th, 2008 - 15:00
A believer in the traditional perspective of government management would see good public management as using a strong hierarchical approach to ensure accountability, a rule-based set of procedures to ensure consistency and uniformity, and clear distinctions between the public and private sectors.

Working With Career Executives

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008 - 14:05

Tom Pyke interview

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

Originally Broadcast February 9, 2008

Washington, D.C.

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

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

And now, The Business of Government Hour.

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

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

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

Good morning, Tom.

Mr. Pyke: Good morning, Albert.

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

Good morning, Pete.

Mr. Boyer: Good morning, Al.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mr. Morales: That's a great balance.

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

(Intermission)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Intermission)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mr. Morales: It certainly is a delicate balance.

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

(Intermission)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This has been The Business of Government Hour, featuring a conversation with Tom Pyke, Chief Information Officer at the U.S. Department of Energy. My co-host has been Pete Boyer, director in IBM's federal civilian industry practice.

As you enjoy the rest of your day, please take time to remember the men and women of our armed and civil services abroad who may not be able to hear this morning's show on how we're improving their government, but who deserve our unconditional respect and support. For The Business of Government Hour, I'm Albert Morales. Thank you for listening.

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

Until next week, it's businessofgovernment.org.

James Cason interview

Friday, December 14th, 2007 - 20:00
Phrase: 
Mr. Cason is the Associate Deputy Secretary for the Department of the Interior
Radio show date: 
Sat, 12/15/2007
Guest: 
Intro text: 
Financial Management; Managing for Performance and Results; Human Capital Management; Collaboration: Networks and Partnerships...
Financial Management; Managing for Performance and Results; Human Capital Management; Collaboration: Networks and Partnerships
Complete transcript: 

Originally Broadcast December 15, 2007

Arlington, VA

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.

Today, the U.S. Department of the Interior has evolved into the principal federal conservation agency, managing the protection of many of the nation's special natural, cultural and historic places. With us this morning to discuss his organization's leadership in conserving habitats, species, lands and waters, while effectively managing its fiscal resources, is our special guest, James Cason, Associate Deputy Secretary at the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Good morning, Jim.

Mr. Cason: Good morning.

Mr. Morales: Also joining us in our conversation is Steve Seike, director in IBM's federal civilian industry.

Good morning, Steve.

Mr. Seike: Good morning, Al.

Mr. Morales: Jim, perhaps you could share with us the sense of the history and mission of the U.S. Department of the Interior. When was it created, and what is its mission today?

Mr. Cason: The Department of the Interior is a wonderful organization. It has a very broad mission within the United States. Somewhat unusually, when we think about the Interior, it's really the Department of the Outside as opposed to the Interior, because most of the agencies that are involved within the Interior manage the outdoors within the United States.

For example, within the Department of the Interior, we have the National Park Service, the National Fish and Wildlife Organization, the Bureau of Reclamation, the Bureau of Land Management, Indian Affairs, and a number of other agencies, and collectively, those agencies manage about one out of every five acres in the United States. We have wonderful vistas, watersheds, critical and endangered species habitat. We manage coal mining, oil and gas developments; we manage water, and water development and distribution. There's a host of programs within the Department that have direct impacts upon the lives of many people within the United States.

The Department of the Interior was created back in 1849, and over time has had an evolvement of its mission and an accretion of duties. And today, it has a huge duty in both preserving our environment and conserving our environment with our partners, and it also has a very large contribution into the economic fabric of United States through energy and minerals development, through timber harvesting, grazing and a number of other things.

Mr. Morales: So with such a broad mission, can you perhaps give us a sense of the scale of the organization in terms of the size of its budget, number of employees, and the geographic footprint?

Mr. Cason: The Department of the Interior is a pretty large organization within the federal family. We have about 70,000 employees that are scattered in large part all over the world, but mostly in the United States, western half of the United States. We have about 2,400 offices of various sorts: some very large ones, some very small ones. We are typically a rural-based organization, because we do manage the outdoors so much, but we span many time zones in the world. Some of our interests like Insular Affairs, we have responsibility for Guam and American Samoa, and the U.S. Virgin Islands for example. And then we also have many of the lands in the West.

Mr. Seike: Jim, now that you've provided us with the sense of the larger organization, perhaps you could tell us more about your area and specific role within Interior. What are your specific responsibilities? And can you tell us how your area is organized, the size of your staff and budget, and how it supports the mission of the Department?

Mr. Cason: Well, that's an interesting question. The position I hold at the Department of the Interior is called the Associate Deputy Secretary. On an organizational chart, I report directly to the Deputy Secretary of the Interior, and that person is named Lynn Scarlett. Lynn is the number two person within the Department, and the number one person is obviously the Secretary. The Secretary is a cabinet officer, his name is Dirk Kempthorne. I report directly to the Deputy Secretary, and my role overall within the Department of the Interior is to assist the Secretary and the Deputy Secretary to manage the affairs of the Department.

In terms of immediate staff, I'd have to give you two answers on that. One answer is in an informal way, the entire staff of the Department is part of my portfolio and managing along with the Secretary's office. In another way, I also have another duty, that has been assigned to me by the Secretary, and that's to be the Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management and Budget. And in that capacity, I have a staff of several thousand people who are focused on the task of providing administrative services, policy services, framing the budget and a number of other things that support the broader mission of the Department of the Interior.

Mr. Seike: Well, it sounds like your hands are pretty full.

Mr. Cason: They are.

Mr. Seike: Let me ask you another question about responsibilities and duties. What would you see as the top three challenges that you face in your position, and how have you addressed those challenges?

Mr. Cason: Well, within my position, I would say it's a mix of a couple of things, and what I mean by that is, I have for me personally a task within the Department of the Interior that is a huge challenge, which is managing what we call the "Cobell litigation."

Cobell is a litigation and it was filed by individual Indians against the Department about the stewardship of the Department over the last 100 years of trust assets. It's been a very contentious litigation. We've spent hundreds of millions of dollars in working on this issue, and we've had extensive periods of time in court managing that issue, and I have the principal responsibility for the Department to manage the programs within the Department that are implicated by the Cobell litigation, and to work with the Department of Justice and the courts on this issue.

Secondly, I would say the next major challenge really is I would say coordination among the various parts of the Department. Many of the things that we do cross organizational lines, and it requires someone to coordinate those activities so that the right hand knows what the left hand is doing. Let me give you an example with our fire program. Within our fire program, we have several agencies that participate in our fire program, and that's the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service. And when we have fire issues that involve policy or deployment of resources, we need to make sure everybody is on the same page about what we are doing and why we are doing it.

We have a number of those types of things that involve initiatives of the Department that cross the lines within the Department, or we have problems that involve several parts of the organization, so that's a piece of it. And then the final thing that I think is the biggest challenge is communication among all of the parts of the Department, and that's to make sure everybody knows where we are trying to head, and I'll give you an example like goals and objectives.

It's very beneficial if everyone from the Secretary down to the lowest manager understands what the mission is, what our priorities are, what we are trying to get done, and that's a constant effort you have to go through to make sure that everybody is pulling in the traces in the same direction.

Mr. Morales: Now Jim, you've spent some time at the Department and in government. Could you describe your career path for our listeners? How did you get started?

Mr. Cason: Well, using the term "career path" may be an anomaly here. I've had a number of interesting jobs over my working lifetime. I've spent about half of my working life in government, and half of it in the private sector, and I've had the opportunity to go back and forth. I started off actually at a very young age of working, I probably started working when I was five or six; I came from a family of itinerant farm laborers. So my family would move with the crops in the western part of the U.S. We would actually live in Missouri during the winter, and in springtime we would go to Southern California and pick crops through California, Oregon, Washington, pick potatoes in Idaho, cut Christmas trees in Colorado, go back to Missouri and winter out.

It was an interesting upbringing, a little bit stressful, because I went to multiple schools each year, and interestingly, the Missouri schools are about two years behind the West Coast schools. So I was going back and forth. And in terms of professional career after college, I worked for a trade association dealing with environmental issues. This particular association was called WETA. That stands for the Western Environmental Trade Association. That organization represented labor in industry and environmental issues.

I also had a stint working in Iran. And I was in Iran shortly before the hostages were taken, or I left shortly before the hostages were taken. So I had the opportunity to watch that Iranian revolution up close and personal. And as it turned out, my entr�e into the federal government happened about that time once I got back from Iran; I actually spent a year as a resident fireman for the U.S. Forest Service, a GS-4 job. And then a friend of mine came back to Washington, went to work for the Bureau of Land Management, called me up one day and said I got this perfect job for you.

And I interviewed for it, came back and became a special assistant to the director of BLM. Moved up to become a Deputy Assistant Secretary, then an acting-Assistant Secretary, went over to the Department of Agriculture, ran the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation. Left town for eight years, and then when this administration was elected, I got the phone call that said, gee, this is a really big agency, can you guys come and give me a hand? So I returned to Washington and have been back for six years with this administration.

Mr. Morales: That's a fantastic history. So I'm curious, if you sort of tie all that together, how have these experiences prepared you for your current leadership role and sort of shaped and formed your management style?

Mr. Cason: It's an interesting thing that when you look at your life's experiences, all of them in one way or another contribute. I find that I developed, at a very young age, a very strong work ethic. And I attribute that to the upbringing I had with my parents and the hard work that we did as a kid. So doing really hard work now, spending long hours doing the things I do is just part of my make-up, and I think that contributed

I came from a very poor upbringing, so the reaching out to individuals, to understand and be empathetic about their needs, is really important. And one of the areas that's been very beneficial to me is I had a couple of years as the acting-Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs during this administration. And there's lots of really poor people in Indian country, and it gave me an opportunity to be empathetic with them. And in terms of management style, I've had the opportunity, now that I'm over 50, to have managed a long time and to experiment with what works and what doesn't.

And what I find as helpful in my capacities is that most times, most people who work for you want to do a good job. And they also want to be part of the process. And what I found through my experience is that if you give people an opportunity to be part of the solution, to be part of getting things done, their active participation is a lot more effective in extending your capabilities, and then you have a workforce environment where people are energized and positive about what they wanted to do.

So I find that in my capacity -- though at one point and another I have hundreds of dozens of people, dozens or hundreds or thousands that work for me -- what I try to do is actually give very few orders and actually work collaboratively with the management team to agree upon what we need to do, and then charge them to go do it.

Mr. Morales: That's great.

How is the Department of the Interior integrating budget and performance information? We will ask James Cason, Associate Deputy Secretary at the U.S. Department of the Interior, 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 Jim Cason, Associate Deputy Secretary at the U.S. Department of the Interior.

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

Jim, let's talk for a moment about the PMA, or the President's Management Agenda. Budget and performance integration lie at the heart of ensuring both that the strategic allocation and efficient use of funds are kept in check. Could you tell us about your Department's effort to get to green for budgeting and performance integration, and how has your organization expanded the use of financial data to inform its management decision-making process?

Mr. Cason: That's a great question. I think I'd like to start by backing up just a little bit. I would imagine that a lot of readers don't even know what the President's Management Agenda is. And basically, there is another side of the President and the White House that a lot of people don't get. And that is, the President is very interested in good, solid thoughtful management of government programs. And the President, through a variety of means, has basically said that he wants all of his subordinate managers to do a good job in marshalling their resources, using them effectively, because at the end, all of these monies that we use within the federal government comes from the taxpayer. And he wants to make sure that the taxpayer is getting their money's worth.

The President's Management Agenda is basically a reflection of that thought process, where the President said there are certain things that you have to do in order to run an organization well. You have to manage your money well, you have to manage people well, you have to manage property well, and so our President's Management Agenda is a compilation of several items like that where we have agreements with OMB reflecting the White House's views. We work toward becoming more efficient on those items to make sure that we can actually stand with a straight face and say we're marshalling our resources well.

Within the part of performance integration between budget and performance, the basic process that we go through to deal with that issue is to establish metrics of performance that basically says I'm investing a certain number of dollars in this area, I expect to get a certain performance or result as a result of the money. And then to actively measure that over time. If we find that we are getting more results than we expected, that looks like a pretty good investment, and you can make decisions about whether you do more or less of that. If you find you are not getting the results, it indicates at least there is a possibility of a management problem that needs to be addressed.

The Department of the Interior has been very active at looking at metrics. We've actually developed a Department strategic plan. Within that strategic plan is the mission areas and the metrics we use to measure performance, and we use that on a quarterly basis to make sure that we stay on track.

Mr. Morales: In the last OMB Scorecard, nearly half of the federal agencies received either a yellow or red rating in financial performance. Could you tell us from your perspective why this is such a challenging area for federal agencies, and more importantly, what has your organization done to progress and improve over the last year, so much so that OMB has provided you a green rating in progress?

Mr. Cason: Well, financial management is an important part of the scorecard, and it's also a very difficult area. Let me illustrate with our auditing process. One of the things that we do within the Department of the Interior and across government is we perform an annual audit of how we've managed our appropriated funds. And then at the end of that annual audit, you get a sense of what sorts of material weaknesses do you have in internal controls, how has your financial performance been, how have you managed your money?

It's a difficult process, and when we began this administration, that process usually took six or seven months after the end of a fiscal year before you could close your books. We now do this within the Department of the Interior within 45 days. And we have moved from -- in 2001 when we started the administration, we had 17 material weaknesses in our books, along with a host of other findings, and it looks like moving in a direction for this year that will have none. So we have spent a lot of time and efforts within the Department in our various bureaus to actually make sure that we take the steps necessary to manage our money well.

And let me give you one other example. While I was acting as the Assistant Secretary at Indian Affairs, one of the things we did there is in prior years' audits found that the material weaknesses in part were rooted in Indian Affairs. So one of the things I did is every two weeks, we sat down with the senior management of Indian Affairs, went over our finances, went over how we were dealing with weaknesses in our finances, and made it the management team's responsibility to deal with it. This year, they're coming out with zero material weaknesses. So it's that management process that we go through.

Mr. Seike: That's a fantastic story. Jim, as you know, in addition to improving financial performance, the PMA has an additional initiative for rightsizing the federal government's real estate. The federal government currently owns hundreds of billions of dollars in real property assets, so improving the management of these assets is really important to ensuring that taxpayer dollars are spent wisely and efficiently. Would you tell us more about Interior's real property asset management initiative?

Mr. Cason: Al, as I mentioned earlier, the Department of the Interior manages one out of every five acres in the United States. That's a huge real estate responsibility, not only the real estate itself but improvements on the real estate, because we have 2,400 offices across the country. So what's important to the Department is to make sure that we are being very thoughtful about how we can manage such a large land mass cost-effectively. Some of the things we do in that arena is to block up our properties through sale or in exchange.

If you are familiar with the West, one of the things that happened in opening up the West was tracts of lands were given to railroads across the West to build railroads for transportation. And that ended up fragmenting the land ownership pattern. So you'd have the states had some tracts, then we had some tracts, railroads had some tracts, and then you had other third party private people had tracts. And so one of the things we do to manage effectively is to block up our lands through sale or exchange, because contiguous properties are easier to manage.

Within the confines of what we do have to manage, we are also taking a look at the real estate buildings that we have, to make sure we have a proper inventory -- which we didn't start with, but we have an inventory of our real estate buildings now. We look at the condition of those buildings and we look at the utilization of those buildings so that we are in a position to say if we don't need it, let's dispose off it. If we do need it, if it's in bad repair, let's repair it, and we make sure that we are getting a cost-effective response out of the real estate that we do manage.

Mr. Seike: Your department received an unqualified opinion on its principal financial statements for the seventh consecutive year, demonstrating a clear pattern of financial accountability. First, what is the significance of a clean opinion, and then if you could, follow-up and talk about the keys to successfully achieving a timely and clean opinion?

Mr. Cason: I think the key is first that you make sure it's perceived as the responsibility of the entire organization to manage its finances well, and that's one of the things we put a premium on at the Department. We actively involve our employees and our management team to make sure that everybody is being physically prudent, and that they are following the policies and procedures that we have for managing our money.

The significance of a clean opinion is a reflection by a third party auditor who has no business or ties to the Department, that they've independently looked at our books, looked at how we manage our business, and have drawn a conclusion that we are following policies and procedures, and that we are managing the money well, that it's going to the right place, in the right amounts, and at the right time. So it's very important for us to have that third party assessment to make sure that we are doing a good job, and that we are identifying any problems that are there so they can be fixed in a timely way.

Mr. Morales: Jim, to continue this path of kudos, I understand that once again your Department has also received the CEAR Award, which stands for the Government Accountants Certificate of Excellence in Accountability Reporting. Could you tell us a little bit about this award and its significance?

Mr. Cason: It's an important recognition for the Department about the job that we're doing. The organization, Association of Government Accountants, basically reflects the accounting practices and business within the federal government. And in receiving the Certificate of Excellence in Accountability Reporting award from them, it basically gives us a sense that within the federal family, that we are being recognized for the efforts that we make to manage our money well, and we're being recognized by other people who clearly understand the environment that we operate in within the federal government.

The federal government, as most people understand, is sometimes very complex, we have a lot of rules and regulations and policies that we have to follow. And this award is basically given by people who live in that environment, understand all those things, and who are attesting to the fact that we are doing a good job in that environment.

Mr. Morales: Jim, earlier, you started this segment by describing this administration's focus on being good stewards of the taxpayer dollars. So what steps has Interior taken to better track and manage its costs, and can you tell us a little about the efforts in implementing activity-based costing and management within your Department?

Mr. Cason: Activity-based costing is a technique of cataloging the individual costs that we sustain against some project or initiative. And it gives us the opportunity to begin the process of conducting cost-benefit analysis that should be the driver for our investments in government programs. And just generically, I'd illustrate that that if have to spend a lot of money to get very little benefit, and I find that by saying here's -- I track how much I spent, I look at what results I created, then you say I don't want to spend any more money in that place.

If you go on the other hand, say I created a lot of benefit by a relatively small marginal investment, then that's a kind of area you want to explore more. So we have a host of programs and services within the Department of Interior that are given to us through statute by Congress and through appropriations. And what we use the activity-based costing for is to further our knowledge about the relative costs and benefits that come as a result of our implementing programs, and it allows us to tailor our efforts within the Department to get the biggest bang for the buck for the taxpayer.

Mr. Morales: So in a sense it's some way of quantifying a cost per unit of output and the benefit of that output?

Mr. Cason: Yes, yes.

Mr. Morales: Great.

What is Interior's financial management modernization strategy? We will ask Jim Cason, Associate Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, 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 Jim Cason, Associate Deputy Secretary at the U.S. Department of the Interior.

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

Jim, could you tell us about Interior's Federal Business Management System, or FBMS? Specifically, how key is it to your financial management modernization strategy in meeting the future business needs?

Mr. Cason: The FBMS or Federal Business Management System is hugely important to the future ability of the Department to manage its business. The precursor to committing to FBMS was an assessment of the Department of Interior about how we did our business early in this administration in about 2001.

What we found is that our ability to manage budget programs, finance programs, accounting, property management, acquisition, that within the Department of Interior, even though we have nine bureaus, we had 180 different systems that did those functions. Those systems were not well-integrated, which led to a relatively inefficient way to gather information and provide reports to Congress to integrate our books, get our books closed on time, et cetera.

And having that systems like that were of such an age, we had found that in some of the key systems, that the support contractors would no longer support the systems. So we basically arrived at a time that the legacy systems we have just wouldn't do the job into the future. Our management team got together, looked at this and decided that this was the number one investment we needed to make in the Department so that we could manage our affairs well.

And we've embarked on this project over the last few years to develop an integrated system that basically integrates budget, finance, property acquisition and a number of other subsystems into one common system with a common data warehouse that enables us to have an integrated system that gives us much more cost efficiency, better internal controls, better integrated management of the finances, and enables our management team and Congress to get robust reporting out of our system much more quickly.

Mr. Morales: Let me switch topics for a moment, and switching to something that is very real and in the public eye, and that's wildland fires. In 2006, according to the National Interagency Fire Center, there were almost 90,000 wildland fires that burned about 9.5 million acres. And so far this year, there's been close to 78,000 wildland fires that have burned 9.3 million acres. Could you elaborate on your Department's efforts in coordinating the federal response to wildland fire suppression, and specifically, your collaborative efforts with other entities such as state and local officials to effectively battle these fires?

Mr. Cason: The Wildland Fire Program is an interesting one that is not commonly understood. There is a base program strategy that's important to know. And the base program is, initial attack is the most important time. And the way the strategy gets oriented is across the country without regard to whose land it is.

We first depend upon the local fire departments to go put out the fire. Because if you can catch the fire when it first starts, and you can get it put out when its really small, it's relatively inexpensive to manage. Then, according to this national strategy, if a local fire department doesn't have enough resources to deal with the fire, it gets out of their control, then we have a regional structure in place where other fire companies, other fire equipment and personnel are brought in to help with the fire within that region. And then once the fire gets out of -- exceeds the capacity of that region to deal with, then it becomes a national issue, where on a national basis we use a place called NIFC, or the National Interagency Fire Center, to supply national program assets.

To illustrate, we just had the wildfire situation in Southern California. We had a lot of fires that were out of control, and this process worked exactly the way it was designed. What we had at that time was small fires got out of control. The southern half of California region brought in all its assets. Those were insufficient. They called our NIFC program, and we sent down hundreds -- I think about 2500 federal firefighters -- we arranged for fire engines and fire equipment from all over the West to come to Southern California to battle these fires. And collectively as a team effort, we were able to control the fires within a little over a week, put them out. We still have some assets that are still there.

In terms of communications, this is an area that a lot of players got together and worked well together. There were interagency discussions with Homeland Security, the Department of Interior, the Department of Agriculture, HHS and others, who said we got a problem here. We need to manage this problem. Everybody got into gear. Everybody knew their assignments that had been worked out. FEMA was on the ground. They were doing their thing.

All I've heard out of this is basically rave reviews about how well the system worked this time in making sure that we were taking care of the needs of the people that were affected by those fires.

Mr. Seike: Jim, let's go back for a moment to the President's Management Agenda. Interior continues to maintain green status in human capital management under the PMA. Could you elaborate on your efforts in getting to green? What challenges did Interior have to overcome to get to this level? And what does the Department need to do to sustain a green status rating?

Mr. Cason: There's a couple of things that's important to this answer. Getting to green is basically like the stoplight when you drive. Red is you're not doing so good; yellow is you're making progress but you're not there yet, and green is okay, I'm delivering on the things that I said I would do. So it has that connotation by analogy.

In managing our human capital program under the President's Management Agenda, we as a Department have recognized we had certain challenges that we have to address. And we have certain obligations to our employee workforce. The human capital management part basically involves some key issues. For example, when we survey our Department and we look at our management team, we are in a position that we could lose as much as half of our management team in just the next few years through retirement.

We have an aging workforce within the Department of Interior. And so succession planning for that is an important thing for us to manage our human capital. Because if we don't have well-trained, motivated employees, we won't cost-effectively implement our missions. So succession planning has become a key element within the Department of the things that we do. That leads to recruiting.

We are very actively out looking for new employees as spots open up. In most cases, those positions are advertised competitively, and we search for the best candidates we can bring into the Department. It also implicates training. We have robust training programs within the Department in a variety of ways both put on by Departmental entities and by third-party vendors that we bring in to give specialized training.

So these are examples of the things that we are doing in our human capital area to make sure that over time, we can address the movement of our employees into retirement, backfill them with trained, capable people, develop the management team that we need to lead the Department into the next decade.

Mr. Seike: Jim, the Department consists of a number of large bureaus with their own priorities. They all have their own challenges and workforce needs, and they've got employees working across all parts of the country. Given the size and the diversity of the Department, how do you in your role as the Department's chief human capital officer make sure that there is a corporate approach to workforce planning while at the same time making sure the bureaus still meet their own unique needs?

Mr. Cason: This is a combination of having a systems approach that is well-understood to managing your employee base and being specific about measuring your needs. And let me illustrate. In the management piece, we have a chief human capital officer, that's myself. I have a deputy human capital officer, a person of great experience named Kathleen Wheeler. Within each agency we have a human capital officer that manages this on an agency-by-agency basis. And collectively, we try to marshal a consistent strategy and plan about how we attack this problem.

Within each agency, if you moved to the specific side, the type of people we need in the National Park Service is different than the type of people we need in the Minerals Management Service, because their principal function is managing oil and gas exploration in our outer continental shelf and managing royalty collections of processing versus preserving and conserving scarce properties -- beautiful properties that we have in our national parks.

So what we try to do is have an inventory of the skill mix that we need, figure out how we acquire the people that have the base skills, how we give them training, how we encourage them into management and train them to manage, et cetera. So it's a combination of a good consistent way of doing business that is a management approach, along with a specific assessment of what each bureau or agency needs.

Mr. Morales: So Jim, to continue along this line of the diversity of skill and mission of the folks over at DOI along with the geographical dispersion you mentioned earlier, 2,400 field offices -- how does Interior evaluate HR field performance as well as impart some of the best practices across this broad community? And specifically, what steps are being taken to ensure that HR policies and procedures are documented and communicated in a timely manner, and that implementation is monitored?

Mr. Cason: Well, two things. The Department of Interior, since it's been at its business since 1849, already has a set of policies and procedures in place that is robust, that has been developed over the decades. And what you find in that area is a fairly constant reassessment of what those policies and procedures are based upon your current experience. So you are constantly on the watch for, is this working the way I want it to? And if it's not, okay, fine, we need to change it. I embody a new expectation, communicate that expectation to others.

Let me give you an example here. One of the things that we do in hiring senior executives -- the senior-most people within the federal government are called senior executives on the career side. And one of the more recent things that we worked out with the Office of Personnel Management is the time it was taking agencies to complete the hiring process on senior executives was too long. And so we worked out a different expectation that, from the time you advertise to the time you send a package for clearance to OPM, 90 days. And if you don't get it in 90 days, it's not timely. Start over.

So that sort of thing has prompted changes within our process to make sure we are holding much more tightly to an advertising period of time, how we panel those and review the applications that we get, how we do interviewing, how we process the selection to make sure that we are hitting this expectation. And that happens across the board no matter who we are hiring, that we want to make sure that the process works well. And it if doesn't, we change it.

Mr. Morales: That's great.

What does the future hold for the Department of the Interior? We will ask Jim Cason, Associate Deputy Secretary at the U.S. Department of the Interior, 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 Jim Cason, Associate Deputy Secretary at the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Also joining us in our conversation from IBM is Steve Seike. Jim, one of the administration's key goals is on creating a federal government that is accountable, results-oriented and appropriately aligned with the strategic goals. Could you tell us how federal managers can effectively manage an ever-increasing blended workforce composed of both contractors and federal workers? And what are some of the key differences intrinsic to these two types of people?

Mr. Cason: The federal government has a lot of experience in managing a mix of contractors and employees. Over time, that mix changes depending on circumstances and expectations and opportunities within the market. We, the Department, have hundreds of contractors that we work with on an active basis. It provides us the opportunity to concentrate on our core mission and skills, while bringing in other organizations' contractors who have capabilities that are more mobile and nimble than ours, who have not the same degree of limitations that sometimes we do as a federal government, and who can move quickly to satisfy our needs.

In this particular case, in large part, it's a matter of having money available to get what you need rather than taking all the infrastructure time to go find the employees, set up an organization, set up policies and procedures -- that you can bring in a contractor to do that work much more quickly when it's their business.

So it ends up allowing us to manage much more cost-effectively and in a more timely way to approach the job that way. In the area of competitive sourcing, for example, one of the things we do is test ourselves. And in testing ourselves, we will take discrete programs, study them and make a determination about whether or not we would make that available for the private sector to come in and compete for those jobs.

And one of the things that we found in going through that process is that it helps our staffs to actually sharpen up their business acumen and the results that they deliver for the money that we invest in them, or we find that the private sector can come in and compete better. So it's an important tool for us to do the job well over time.

Mr. Morales: Jim, we've touched a bit upon the topic of collaboration. So I'm curious, what kinds of partnerships are you developing now to improve operations or outcomes at the Department, and how may these partnerships change over time?

Mr. Cason: Collaboration is a really important part of the work that we do, because given that the Department manages one out of every five acres in the United States, we touch in large part lots of lives within the U.S., and that as resources come from our federal lands, we're part of the active marketplace.

The collaboration part is a recognition that we don't stand on our own. We have neighbors where we operate; that states have interest in how we manage our lands; or tribes have interest how we manage their lands; that private sector organizations, environmental groups, private individuals who depend upon our lands care about the decisions we make and how we do what we do. What we try to do in the area of collaboration is to leverage the resources that we have in the maximum way by involving other people in the jobs that we do.

And let me use an example, like volunteers. We have tens of thousands of volunteers who have various interests, like I want to work in a park, or I want to help manage wildlife on a Fish and Wildlife Refuge. And that these people help us leverage the resources we have available to get the missions done, and they can help us do that cost-effectively because we leverage their volunteer time to get a bigger response than we could do by paying for it ourselves.

Mr. Seike: Jim, I'd like to transition now to the future. Can you give our listeners a sense of some of the key issues that will affect CFOs and budget offices government-wide over the next year?

Mr. Cason: I would start with appropriations. The appropriations process has been ongoing for a number of years but it's not entirely stable. This year, for example, our fiscal year '08, which began October 1st, we operated under a continuing resolution because our budget didn't get done. It looks like we're going to have another continuing resolution because the budget is not done. And that resolution probably will run until mid-December. We don't know where it's going to go after that. I think there's going to be, in addition to just the complication associated with not knowing what your financial picture is with any certainty, there's more complications that we would anticipate to come in to our sphere over time.

And that is expectations of how accurately you manage your books, how quickly you can report information out of your books; how you can integrate government information from the lowest level to the top in a time-sensitive way; how you can integrate information together. The implications associated with information technology, that technology is going to change hugely over time and we have to be prepared to accommodate that; software systems that do this work are getting old and dated and need to be replaced and that causes change. So there's a number of challenges that we anticipate coming into the future that we will have to manage, and we're capable of doing that, but it will result in change.

Mr. Seike: Jim, as we look at Interior, what are some of the major opportunities and challenges your organization will encounter in the future, and how do you envision your office will evolve over the next five years?

Mr. Cason: The Department of Interior has a lot of pressures that it has to respond to in the public arena. And let me illustrate it with the degree of litigation that we have with our programs, since we manage one of out every five acres in the United States as an organization, and we have some other missions as well -- but given our very broad line management portfolio, one of the things we find in interacting with the public is pretty much on an acre-by-acre basis, there is somebody who wants to develop it, and there is somebody who wants to preserve it, and that we have this constant dialogue about what decisions we make in how we manage this land over time. Sometimes, that dialogue spills over into litigation. You didn't do it the way I want you to do it and so we end up in court, and we end up having a judge tell us what to do.

My experience with the Department of Interior, having worked there in the 1980s and now in the 2000s, is that the degree and energy put into litigation has been a significant issue. I think there are some other things that we're going to encounter over time that are issue-based, like it appears that we have a pretty widespread drought right now, and that there is concerns about whether we're prepared completely for a widespread drought; how long it's going to last; will it resolve itself in a short time; will it be a long time before it does; how broad it will be; do we have water transportation and storage systems in place to deal with it in a good way.

Climate change is a possibility. What kind of impact will that have? What will that do to our programs over time? Where do we go with that? The pressure of people moving into habitats that have an effect on species. We have a threatened and endangered species program that inevitably over time, you get more pressure as a result of human habitation moving into species' habitat.

Wildfire, you know we have a really big country that is subject to drought in a lot of places and the prevalence of wildfire is growing, and what we call the WUI, or the interface between the woods and urban community, is growing in the country. And it makes that much more expensive to manage a fire where houses are stuck inside the woods.

So there's a number of things that are coming up as our country changes over time that the Department of Interior will have to assess and change with it.

Mr. Morales: Now Jim, you described earlier your movements in and out of government. So I'm curious, what advice could you give to a person who perhaps is considering a career in public service?

Mr. Cason: My experience has been basically half in the private sector, half in government. And I have found that I've been very fortunate to have very interesting jobs on both sides of that fence. For anyone interested in public service, my opinion is that if you have an interest, you ought to try it. I have found that my time in public service has been very rewarding.

I've worked for the federal government for probably 17-18 years in total. And I would say I've never been bored a day of that time. It offers a wealth of opportunity, really interesting things to do. I find that I never have a lack of a problem that needs to be addressed, and so it's very interesting from that standpoint.

I would say I have equally rewarding experiences in the private sector as well. But the public sector offers something that's unusual that folks may be attracted to, and that is in my life, I had opportunities to work with the Department of Justice and our legal system, work actively with lawyers who are managing litigation; the opportunity to go up and be part of the Congressional process and see how legislation is actually developed and how it affects our lives on a day-to-day basis.

And so it has some things that you don't normally get in the private sector that make it very interesting. So anybody that's interested in trying it, I would encourage them to do so.

Mr. Morales: That's fantastic. Jim, unfortunately we have reached the end of our time. I want to thank you for fitting us into your busy schedule. But more importantly, Steve and I would like to thank you for your dedicated service to our country in the various roles you've held at the Department of the Interior. Mr. Cason: Well, thank you very much for the opportunity to come and join you. The Department of Interior is a great organization; it has a very broad mission that touches the lives of tens of millions of people within the United States. And I would suggest that to the extent that your listeners have the opportunity to go visit a national park or a Fish and Wildlife Refuge, they're really great places to be to recreate and reconnect with nature.

Mr. Morales: That's fantastic Jim. Thank you.

This has been The Business of Government Hour, featuring a conversation with Jim Cason, Associate Deputy Secretary at the U.S. Department of the Interior. My co-host has been Steve Seike, director in IBM's federal civilian industry.

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 show on how we're improving their government, but who deserve our unconditional respect and support.

For The Business of Government Hour, I'm Albert Morales.

Thank you for listening.

Announcer: This has been The Business of Government Hour. Be sure to join us every Saturday at 9:00 a.m., and visit us on the web at 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.

Introduction: Challenging the Way Managers and Employers Think About Performance Management

Friday, October 12th, 2007 - 15:18
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Public sector organizations face increasing pressure to ensure that programs are well managedand results-oriented, and meet the needs of their constituents—namely, the Americanpublic. Citizens expect and deserve quality services in return for their investment (i.e., taxdollars) whether they are receiving Social Security checks, undergoing medical treatmentat veterans’ hospitals, obtaining assistance in response to natural disasters, visiting nationalparks, or receiving any other government services at the federal, state, or local level.
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