transformational diplomacy

 

transformational diplomacy

Ambassador Patrick F. Kennedy interview

Friday, July 4th, 2008 - 20:00
Phrase: 
Ambassador Kennedy is responsible for the people, resources, facilities, technology, consular affairs, and security of the Department of State and is the Secretary's principal advisor on management issues.
Radio show date: 
Sat, 07/05/2008
Intro text: 
Ambassador Patrick F. Kennedy
Magazine profile: 
Complete transcript: 

Originally Broadcast March 29, 2008

Washington, D.C.

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

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

With its focus on transformational diplomacy, the U.S. Department of State has charted a bold new course in U.S. diplomacy. Implementing this vision includes significant changes to the very culture and view of U.S. diplomacy as well as in managing of institutions at home and abroad.

With us this morning to discuss his efforts in support of transformational diplomacy is our special guest, Ambassador Patrick Kennedy, Under Secretary of State for Management at the U.S. Department of State.

Good morning, Ambassador Kennedy.

Amb. Kennedy: Good morning, Albert.

Mr. Morales: And joining us in our conversation is Bonnie Glick, project executive at IBM.

Good morning, Bonnie.

Ms. Glick: Good morning.

Mr. Morales: Pat, many of our listeners will be familiar with the Department of State as the diplomatic arm of the U.S. Government. But to provide a broader context, could you take a few moments and provide us an overview of the history and mission of the State Department? When was it created and how has its mission evolved over time?

Amb. Kennedy: Well, thank you. The State Department has been around since 1789, since the actual founding of the United States. And there are slight predecessors of the State Department that go back even before. I mean, Benjamin Franklin, who we at the State Department count as our first diplomat and envoy to France during the Revolutionary War, existed prior to the Constitution. But the State Department is the oldest and one of the smallest cabinet agencies.

We provide a number of services to the American people. Our mission essentially is to protect the economic and political security of the United States, and to protect the numerous American citizens who travel overseas, and lastly, to serve as the front line in our border security efforts. Our colleagues in the Bureau of Consular Affairs stationed at our embassies around the world provide not only, as I said, services to American citizens who live and work abroad or are in distress when they're tourists, but also issue visas to foreigners who wish to either live or work in the United States.

Mr. Morales: Now, that's certainly a very broad mission, but you also used the term that it's the smallest of the departments. So could you give us a better sense of scale? How is it organized, the size of the budget, number of full-time employees?

Amb. Kennedy: I should have said it's one of the smallest. It is not the smallest. We have approximately some 20,000 employees stationed in the United States and around the world. That's composed of about 11,000 Foreign Service officers and Foreign Service professionals, who serve both in the U.S. and at embassies and consulates abroad, and about 7,800 or so Civil Service employees, most of whom serve in the United States, but our Civil Service colleagues also do temporary duty, and some of them do special assignments in Iraq.

And we have a number of Civil Service employees, for example, serving in Iraq and Afghanistan now and doing very, very important work. So it's about 20,000 Americans, and backed up by about 37,000 foreign national employees stationed at our embassies. These are either residents of the country where the embassy or council is located, or foreign nationals from another country. They are also an integral part as they help to provide support activities for us.

Ms. Glick: Great. Now that you've provided us with a sense of the larger organization, could you tell us more about your area and specific role within the Department? What are your specific responsibilities and duties as the Under Secretary of State for Management? Could you tell us about the areas under your purview, how your area is organized, the size of your staff and budget? And given the responsibility for both overseas and domestic operations, could you give us a sense of how you balance limited resources between domestic and overseas operations?

Amb. Kennedy: Well, that's a very good question. I am the senior management advisor to the Secretary of State. My responsibility is to organize the support activities of the Department to ensure that the resources, whether they be human or financial, in order to carry out the missions that the Secretary has received from the President.

We organize along about seven major lines. There's the Bureau of Administration. This deals with logistics, supply, transportation, all those essential elements that keep operations going.

Then there is the Bureau of Consular Affairs, incredibly important. Issues passports to American citizens who wish to travel overseas. Registers births of Americans born overseas. Tragically, if an American citizen dies overseas, assists the family in that regard. And then issues visas, whether they're tourists, business, students, journalists, or immigrants.

The Bureau of Diplomatic Security. Our security professionals ensure that embassies are safe, work with the American business community abroad in a very important organization called the Overseas Security Advisory Committee, and work with businesses to advise them on the situation in a given country, and also protect foreign dignitaries who visit the United States. And lastly, do important law enforcement work in ensuring that those who wish to counterfeit or abuse American passports and visas are turned over to the Department of Justice.

We have an important training mission. Our Foreign Service Institute, which is based at the National Foreign Affairs Training Center at the old Arlington Hall station in Arlington, Virginia, teaches some 500 courses a year in management or professional specialties, and also does language training in over 70 languages so that our American diplomatic corps is able to communicate with people in their own languages.

When you have operations all over the world, you have to be able to communicate with them, and we have a robust information technology division, the Bureau of Information Resources Management, under our chief information officer. And that office makes sure that we are able to communicate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week; the most modern means -- satellite, high-speed fiber, to make sure that any information that we collect abroad can get back in the Secretary's hands or the National Security Council staff's hands or to the Pentagon's hands in literally seconds.

We have a medical division. We have the Bureau of Resource Management under our chief financial officer. The State Department has an operating budget of about $3.5 billion a year, and it's up to the chief financial officer to advise me and then help me advise the Secretary and the Deputy Secretary on how our resources should be deployed.

And lastly, we have an Office of Overseas Buildings Operations, which builds and constructs and helps maintain some 15,000 properties that the U.S. Government owns abroad.

The entire State Department's operating budget is about $3.5 billion. That's generally under my purview. In addition to that, there is about $1-1/2 billion in construction and maintenance accounts, and then another couple of billion dollars that are generated by our consular service, which is essentially a fee-based operation. When you go and get a new passport, part of the fee that you pay goes to the Bureau of Consular Affairs to underwrite the service and the staff it takes to produce that. And when somebody in most countries overseas applies for a visa to come to the United States, they pay an application fee that also serves to underwrite the expenses there.

Your second question was sort of the tougher one, which is how do you balance overseas and domestic? Our view, and that's the view of all the senior management at the State Department, is our main focus is overseas. Our assignments are to collect and analyze the political and economic events that are going on abroad, to look at science and technology efforts that are going on in foreign countries, to report those activities to Washington along with the analysis.

And the other thing I should mention is that State Department functions as the owner and the operator of an embassy platform. And so when an agency wishes to go overseas, the State Department provides services, personnel services, financial services, building services to that government agency, but charges them for it.

Domestically, we try to make sure that our focus is supporting our overseas operations, with two important codicils: One is that obviously, there are many U.S. Government agencies in Washington that have an interest in foreign affairs. And so part of our Washington operation is to liaison with the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Commerce, National Security Council staff, and others, to make sure they're getting the information they need. And secondly, our consular services, whether it be assisting you to get a passport or assisting an American who's trying to adopt a child overseas, those are critical. The major force is overseas, and we try to push most of our personnel and our resources overseas to carry out those missions.

Ms. Glick: Well, you have a huge plate that you try to balance. Regarding all of this, in your responsibilities and duties, what are the top three challenges, if I could be so bold as to ask, that you face in your position? And how have you addressed those challenges?

Amb. Kennedy: Well, I think that the first thing to remember is the State Department is essentially a people organization. Basically, our activities, as I mentioned earlier, are to do political and economic reporting and provide consular and administrative services, and to do that, you need people. My first goal is always to make sure that the State Department recruits, retains, trains, and assigns the best people that we possibly can so that we have the human resources to do our job.

Secondly, obviously, is the budget. The State Department's budget is always very tight. The fluctuating U.S. dollar has taken a big hit on State Department operations this year. We figure that between the time we started the budget process and this actual fiscal year, the dollar has probably sunk almost $100 million in terms of what we have to buy in terms of local currency to pay those expenses overseas that one pays in local currency. So budgeting is at times an exercise in triage, and we try to do that very carefully.

And the third activity, which is something that we work on very closely, is to make sure that our services to American citizens are the best they can be. As you well know, there were a few problems last year in terms of a huge surge in passport applications. In 2006, we issued 12 million passports. In 2007, it surged incredibly, literally in a couple of months, and in the end, we issued 18 million passports, which was a 50 percent increase that no one had really foreseen. There was no data that predicted you would have such a surge as that. And so over the past year, we have taken steps to make sure that as passports are again requested this year, that kind of delays to the American public will not happen again. This year, we're running an estimated 20 to 25 percent ahead of last year in terms of passport demand, but yet there is no delay. An American citizen who goes in and gets their passport is going to get them, you know, within a few weeks, and not the month or two that it was taking last year.

So I think those are the three issues I'm focusing on now.

Mr. Morales: Now, you've spent a little over 35 years in government service. Could you describe your career path for our listeners? And how have these prior experiences prepared you for your current leadership role and perhaps shaped your management style?

Amb. Kennedy: Well, I joined the Foreign Service, as you said, 35 years ago, shortly after graduating from college. I spent my first two tours in the Foreign Service in the Bureau of African Affairs, the first part of that as a regional administrative officer, roaming around Africa as, in effect, a spare tire. And then secondly, came back to Washington after that to become the personnel officer for the Bureau of African Affairs, and went on from there to be a special assistant to the Under Secretary for Management.

Went to Paris then as the general services officer in that State Department lingo for the logistics and maintenance officer. Came back to Washington, spent five years as the executive director of the Secretariat, which means that I was the administrative officer for the Secretary of State and other senior officials and took care of their budget, finance, and human resources needs as well as accompanying the Secretary of State for five years on all foreign and domestic travel.

Did a year of advanced training after that; went on to Cairo, which was and still is one of the largest U.S. embassies in the world. Was chief of administration there. Came back to Washington, was Assistant Secretary of State for Administration for a number of years.

Went to New York. I was one of the deputies to John Negroponte when he was the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and was responsible for U.S. budget contributions to the U.N. as well as U.S. relations with the U.N. and other nations on what are called host country affairs: protocol issues, taxation, parking tickets, law enforcement issues.

And during my time in New York, I was twice detailed to Iraq. The first in 2003, for about six and a half months, and I was the chief of staff for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq. Then went back in 2004 to do the transition from a Department of Defense-run CPA to the new American embassy. And at the end of my four-year tenure in New York, I went to the Office of National Intelligence and again worked for John Negroponte and helped him set up the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. And then in 2007, came back to the State Department.

That sort of long and varied career I think has taught me a couple of things that hopefully have prepared me for this job. The first is the importance of people. You get things done if you have a good team. But I think what I've learned is people will respond to a mission, they'll respond to tough and difficult assignments if you sit them down and explain this is our goal, this is why that goal is so important, this is your individual mission in supporting that goal, this is how you fit into the big picture. Give them that assignment and then let them do their job.

The second thing I learned is that operations overseas are different than they are in Washington. It's not that it's better. It's just different. And having served overseas, it gives you the context that you're now trying to manage something in Washington in support of the field, you have to keep always in mind that things are different.

The third thing, I guess, is that there are always problems that arise, and that you have to be creative and flexible. Events happen overseas, some good, some bad, but you have to be always prepared to surge resources, to operate almost instantaneously to either protect the lives of American citizens, to working to protect American embassies when they come under attack.

Mr. Morales: Very, very broad mission. Thank you.

How does the State Department manage its resources and infrastructure here and abroad?

We will ask Ambassador Patrick Kennedy, Under Secretary of State for Management at the U.S. Department of State, 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 Ambassador Patrick Kennedy, Under Secretary of State for Management at the U.S. Department of State.

Also joining us in our conversation is Bonnie Glick, project executive at IBM.

Pat, given the release of the joint State and USAID strategic plan of 2007 to 2011, could you tell us about the efforts to integrate USAID operations with those of the State Department? Specifically, how has this joint effort enhanced the ability of both organizations to ensure that the nation's foreign policy and development programs and fully aligned? And how has the effort impacted your bureau and its workload?

Amb. Kennedy: I think there's two separate aspects to that very good question, and let me take the logistical and administrative and managerial part first. Over the years, many AID operations have taken place in a separate building. And so when you have separate buildings, it is logical that there are quasi-separate administrative structures. Thanks to the Congress, we built some 50 new embassies in that period of time. And as we built a new embassy, we have made room so that the State Department contingent, the other agencies, and AID can be co-located on one compound.

As we have done that, we have taken steps to streamline our activities. And so rather than two motor pools or two maintenance elements, we're now pulling all that together in a combined operation. And so that streamlining, which contributes to cost savings and effectiveness, is very important. And so we're seeing State and AID co-located, and we're deriving administrative and managerial efficiencies from that.

The other part of the strategic effort forward is the Secretary has taken steps to ensure that we have very much a holistic look. We have a strategic plan where the U.S. Government should go overseas, and she's taken steps by creating a senior advisor to her on foreign assistance, Henrietta Fore, who also is the administrator of the Agency for International Development. So we're pulling the two organizations together at the top and ensuring that AID knows where the State Department feels it needs to go in terms of foreign affairs support, and the State Department well knows and understands what important missions the Agency for International Development is engaged in terms of helping people in distress.

By having a common strategic framework, we're able to make sure that State and AID are operating in tandem. And I think that contributes both to advancing U.S. interests abroad and also better helping people around the world, many of whom are in desperate need of such assistance.

Mr. Morales: Now, along similar lines, could you provide us an overview of such an issue such as transformational diplomacy, and your corporate right-sizing and regionalization strategies?

Amb. Kennedy: The Secretary feels, and I think she's absolutely right, that as the world has changed, as issues have changed, as countries that may not have been at the forefront of our thought or topmost on our radar screen, so over the course of the past three years, we've gone through three exercises in which we have shifted resources from various parts of the world, Europe to some extent, to Asia, the Pacific, and the Middle East and Africa. We call this "global repositioning." The goal here is to make sure that we have positioned our personnel and our financial resources so that they are most strategically aligned with the foreign policy goals of the United States.

And we do that by also making sure that not only has the focus in terms of countries changed somewhat -- although let me emphasize that it's critically important that we continue to deal with our neighbors in the Western Hemisphere and our partners in Europe through such mechanisms as the European Union, NATO, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. So we're not abandoning parts of the world to move to others. We're simply realigning so that we get the best bang for the taxpayers' buck.

But the second part of transformational diplomacy is to realize that there are additional issues out there. There's issues of science and technology, of AIDS, economic investment, energy, oil and other means. So more and more, State Department must, should, and is dealing with nongovernmental groups. It's important to reach out to academia, to the media, to the private sector, and to private sector organizations within countries, which are having more and more of an impact in their nation, just as in our country, private sector entities have a major influence on how things happen in the United States.

Ms. Glick: Given the size of the Department's budget, would you tell us a little about the Department's efforts to improve its financial performance? And how has your organization expanded the use of financial data to inform its management decision-making process?

Amb. Kennedy: Another good question. We have a chief financial officer in Brad Higgins. Brad is an excellent CFO. And his focus has been to make sure that we can track every single dollar that we have, and he has accomplished that. We have installed a new financial management system in the Department, our global financial management system. In the past, it was very much of a paper thing, where papers were moving from one place to another. And if funds were expended overseas, it might be days, if not weeks, before we had an accurate snapshot of where the resources were at that moment. That's completely changing with the global financial system. It moved to a common platform, electronic transfers, and so we're able now to know exactly where our money is going and we're able then to shift it.

The second part of that is we know that we need more data. We need to have data so that managers can make more informed decisions. And so the colleagues in the chief financial office, our planning office, and our chief information officer working together to build a more robust data warehouse so that all the information the decision-makers need is at their fingertips.

And the third point is we are also collecting data in a more rigorous form. We provide administrative services, management services to some 50 different government agencies overseas on 165 different embassy platforms. All of them follow the same financial rules and input the same financial data. But to a degree, the definitions that they were using as they were counting something as either an apple or an orange or a fruit or a vegetable were just slightly different.

And so through a process in conjunction with our regional bureaus and our posts overseas, we are tightening up that activity so that will then enable us to compare and contrast unit cost in doing business, so that we can challenge our colleagues overseas and ask them the right questions. Why is your unit cost different from another? Obviously, there may be reasons based upon geography or individual circumstances prevailing in a country. But we need better data, and we're getting it so we can ask those tough questions.

Ms. Glick: That's great. Moving to a slightly different place where you have budget expenditures, the State Department's real estate portfolio exceeds $14 billion in value, and as you said, includes over 15,000 properties. And the State Department is one of only four federal agencies out of the 15 that managed to achieve a green for both status and progress in the President's Management Agenda for federal real property.

Would you elaborate on this incredible achievement, and could you tell us about your efforts in this area? And what advice would you provide your colleagues in other agencies?

Amb. Kennedy: The State Department has unique challenges since we operate in so many countries, in different circumstances. Some places, it is easy to rent good facilities; some places, it's very, very hard. We do own a large number of properties overseas. And the first step that the Office of Overseas Buildings took was to develop an asset management plan so that we were sure that every property we had was being utilized to the maximum extent possible. So we analyzed our properties in terms of their value against their utility. And that has led us in some cases to buy properties; it has led us in other cases to sell properties where the value of the property exceeded the utility. There are properties that we acquired right after the Second World War that had become so valuable that it was not necessarily -- we were getting -- that value out of them, so we have sold those properties and bought multiple other ones. And so we have achieved economies of scale against what we have to pay in leasing and rent.

I'm always hesitant to offer advice to colleagues at other agencies, but I think the easiest thing, and it's the simplest, is just to make sure if you've got properties, do you have a plan? Have you analyzed each property, and is each individual property being put to its highest and best use? And if it doesn't fulfill your business needs' highest and best use, get rid of it. The State Department also has one advantage that is not necessarily available to all other government agencies, is the Congress permits us when we sell a property abroad to reinvest those proceeds in the purchase of additional properties. So they've given us a wonderful incentive to be as efficient as we can, and we take advantage of that at every opportunity.

Mr. Morales: Now, Pat, I understand that consular officers around the world process over 7 million non-immigrant visa applications and nearly 700,000 immigrant visa applications each year. This strikes me as sort of an interesting challenge between maintaining security and facilitating legitimate travel. Could you tell us about your efforts to meet the security challenges associated with performing visa services, and to what extent does the visa and passport security strategic plan outline these efforts?

Amb. Kennedy: We feel that we have absolutely two requirements laid upon us in both the passport and visa. The first and the primary is to protect national security. Our consular officers are our first line of defense overseas and domestically in terms of passport issuance.

Every applicant who comes in for a visa is interviewed. We use biometrics, working with the FBI. We now take what's called a tenprint. We take fingerprints from every applicant, and those are immediately loaded into our technology system and go back to the FBI central files, as well as checks at Homeland Security. And no visa is issued if those fingerprints come back and say the individual is on anybody's warrant or watch list.

Secondly, the name of every visa applicant, and other data, such as data and place of birth, are entered into a separate database, which is run through the entire U.S. Government data bank, so to speak. And so if that individual has any activities that are of concern to any element of the U.S. Government, that issue is resolved either favorably by consulting with those agencies. Lots of people have the same name. People with the same name may even have the same date of birth. And so you have to resolve cases like that. But we don't issue a visa until we are sure that there is no one in the U.S. Government who has concerns about that individual.

Backing that up is the Bureau of Diplomatic Security. We have regional security officers and assistant regional security officers around the world, and they are part of our front-line defense as well. They investigate fraudulent attempts to obtain U.S. visas. They're on guard against visa brokers and others who try to suborn the process. And so the consular workload and the visa investigations of diplomatic security work hand-in-glove to make sure that we have a robust and secure process at all times.

Mr. Morales: Now, Pat, I only have a minute left, but I want to bring us back to a comment you made earlier around the recent surge in passport applications. How has your Department enhanced the passport application and delivery process? And to what extent does the transition to e-passports assist in this area?

Amb. Kennedy: Well, we have increased by several hundred the number of passport acceptance agents around the country. It is important, though, that when you apply for a passport, we adjudicate your application. We make sure that you are who you say you are. So we've increased the number of personnel. We've opened a new production facility in Arkansas that has the capacity to produce 10 million passports a year. We also have added, in effect, SWAT teams. We have personnel trained in the State Department who don't do consular work or passport work on a daily basis, but they have been trained and they're deployed and they're in effect our ready reserve.

And lastly, many applications for passports are renewals. Renewals are handled differently than first-time applicants because you've already been adjudicated once. And those are handled in an electronic process, with the image on the screen of your original application, the image of your current application, and the image of your current passport. We have developed a way that if we should get hit with another surge, we can actually send that electronic work to our embassies around the world and their consular officers working the night shift, in effect, will process those applications for renewals and then send the approved electrons back to one of our production facilities, and the passport will be issued the next day.

Mr. Morales: How does State manage its resources and infrastructure here and abroad?

We will ask Ambassador Patrick Kennedy, Under Secretary of State for Management at the U.S. Department of State, 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 Ambassador Patrick Kennedy, Under Secretary of State for Management at the U.S. Department of State.

Also joining us in our conversation from IBM is Bonnie Glick.

Ambassador Kennedy, what are some of the significant challenges your bureau faces in administering the diplomatic missions in hot spots such as Iraq and Afghanistan?

Amb. Kennedy: The State Department normally does not operate in spots that are quite this hot, but we see ourselves as partners with the U.S. military, and therefore, the State Department has committed large numbers of personnel to both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Using Iraq as the example, we have personnel in Baghdad. We have personnel in some 27 other cities and locations around Iraq, embedded in many cases with our military colleagues in what we call "embedded provincial reconstruction teams," and then in reconstruction teams where we're operating on our own. These personnel work with the local leaders to help them develop ways that municipalities can operate better and deliver services, services to the people. Because if individuals believe that they're getting good services from their local government, then they have a higher opinion of their local government. And those who would wish to disrupt good order stand a less chance of doing so.

Security is always a challenge in Iraq. We have taken extraordinary steps to make sure that our personnel are secure, either through the Diplomatic Security Service, or in conjunction with our military colleagues.

We've also had no real shortage of people stepping up to serve. This past year, we advertised all the jobs. We reached a point where almost all of them were filled. We then said that we would use the provisions of the Foreign Service Act to direct personnel to go to fill the remaining jobs. And before we even implemented that procedure, we got sufficient numbers of volunteers stepped up and said, no, we'll take that job, we'll take this job.

Mr. Morales: Now, continuing along this line of security, I understand that the Secretary assembled a panel of outside experts to review the State Department's personnel protective services, specifically in Iraq. Could you tell us more about this panel? And could you perhaps elaborate a bit more on other efforts being pursued by your area in securing people and facilities both here and abroad?

Amb. Kennedy: I was part of that panel, and the charge to the panel was to conduct a serious probing and comprehensive review of the activities. So I was the only member of the four-person panel who was a State Department employee. We had a retired four-star general, a retired ambassador, and the director of security from another U.S. government agency.

The four of us went out to Iraq. We reviewed the situation. We reviewed our processes and the incidents there and found in general that we had good processes in place. We screened personnel who we were using for contract security. We trained them well, but you can always improve a process, so the panel made a dozen or more recommendations to the Secretary, all of which were adopted. For example, now every time we have a motorcade or a convoy taking embassy staff from Point A to Point B, there is a special agent, a federal agent of the Diplomatic Security Service, who accompanies that convoy as the agent in charge to make sure that all of those rules and procedures are followed.

We've been installing cameras in the vehicles to record what may happen along the route. We have increased our coordination with the U.S. military. We had already been passing them data on our movements. So we think we have resolved any potential issues in Iraq, but at the same time, it is a very dangerous environment. umber of security professionals working with us have been killed in the line of duty. There are individuals who seek to disrupt our support for the building of a new and democratic Iraq. And so those challenges are our challenges on a daily basis.

Worldwide, again, there are various terrorist organizations that strike out. Tragically, just a while ago, an officer from one of our sister agencies, the Agency for International Development, was killed on New Year's Day in Sudan. And so we have a very, very robust security operation under the auspices of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, which works very closely with the intelligence community and others to pull in every piece of information that we possibly can, to analyze this to see who's being targeted, and take appropriate steps, whether it's the provision of armored vehicles or whether it's the provision of bulletproof or resistant doors. Recently, one of our embassies was attacked in Europe, and there were lots of stories in the press about the compound being breached. But the hard line that we construct, that hard line was never breached.

Ms. Glick: The Office of Language Services is responsible for providing interpreting and translating services to the Department. A significant challenge facing this program is recruiting a pool of direct-hire employees and contractors who are among the world's best interpreters and translators. How has your organization handled this challenge? And are there any plans to relax some of OPM's applicant rating procedures and security clearance requirements?

Amb. Kennedy: We think our interpreters are the best in the U.S. Government. When you see somebody standing next to the Secretary of State or the President or many other cabinet officers, it is an employee of the State Department's Bureau of Language Services who are providing that interpretation service. And when you see the United States sign a treaty or any other international agreement, it's always in two languages: the language of the country we're signing with and English. And that work has been done by State Department translators who compare to make sure that the texts are actually equivalent.

OPM and the Defense Department and the State Department and other government agencies are looking at new rules on security clearance procedures. But we don't see those as relaxing the security clearance procedures. I think it is more of bringing them into the modern era, more exchange of information on an electronic basis.

We think streamlining the security clearance process is good, but I believe that the result will not be any diminution of security, but it will rather be greater efficiency and effectiveness.

Ms. Glick: I understand your Department's information technology central fund totals some $260 million. Would you elaborate on your Department's IT investment priorities, including modernization of its global IT infrastructure and various e-government initiatives? What are some of the critical challenges your Department faces, and what are you doing to progress and improve in the E-Gov Initiative?

Amb. Kennedy: I think our major challenges are that we have over 300 activities, missions overseas, consulates, embassies, plus some 30 or 35 operations in the United States, so we have to have a robust IT operation that can reach out in a secure way, whether it's secure meaning it can't be breached, or it's secure because it's moving national security information.

So as diplomacy moves on, we need also to find ways to give diplomats the ability to be more portable, to be more mobile. The State Department has a very, very good system now which issues little fobs, little devices with encryptions and passwords that you could sign on to a PC in your hotel room or in some other facility and move very surely but safely into our unclassified network in a way that no one can trail you through the door, so to speak, so we can do that work more efficiently.

But that's not to say that those who are out there who are either hackers or cyber-terrorists aren't after us every day. They hack at us all the time, and we work very, very closely with our colleagues in the Department of Defense and the intelligence community and the Department of Commerce and others to always keep abreast of what is the best technology we can find to ward off the hackers.

E-Gov is important. We constantly work on the website to make sure that it is the most robust and responsive possible, because it's certainly something that is much more efficient and effective for us, and allows us to deploy our resources in the most efficient way possible.

Mr. Morales: Now, Pat, we talked earlier about the 18 million passport applications and some 7 million non-immigrant visa applications. Could you elaborate on your Department's efforts to improve its IT security to protect such things as personally identifiable information? Specifically, what role does the Information Systems Security Committee, or the ISSC, play in your efforts to improve IT security across the Department?

Amb. Kennedy: Security is always job one, whether it's personal security or physical security or cryptological security, and IT security is right up there. In fact, in the process of just recently appointing our new chief information officer, we elevated the position of director of IT security from an office director to the position of deputy chief information officer as a sign of our commitment, but more than that, making sure that he has full access to the resource table to make sure that we're providing it.

We believe I think in what you might call defense in-depth. We have to be able to combat those who would hack their way into us. So we have multiple layers. I think we have a very, very robust system in place, so it's a daily activity for which we have made a significant commitment in personnel and other resources. And we will do it today and we'll do it tomorrow and the next day.

Mr. Morales: That's fantastic.

What does the future hold for the U.S. Department of State?

We will ask Ambassador Patrick Kennedy, Under Secretary of State for Management at the U.S. Department of State, 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 Ambassador Patrick Kennedy, Under Secretary of State for Management at the U.S. Department of State.

Also joining us in our conversation from IBM is Bonnie Glick.

Pat, I'd like to transition now to the future. We talked about transformational diplomacy, but could you give us a sense of some global trends and changes that will impact the domestic and international deployment of State Department employees? And what perspective do you have regarding meeting these changes head-on?

Amb. Kennedy: Well, I think that the major focus of transformational diplomacy has to get our personnel out and operating in different ways, reaching out to new audiences, to the private sector, to nongovernmental organizations, in ways that we have not done in other parts of the world other than Western Europe and Latin America. But with less than 12,000, only about 11,500, Foreign Service personnel overseas in 267 posts, that's a tall order. That is a big stretch. And so this means that we are going to have to make sure that we continue to recruit the best people who are representative of America, and we're going to have to get them the language skills that they need.

The President's budget request that just went up to the Congress recently includes a request that was strongly championed by the Secretary for 300 additional training positions, so that the State Department can put more people into Chinese and Arabic and Farsi and Hindi and other languages so that our personnel can become more productive and more able to get more done in any given day because they now have the language skills. And the last thing I think we have to concentrate on is more interagency cooperation. It's clear that when something happens overseas, it usually has multiple dimensions. It has a political-military dimension. It has an economic dimension. It has a social dimension. It has a developmental dimension. So the State Department, which has always been the leader of the country team, all the agencies assembled at an embassy, has to do that even more so, and especially partnering with our colleagues in the U.S. military. They have resources and they have training, and we have resources and we have competences. And we need to make sure that we lash State and Defense together in such a way that we can take advantages of each other's skills, and the resulting lash-up is, as they say, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

Ms. Glick: That's great.

A recent Center for Strategic and International Studies Commission on what they call the "embassy of the future" argues that buildings themselves will play less of a role in furthering America's diplomatic goals in the future, while outreach and access will grow increasingly important. This goes directly to what you were just discussing. And if true, it calls for a serious rethinking of how and what to build. In your perspective, what will embassies of the future look like, and what role will technology play in building the embassy of the future? Are you looking at virtual technologies, for example, like Second Life, perhaps, in this effort?

Amb. Kennedy: Clearly, we need to have more robust mobile communication skills. When an officer is out away from the capital city and out in one of the provinces or visiting a district capital, he or she needs to be able to both communicate back to the embassy and also file their reports in ways so that the information they gathered has the most timely deliverance. So that's true. Also, we need to make sure that we're using wikis and blogs. I mean, State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research is one of the leaders in that regard. Those are just marvelous tools that allow people to work collaboratively, sometimes in the same facility, but sometimes in neighboring countries collaborating on a regional perspective or collaboration between Washington and a post in the field. And we certainly need to think about expansion of something the State Department calls "virtual presence posts," where in a university community outside the capital city, you set up a room with some Internet computer terminals that allow people to communicate and research with and about the United States Government.

At the same time, I think that as much as I respected the CSIS study, I think they're overstated their view on buildings. The buildings the State Department has have always been platforms. There has to be someplace for them to go back to at night, someplace for them to keep their files.

So I think we are going to absolutely see greater use of information technology, both in terms of mobile and in terms of wikis and blogs. But I think that we're going to see embassy buildings continue to be an important activity, because it has to be the base. It has to be the platform, as well as the fact that certain activities, such as the important consular work we do, whether it's visa screening or the issuance of passports or help to American citizens in distress need a solid base, literally and physically, from which to operate.

Ms. Glick: There's been much discussion about the pending government employee retirement wave. How are you handling this, what some are calling a crisis? And what steps are being taken to attract and maintain a high-quality technical and professional workforce?

Amb. Kennedy: We see this crisis coming, as does every other government agency, and the State Department obviously has a twofold interest here. We have both the Foreign Service of the State Department and the Civil Service, and neither of those segments can be ignored. To do so would be doing it at your own peril.

We value our Civil Service colleagues and the work they perform as much as we value our Foreign Service colleagues. And so therefore, we're investing significant resources in both the Presidential Management Fellow Program, the PMF Program that's run by OPM, but we're a big taker of those marvelous young men and women. And we also have our own program called the Career Entry Program, which is not the same as, but somewhat akin to the PMF Program, to make sure that we're building a new cadre of individuals who are prepared, who are experienced in the Department, and therefore, prepared to move up in the system.

On the Foreign Service side, we continue to be lucky in getting large number of applicants for just the few hundred Foreign Service positions that we can hire for each year. But again, we're not resting on our laurels. In the past, the Foreign Service Exam was offered once a year. Now we're offering the exam three or four times a year, and we're offering it online at various centers that we have contracted with. And so we know we need the best and the brightest. We're reaching out, both with new programs and more efficient and effective and we hope more fruitful ways of giving the exam in the case of the Foreign Service.

Mr. Morales: So following up, how do you ensure that your employees and future employees have the appropriate training and skills to meet some of the future challenges that we talked about? And how does the National Foreign Affairs Training Center factor into these efforts?

Amb. Kennedy: I think that the National Foreign Affairs Training Center is the jewel of the State Department. Secretary Schultz spent hours and put his personal efforts on the line to acquire for the State Department the former DoD property in Arlington. And we put additional resources into it. We are now literally in the process of building another wing on the National Foreign Affairs Training Center to give us the additional classroom capacity. And that's our commitment.

In addition, we talked earlier about working with the military. We also need to do more training with our military colleagues. But the reverse is kind of true. When a State Department person goes to Army War College, for example, not only does he or she learn how the military does it, but when they participate in classroom exercises, when they participate in discussions, they're in effect teaching their military colleagues the perspective of the State Department, and that synergy is incredibly important. So we want to do more training with the military.

And lastly, the Foreign Service Institute has put into place hundreds of long-distance learning courses that are posted on the State Department website. Thirteen languages are on the website, as well as numerous professional development courses for both American personnel and our many foreign national colleagues working at our embassies overseas who can benefit from this training in consular work or administrative work.

Mr. Morales: That's great.

Pat, you've had a very successful 35 years in government. What advice would you give to a person who's perhaps considering a career in public service or perhaps in the foreign service?

Amb. Kennedy: Well, the first thing I would tell them is to apply to the State Department first. Do not apply to any other government agency. We want you.

The State Department is an incredibly challenging activity. If you want a job that will change every day whether you're in Washington or whether you're overseas, the opportunities that State has across the board, everything from information technology to medical to logistics to refugees to consular work to legal. I think we have jobs there that will challenge everyone.

I think also that one has to realize that the government is a hierarchical organization, and you are probably going to start at the bottom. But every day will be a challenge. Every day will be an education. Every day, you will have prepared yourself another 8 hours or 10 hours or 12 hours to do what the American people need. I encourage people to apply to State because I think that we have the careers and we have the opportunities, as we talked about earlier.

Mr. Morales: That's wonderful advice. Thank you. Unfortunately, we have reached the end of our time. I want to thank you for fitting us into your busy schedule, but more importantly, Bonnie and I would like to thank you for your dedicated service to our country across the various roles that you've held within the Department of State.

Amb. Kennedy: Thank you very much, Albert and Bonnie. It's been a pleasure being with you here today. The State Department is America's front line. We try desperately to do our job. We are not a perfect organization. I encourage your listeners or their friends who have any questions about the State Department or any of the services we provide, our website, www.state.gov, is robust. I encourage your listeners to go there. And we're here to serve you, and I believe that you'll be able to find the answers and support you'll need.

Thank you.

Mr. Morales: Great, thank you.

This has been The Business of Government Hour, featuring a conversation with Ambassador Patrick Kennedy, Under Secretary of State for Management at the U.S. Department of State.

My co-host has been Bonnie Glick, project executive within IBM.

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

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

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

Ambassador Patrick F. Kennedy: Managing Transformational Diplomacy

Wednesday, April 9th, 2008 - 15:52
Posted by: 
As the United States faces unprecedented challenges andopportunities around the world, Secretary of State CondoleezzaRice has unveiled a bold new vision of American diplomacyfor the 21st century known as “transformational diplomacy.”According to Secretary Rice, transformational diplomacy is avision rooted in partnership, not paternalism—in doing thingswith other people, not for them. “I think,” says AmbassadorPatrick Kennedy, that the major focus of transformational diplomacyhas to [do with] getting our personnel out and operating

Raj Chellaraj interview

Friday, June 8th, 2007 - 20:00
Phrase: 
The Bureau is responsible for administrative support operations; supply and transportation; real property and facilities management; official records, publishing, and library services; language services; domestic emergency management; overseeing safety and occupational health matters; small and disadvantaged business utilization; and support for both White House travel abroad and special conferences called by the President or Secretary of State.
Radio show date: 
Sat, 06/09/2007
Guest: 
Intro text: 
Human Capital Management; Managing for Performance and Results...
Human Capital Management; Managing for Performance and Results
Complete transcript: 

Originally Broadcast Saturday, June 9, 2007

Washington, D.C.

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

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

And now, The Business of Government Hour.

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

With its unveiling of transformational diplomacy, the U.S. Department of State has charted a bold new course in U.S. diplomacy, a course that rests on working with U.S. partners around the world to build and sustain democratic well-governed states using America's diplomatic power and resources to help people across the globe better their own futures, build their own nations and thrive under an umbrella of security and peace. Supporting this ambitious approach seems no small feat.

With us this morning to discuss his Bureau's efforts in support of transformational diplomacy is our very special guest, Raj Chellaraj, Assistant Secretary of State for Administration at the U.S. Department of State.

Good morning, Raj.

Mr. Chellaraj: Good morning, glad to be here.

Mr. Morales: And joining us in our conversation is Bonnie Glick, project executive at IBM.

Good morning, Bonnie.

Ms. Glick: Good morning.

Mr. Morales: Raj, most of our listeners are probably familiar with the Department of State as the diplomatic arm of the U.S. government. But perhaps you could give us a sense of the State Department and its history. When was it created, and how has its mission evolved over time?

Mr. Chellaraj: Surely. The State Department was the first federal agency, created in 1789. Thomas Jefferson was our first Secretary of State. It is the lead U.S. foreign affairs agency. Currently, Secretary Rice has defined transformational diplomacy in this way: it is to work with our many partners around the world to build and sustain democratic well-governed states that will respond to the needs of their people and conduct them responsibly in the international system. That means all of us need to think about how we are doing business, and adapt and change to meet these new priorities.

Here are some current initiatives under the leadership of Management's Under Secretary Fore: one, provide buildings and administrative infrastructure to 38 agencies overseas; maintain American presence with over 260 embassies and consulates, utilizing technology with virtual posts that can be accessed from anywhere in real time; help to ensure secure borders and provide a dignified welcome to visitors.

Mr. Morales: Raj, obviously, this is an extremely broad mission. Can you give us a sense of the scale at the Department of State? How is it organized? Can you give us a sense of the budget, the number of full-time employees, and its geographic footprint?

Mr. Chellaraj: There are nearly 57,000 employees worldwide. Nearly 45,000 of them are overseas. Over 7,500 Americans proudly call the State Department home who are overseas, and 37,000 locally engaged employees. There are more than 260 posts in 189 countries, and also in the United States. The State Department's appropriation for the past several fiscal years has been roughly $30 billion per year, and includes both State operations and foreign assistance. The FY 2008 request is about 11 percent increase, and it's around $36 billion.

Ms. Glick: Now that you've provided us with a sense of the larger organization, maybe you could tell us more about your specific area and your specific role within the Department. What are your responsibilities and duties as the Assistant Secretary of State for Administration? Could you tell us a little bit about the areas under your purview, how your area is organized, the size of your staff and your budget? Also, given the Bureau has responsibility for both overseas and domestic operations, can you give us a sense of how you balance limited resources between domestic and overseas operations?

Mr. Chellaraj: Wow, there are a number of questions in that one question. So let me just at least highlight the key areas. Some departments, as you know and our listeners know, have offices. Our department has Bureaus. So the Bureau of Administration provides global administrative support for the people and programs of America's diplomacy. We are proud that our work supports every foreign policy initiative, every employee and family member and every agency that's involved in foreign affairs activities.

The "A" Bureau is one of the Department's most diverse and dynamic organizations. The "A" Bureau budget is approximately I would say $600 million, with over 2,000 employees in over 30 offices. The Bureau's mission is making diplomacy work. And when I joined the Bureau, I added the word "better," making diplomacy work better. One of my priorities and our priorities in our Bureau is customer service and satisfaction. Our Bureau programs and services are very varied.

Let me just highlight on some of them. One, domestic real property and facilities management. We do procurement, roughly $5 billion or so a year, and that's a billion with a "b." Supply and transportation. Diplomatic pouch and mail services. Official records, publishing, library services, language services. Setting allowance rates for U.S. government personnel assigned abroad, and that's a fairly key one, as you can imagine. Overseeing safety and occupational health matters, small disadvantaged business utilization. Support for both White House travel abroad and special conferences called by the President and Secretary of State.

We also do direct services to the public and other government agencies. These include authenticating documents used abroad for legal and business purposes, responding to requests under the Freedom of Information and Privacy Acts, printing official publications, codifying policies into Department regulations, designing, publishing, and maintaining the Department's electronic forms, processing all Department public notices for publications in the Federal Register, and the list goes on.

Ms. Glick: The list does appear to go on. You're quite right when you say the responsibilities of the "A" Bureau are very varied. Regarding those responsibilities and duties, what would you say are the top three challenges that you face in your position, and how have you addressed those challenges?

Mr. Chellaraj: Surely. There are many challenges just based on the types of things we do, and frankly, we look at challenges also as opportunities to see how we can improve overall customer satisfaction. Let me give you three specific ones. Firstly, our posts are scattered throughout the world in different working environments with different technological capabilities and operating constraints, and so you can imagine the issues associated with that.

Secondly, in addition, emergency or crisis situations arise, as was the case when the war broke out in Lebanon last summer. We provided the logistics support, ships, planes, not quite cars, but vans and buses for safe passage of American citizens, 15,000 of them approximately, out of harm's way. By having sound and well-thought-out management processes in place, we are able to respond to these types of unexpected situations quickly and effectively.

Thirdly, it is really difficult to predict where the next challenge will arise, so we have our antennas and radar up and be very vigilant in terms of where the next challenge will come from.

Mr. Morales: Raj, I want to switch gears a little bit here and talk about you. You've had obviously a very diverse background, starting in the private sector and now migrating over to various roles within government. I'm curious, how did you begin your career?

Mr. Chellaraj: Surely. I immigrated to the United States with a Bachelor's degree in Engineering and a couple of dollars. I realized very soon after I got here that the American education, the critical thinking was a great equalizer, and so I worked, went to school, worked, went to school, and did this a few times, and I moved from the focused field of engineering to the broader issues of public policy.

The early days were simply tough, but I struggled and survived. And career-wise, I moved between private sector and government many times, and I would encourage your listeners out there who are considering a public sector career and an opportunity to come contribute in the government to consider doing that. And over the last 25 years, this is my fourth agency in government, and this has been a real tremendous opportunity. And I will always come back when a President calls, when the Secretary of State calls or when I'm called upon to serve the country.

Mr. Morales: That's fantastic. So with these various experiences both in the commercial sector as well as now in government, I'm curious, how have these experiences shaped and formed your current leadership style, and how are you applying those experiences to your current role?

Mr. Chellaraj: I have handled and been responsible for most of the functions that are currently in the Bureau of Administration in my prior life, prior career, either in government or in the private sector, and I really believe good management transcends both the public sector and the private sector. And let me give you an example here. Take procurement, for example. In government, you have the Federal Acquisition Regulations, known as FAR, which I'm sure our listeners are familiar with.

In the private sector, it's not too different. There's what is called DOAG. You know, there are always all these acronyms, and essentially, DOAG is Delegation of Authority Guide. And the principles are essentially the same, in areas like procurement. You want to have the proper checks and balances, the internal controls, and who can sign up to what limits, and the principles are the same. People generally say -- either when I'm in the government or in the private sector, and I hear this in government a lot -- we are really a unique organization. We are different. Not really sure whether something will work, and what I really look for is commonalities and similarities on how we can improve processes to be more effective.

Mr. Morales: So even though the core missions are different, many of the core fundamentals are really the same between the commercial and the public sector.

Mr. Chellaraj: That's absolutely true.

Mr. Morales: How is State administering its resources in more efficient ways?

We will ask Raj Chellaraj, Assistant Secretary of State for Administration at the U.S. Department of State, 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 Raj Chellaraj, Assistant Secretary of State for Administration at the U.S. Department of State.

Also joining us in our conversation is Bonnie Glick, project executive at IBM.

Raj, given the release of the joint State and USAID strategic plan for 2004-2009, could you tell us about the efforts to integrate USAID operations with those of the State Department, and what efforts has the Administration Bureau undertaken to streamline its operations in line with the efforts of the Joint Management Council of State and USAID?

Mr. Chellaraj: Thanks, Al. Again, there are several questions there, and I'll try to highlight the key points. Interestingly enough, I worked at USAID a while back. In fact, my office then was on the same floor as where I am today, just down the hall. Who would have thought I'd be back again?

Frankly, USAID does certain functions very well, and State does certain functions well. This is about getting the best of both. State and USAID have been attempting to restructure our overseas presence to meet the challenges of transformation diplomacy and sustainable development. We both recognize the need for a shared overarching vision for management partnership, overseas and domestically, to contain growth and consolidate administrative support services. The Joint Strategic Plan established the Joint Management Council. The Joint Management Council's mandate is to identify opportunities for cooperation, cost avoidance and improved service through operational improvements. The results from our pilot posts are very encouraging.

We believe the joint approach will result in significant savings as well as a more logical, more manageable administrative platform at our overseas posts. Our focus in the Bureau has been identifying the activities where we carry out tasks that are common to both organizations. We believe that by doing this, we discover opportunities to both save money and enhance performance for both of us.

Mr. Morales: So how has this joint effort enhanced the ability of both organizations to ensure that the nation's foreign policy and development programs are fully aligned, and how has it impacted your workload?

Mr. Chellaraj: Sure. In terms of impacting the workload, it is a little difficult to quantify, as some individuals and offices directly concerned with the joint management initiative work on projects would be underway regardless of whether we had a joint management effort. Let me give you an example. We have something called the Integrated Logistic Management System, or ILMS. This is a very customer-friendly IT platform that enables us, both our contracting officers, logisticians, and most importantly, our customers, to track items from the time they are purchased until they're eventually disposed of.

Through ILMS, we get a clearer picture of our worldwide logistics operation than we've ever had before. Enhanced transparency and a whole new level of accountability for our resources. This particular initiative and effort will be important to the success of joint management, particularly overseas.

Mr. Morales: So to provide a more specific and broader context, could you provide a brief overview of such initiatives, such as the right sizing initiative and regionalization?

Mr. Chellaraj: Surely. Transformational diplomacy has a number of ramifications for the Bureau of Administration, and Department management generally. For example, we're addressing the practice of each Bureau or post providing the full range of administrative services. Today's technology allows, as you know, many of these functions to be performed by a smaller group of people anywhere in the world and shared among Bureaus and posts. For example, the Department is working on establishing human resource centers of excellence.

The Bureau of Administration's executive office is one of those centers of excellence. Overseas, the security environment concerns underscore the need to provide the most efficient support services in the safest possible locations. My office is working with the regional bureaus to expand the number and scope of services currently provided by regional support centers located in Frankfurt, Bangkok, and Fort Lauderdale.

Another regionalization initiative that the "A" Bureau spearheaded along with the regional bureaus is the standardization of support services according to best practices identified and endorsed by a central governance council. These efforts I'm sure will facilitate our ability to further consolidate and regionalize overseas support services.

Ms. Glick: That sounds great. Given even tighter budget constraints, would you tell us a little about your efforts to administer the resources of the Department in the most efficient ways? How has the International Cooperative Administrative Support Services System that's known as ICAS assisted you in this regard? How does it operate and who uses it, and to what extent has it achieved its primary goals? Are there any plans to enhance the ICAS system and its use?

Mr. Chellaraj: Bonnie, the ICAS system that you refer to is really a cost-sharing mechanism. Industry has been using this for 15-plus years, and it provides us, the U.S. government, a platform for overseas shared support services. The State Department is the primary service provider at more than 260 posts worldwide. State provides these services for the Department employees, and most importantly, for the employees of dozens of other federal agencies posted overseas. There are more than 280 separate entities that receive invoices under the ICAS system. And it is really a customer-driven interagency mechanism for managing and funding administrative support services.

For example, it gives the post the authority to determine how services are delivered at what cost and by whom. This is about acting locally, ensuring that service providers are formally accountable to the customer, and incorporates a full-cost recovery mechanism for the Department of State.

Ms. Glick: Raj, you serve as chair of the ICAS Executive Board. Would you tell us about the strategies ICAS has developed to address several recommendations outlined by the General Accountability Office regarding the need to improve ICAS accountability and enhance its cost containment capability?

Mr. Chellaraj: Surely. The ICAS Executive Board -- let me just give you a little background on that. It is really composed of 15 senior representatives of Cabinet-level agencies, and we meet quarterly or more often depending on what the needs are. And this is set up similar to -- akin to a corporation that would have a board of directors and management. There is a working group -- we have several subcommittees, and it is staffed and funded office within the Department of State. You're right, the GAO's report in -- I think it was in September of 2004, which was the first systematic review of the ICAS performance since it was established in 1998.

And overall, I must say the GAO found that ICAS is generally effective in providing quality administrative support in an equitable and transparent manner. Like all organizations, we take these recommendations seriously, and it will continue to be a work in progress as it evolves and we adopt the recommendations and continue to move forward.

Mr. Morales: Raj, I want to turn to the President's Management Agenda for a moment. The Department of State is one of only two federal agencies out of about 15 that have recently achieved a Green for both status and progress on the PMA's federal real property initiative. Could you elaborate on this achievement, and could you tell us about your efforts in developing and implementing an OMB-approved asset management plan? And I'm curious, what advice would you give to some of your colleagues who are perhaps pursuing the same area?

Mr. Chellaraj: The responsibility for asset management of real property is really shared by two bureaus within the Department, the Overseas Building Management office and the Bureau of Administration. In terms of advice, the short answer is there are no quick fixes. Be real detail-focused, results-oriented, and continue to monitor the progress.

Mr. Morales: Now, competitive sourcing is another initiative under the PMA. Could you tell us about some of the key competitive sourcing initiatives being pursued by State that have affected your Bureau, and as a member of the Competitive Sourcing Executive Steering Group at State, could you give us an update on your Department's overall progress in this area?

Mr. Chellaraj: Surely Al, happy to. The important thing about competitive sourcing is we are looking for the most effective outcome for the government, whether the work is done inside the government or outside. And competitive sourcing is not outsourcing, and that is a concept that has been misunderstood. It is a really effective management tool, a tool designed to obtain the best value for the government, whether the work is done internally or externally. We completed the first standard competition, and it was to transform printing and publishing activities for the Department, with an estimated savings of $80 million over the next 10 years.

This is fairly significant. Modernizing printing and publication services will -- we believe -- will enhance the Department's ability to communicate its public diplomacy message in a more-timely, compelling and visually interesting way to overseas audiences. There were actually three offers that we received, and the award went to the revamped in-house organization, the Global Publishing Solutions Group. The in-house organization shifted to a market-driven pricing arrangement and adopted industry best practices and performance standards.

The Department overall from a broader picture on competitive sourcing has a green plan charting future studies which we have submitted to OMB, and we've committed to plan in terms of how we move forward. We are reviewing other administrative functions and really rethinking how the Department delivers domestic administrative services.

Mr. Morales: That's fantastic.

What are some of the challenges in administering the diplomatic missions in Iraq and Afghanistan? We will ask Raj Chellaraj, Assistant Secretary of State for Administration at the U.S. Department of State, 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 Raj Chellaraj, Assistant Secretary of State for Administration at the U.S. Department of State.

Also joining us in our conversation is Bonnie Glick, project executive at IBM.

Raj, what are some of the significant challenges your Bureau faces in administering the diplomatic missions in Iraq and Afghanistan? How does the model for overseas management support within your Bureau ease the burden of administrative support in dangerous posts such as these?

Mr. Chellaraj: Thanks Al, for that question. Operationally, the model for overseas management support is now known as the Iraq Orientation In-Processing center, OIP. This center developed several concepts and methods to ease the burden of administrative support in danger posts. While developed for danger posts, many of these have potential applicability for other overseas posts.

Employees from all federal agencies who are bound for Iraq and who are subject to chief of mission or the ambassador's authority, go through the center to receive their electronic check-in, their OpenNet and e-mail log-ons, cyber security training, deployment support, common access cards and so forth.

This remote check-in process allows the employees to take up their responsibilities sooner at posts. It also saves embassy human resource personnel and diplomatic security staff considerable time and effort in the processing, and spares them from responding to policy questions from multiple federal agency headquarters and entering security eligibility data into the Department of Defense systems.

Mr. Morales: Now, Raj, earlier we talked about the very complex mission that your organization has, so I'm curious, what kinds of interagency, private sector, and nonprofit partnerships are you developing to improve operations or outcomes at State, and what are you doing to enable the success of these partnerships and collaboration efforts?

Mr. Chellaraj: Sure, happy to address that. Our offices throughout the A Bureau partner with other government agencies, the private sector, and nonprofit organizations regularly to achieve their individual missions. I encourage the A Bureau staff to seek out the best in class in their respective fields, both government and private sector, and benchmark against them.

For example, we sponsor the Management Immersion Program, where we place Foreign Service officers in recognized, well-managed external organizations to learn management best practices and bring them back to their posts and the Department. Another example is our Overseas School Advisory Council. Having been a product of several degrees myself, I take real pride, and this is very important to me and for us in the Administration Bureau and the Department.

In '67, the Department of State established the Overseas School Advisory Council, a public-private partnership with U.S. corporations that have substantial overseas operations. OSAC, as it's known, is the longest-running advisory committee in the Department. The purpose of this partnership is to obtain the advice and support of the American corporate community in providing quality education for U.S. citizens, children attending overseas schools.

Currently, there are 194 American overseas schools in 132 countries assisted by the Department of State, and serve 112,000 school-age children of U.S. government and private sector employees stationed abroad, as well as children of host country and third country nationals.

Mr. Morales: Along the same lines of partnerships, could you tell us about the Department's commitment to the small and disadvantaged business community? We understand that your Bureau annually recognizes selected small business contractors who have displayed exemplary performance. Could you tell us more about this award and your Bureau's efforts in this area?

Mr. Chellaraj: The Department of State is committed to ensuring the small businesses, including small disadvantaged, (8a), women-owned, HUBZone, and service disabled veteran-owned small businesses have the maximum opportunity to participate in the Department's acquisition.

For example, last year, the Department awarded approximately $1.3 billion to small businesses. The Department's Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization is a strong advocate for small business firms, and has a strong history of providing outreach to the small and disadvantaged business community.

Our office participates in many small business outreach events locally and throughout the U.S. that offer small and disadvantaged business with opportunities to learn about contracting. For example, we participated in 38 events last year. We also have a successful record of achieving small business goals.

Here's something we're very proud of: the Small Business Administration presented the Department with the Gold Star Award for excellence in achieving small business goals in both 2005 and 2006. We are also proud of the mentor-prot�g� program, which encourages large business prime contractors to provide mutually beneficial assistance to small businesses.

The Department recognizes the achievements and contributions that small businesses make to its mission during the annual Small Business Prime Contractor of the Year Award ceremony. The Award is sponsored by the Bureau of Administration. It recognizes contractors that have displayed exemplary performance, customer service, management and technical capabilities.

The 2006 award was presented to a team of four highly skilled interpreters, translators, who traveled with our ambassadors in Iraq and provided interpreting support. We also host a small business trade fair at the Department each June for firms that sell office supplies and common usage items, as well as three information technology fairs a year, a prime subcontracting networking session in October and in veterans business affairs. So we do quite a bit in this area, and that is why we are successful, and we're really happy that the Small Business Administration has recognized us for this.

Mr. Morales: That's quite impressive.

Ms. Glick: Turning again to the topic of language services, the State Department has an Office of Language Services that effectively delivers timely, world class interpreting and translating services to the Department as well as language training.

A significant challenge, though, facing this program is recruiting a pool of direct hire employees and contractors who are among the world's best interpreters and translators. How has your organization handled this challenge, and are there any plans to relax some of the Office of Personnel Management's applicant rating procedures and security clearance requirements, which may hinder the recruitment of direct hire employees in this area?

Mr. Chellaraj: Surely. This is a very critical area for us, and we compete head-on with many organizations, particularly international organizations. Our language staff services has a staff of approximately 45 interpreters and translators working in eight languages, and a roster of 1,500 contractor interpreters and translators in 40 languages.

Finding talented individuals to perform these tasks, evaluating their abilities and ensuring that they can pass the necessary security scrutiny will always be a challenge. State Department has certain advantages, we believe. The work we ask our interpreters and translators to perform is difficult, but it's also interesting and it's international. Anyone who can say they work for the State Department, whether as a staff employee or as a contractor, enjoys considerable respect in the profession, we've come to know, because we are well-known for the rigor of our testing process.

In our recruiting efforts for qualified contract interpreters and translators, we require individuals with the highest skill levels and in many languages, and this means that the pool of qualified applicants is limited, in some instances because there's no recurring commercial need for interpreters and translators, and certain languages of limited diffusion.

We actually have to find individuals with strong language skills and provide them with training in interpreting or translating. Let me give you some examples. We've achieved considerable success in the programs we've organized in such languages as Haitian Creole, Urdu, Hindi, Albanian, Vietnamese, Macedonian, Turkish and Greek.

The search for interpreting and translating talent, particularly for the languages of limited diffusion will be an unending quest, and it'll continue. Our staff attends conferences, seminars, regional gatherings, academic symposiums, and job fairs to find the talent we need to perform the work that is required by our clients at the White House, the National Security Council, Department of State, among others.

We also work closely with our colleagues in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, turning to your question about the security challenges, to perform the required background checks in a timely manner. We receive excellent support from our Diplomatic Security Office, but there are no shortcuts, as you know, when you're trying to do background checks on people who have lived all over the world. This will always continue to be, I believe, a work in progress.

Ms. Glick: As the Chief Acquisition Officer, would you give us a sense of how procurement works within the Department of State? Given the State Department's global footprint, how decentralized are procurement operations within the Department, and what are the benefits of this decentralization, what are some of the challenges? Also, to what extent does your acquisition model emphasize the customer is king approach within your area?

Mr. Chellaraj: Sure. Procurement is a key area for us. In our Department, it is unique, because we have over 200 individual procurement offices at each embassy and post. These offices are located in virtually every country on the planet, with every imaginable set of market conditions. Some of this procurement must be done at post, because necessary goods or services can only be obtained there. Some examples would be renting a facility for a conference or obtaining janitorial service and vehicle maintenance.

These overseas procurement responsibilities are handled by Foreign Service officers who generally manage procurement, as well as a larger portfolio which could include warehousing, shipping, housing and motor pool operations. Locally hired procurement staff would support our Foreign Service officers.

For both the Foreign Service officers and local staff, one of our priorities is to provide worldwide training and oversight of this procurement workforce. Our Office of Procurement Executive, which is in our Bureau, uses the Department's improved Internet capability and e-mail to assist with these trainings. We have all the online training, we have the website, we have the help desk. So all we have made as part of standard operating procedure.

And the Department also uses regional procurement support offices. These are the ones I mentioned earlier in Frankfurt, Fort Lauderdale. It doesn't have to be procured from posts; if it doesn't have to be, we don't do it. We do it regionally as best as we can.

We're also focusing more on our technical representatives. In government, it is called COR, Contracting Officer Representative. And we hold seminars to build a community of practice. These CORs need to learn from each other. This is in addition to the normal training required to be designated a COR at the Department. We are also focusing on strategic sourcing. We've selected medical supplies, furniture, and digital copiers as strategic sourcing targets, commodities that the Department uses throughout our worldwide operations.

For example, we are piloting buying medical services by teaming up with larger partners such as DoD and the Veterans Administration. We are negotiating furniture contracts that'll standardize the types of furniture at posts for easier asset management and will leverage our worldwide purchasing power. With digital copiers, we are more concerned about supplier management and increasing the availability of suppliers.

So there are a number of things under way. Procurement is a real critical function, and we want to ensure that as we standardize and we change some of these processes, we maintain procurement integrity and the proper internal controls and the checks and balances are there.

Ms. Glick: That's great. One of the other areas that you focus on is in the area of allowances, and the Office of Allowances coordinates policies, regulations, standards and procedures for overseas allowances and differential payments throughout the federal government. Would you tell us about the e-Allowances Initiative, and what is the status of this initiative in its implementation?

Mr. Chellaraj: This is an area, where again, we are trying to focus on the customer and improve the service. The Office of Allowances, which is very closely monitored, for obvious reasons, as you can imagine, protects the interests of U.S. government and its employees and families serving overseas by ensuring that overseas allowances and differentials are appropriate to reimburse them for extraordinary costs and difficult living conditions associated with serving abroad.

Conditions at our overseas locations may change abruptly. Our current subsystem for submitting and reviewing allowances is a paper-based system, which obviously will have a lag, as you can imagine. And we really think this delay is unacceptable and began developing e-Allowances, an online way of doing things with quicker turnaround, so the surveys are done, it's reviewed properly, and the adjustments are made in a very effective manner.

Mr. Morales: What does the future hold for the U.S. Department of State?

We will ask Raj Chellaraj, Assistant Secretary of State for Administration at the U.S. Department of State, 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 Raj Chellaraj, Assistant Secretary of State for Administration at the U.S. Department of State.

Also joining us in our conversation is Bonnie Glick, project executive at IBM.

Raj, given the management changes already underway at the Department, where do you see the Bureau of Administration going in, say, the next five years?

Mr. Chellaraj: Sure. If I had to blue-sky this, my objective during my tenure is to ensure that the fundamentals are in place and working well, that we have the flexibility to respond to the changes coming in the future, such as the new IT capabilities. And it's a work in progress, and certainly will be influenced by the external environment.

There will continue to be an evolution to more quicker turnaround, you know, better cycle times, solving issues in real-time.

To your point about advice for successors, I would say focus really on people. People are the key to making things happen, and I would say attracting a talented, innovative, diverse team of experts on the Bureau team, and continuing to do so, is very important. We are currently focused on that, and the Department and the Bureau need to focus on that, and also the processes -- do the standard operating procedures -- are they making sense, and are we doing things the most effective and efficient way possible?

Mr. Morales: Now, Raj, I understand that BusinessWeek has identified the State Department as one of the top 10 places to launch a career, specifically for new college graduates, and was the only federal agency listed in the top 10.

Could you tell us how significant this recognition is to your Bureau, and how has this recognition benefited your Bureau?

Mr. Chellaraj: Oh, this recognition is very important. As you know, competition is intense for top-notch employees, and on that list you will find many recognizable names who are in the Fortune Top 10, Top 20 companies. I recently spoke at an entry-level officers' conference for those serving on their first or second tour in the Middle Eastern region, and the work experience and the academic credentials these individuals offer the Department are very impressive. They represent a wide range of backgrounds and areas of expertise, and language skills. This is exactly the type of individual the Department needs both here and overseas.

Ms. Glick: To that end, and in the spirit of the BusinessWeek ranking, what steps are being taken to attract and maintain a high quality technical and professional workforce?

Mr. Chellaraj: That's a great question. The Department senior leadership, including Secretary Rice, are fully committed to ensuring the Department's workforce reflects the excellence and diversity of America; we want the best and the brightest to come to State, and we are seeking diversity. Now, well-run private companies, as you know, have already realized this and have taken major steps in this direction. Not having diversity is not an option. Look at President Bush's leadership team here at State.

In addition to doing diversity, we are also forming partnerships with many organizations, take part in conferences and gotten our message in print and electronic media. We have diplomat residents in 17 college campuses currently across the country and growing. We identify, counsel and mentor. We have broadened outreach to many minority organizations. We need Arab-Americans, Turkish-Americans, Chinese-Americans, Korean-Americans, scientists, IT professionals.

In terms of the recruiting for the civil service, the Department is one of the most active participants in the President's Management Fellows Program. In FY 2004, we ranked second among overall government agencies for employing the Presidential Management Fellows. We've expanded the Career Entry Program, which is a two-year career development program open to the public, with positions in areas like contract management, personnel management, financial management and other areas and other areas.

In addition, we've done something fairly unique. We have a number of students, interns and career development programs. We have something called a "Stars Program," which is a student program that allows students to work part-time on Freedom of Information Act issues and declassification programs. We have something called CLIMB, which is an entry-level career ladder program for logistics professionals. State really is reaching out to ensure that we have the best and the brightest workforce, and that is why I believe that we are on the Top 10 list.

Ms. Glick: It is fantastic, and it's quite an accomplishment. Attracting employees is important, retaining employees is important. How do you ensure that your employees have their appropriate training and skills to do their jobs? What's your organization doing to ensure that it has the right staff mix to meet the upcoming challenges that will be faced by the Department of State?

Mr. Chellaraj: Bonnie, the Department established a civil service training continuum, which is a tool designed to be a career planning roadmap and a means to ensure that an employee systematically acquires the knowledge and skills needed for successful performance from entry-level to senior-level.

In addition, we have identified certain types of trainings as mandatory for all employees, or in some cases specifically for employees at a grade level. Give you some of these examples: computer security awareness training, mandatory leadership training, equal employment opportunity diversity awareness. Our Bureau works with our colleagues at the Foreign Service Institute to develop and teach a variety of courses; both classroom and distant learning courses, on topics such as emergency preparedness, grants management, procurement.

I mentioned the Management Immersion Program that we have sponsored. I personally encourage and support our own staff to participate in external training opportunities such as the Department of Defense National War College and the Department of Agriculture leadership programs. One of our own special assistants will start at the National War College this August.

Mr. Morales: Raj, there's an ongoing discussion around government, and even in the private sector, about the pending retirement wave. How are you preparing for this within your organization?

Mr. Chellaraj: Sure. Happy to address that. Along with the rest of the federal government, this is an important human capital issue at the State Department. As part of the Department's broad succession strategy, we have developed numerous initiatives and programs designed to ensure we have the right number of people with the right skills to carry the Department's mission.

The Foreign Service system, which is roughly 60 percent of our workforce, is an up or out career system. Higher-level positions, needs will be met by those already in the system through promotion and seasoned employees according to anticipated needs at each level. With the civil service currently -- 14 percent or so of our civil service workforce is eligible to retire, and by 2010, nearly one third of our civil service workforce will be eligible to retire. This is a fairly sizable challenge for the Department of State.

To prepare for this, we've undertaken several initiatives under the leadership of the director general. The Foreign Service Institute School of Leadership and Management Development ensures the leadership training is part of every employee's career path. We project that by the end of the first quarter of 2007, 100 percent of the State Department's target population of roughly 7,000 mid-level employees will have completed this program.

There is the Senior Executive threshold seminar, which is a mandatory 2-1/2-week course for employees newly promoted to the Senior Executive Service or the Senior Foreign Service. Mentoring is also emphasized in the Department, both for our civil service employees and Foreign Service employees. Our own Bureau of Administration also promotes and encourages using individual development plans for our employees.

The individual development plans, or IDPs, as they're known, is a statement of long- and short-term career goals and development objectives that provides a systematic approach to the training needs of employees. By planning needed training and experiences in consultation with their supervisors, employees are better able to develop the knowledge, skills, and abilities to contribute to the organization in achieving their career goals, and more importantly, meeting the Department's mission.

Mr. Morales: Raj, we're coming to the end of our time, but I want to ask, given your diverse and highly successful federal career, what advice would you give to a person who perhaps is considering a career in public service?

Mr. Chellaraj: That's a great question, and that's a great last question. First, I highly encourage everyone to work in the public sector. The government needs innovative, dedicated and energized people. As you consider what you want to pursue, I would remind your listeners do what you're really passionate about. This may mean your career follows a non-traditional path; it certainly has for me. When I started my career, I did not plan to be the Assistant Secretary of State for Administration. Lastly, I would also say work hard, do your job well and you will get recognized and rewarded.

Mr. Morales: That's fantastic advice.

We have reached the end of our time. I want to thank you for fitting us into your busy schedule, but more importantly, Bonnie and I would like to thank you for your dedicated service to our country across the various roles you've held in our government.

Mr. Chellaraj: Thanks again. It's been a delight being here. In summary, as you can see, we in the Bureau of Administration touch a lot, we work hard at making diplomacy work better. And thanks again for the opportunity to speak to your listeners and share with them our mission and programs. I'd encourage our listeners to look at www.state.gov for very timely information relating to the Department of State.

Thanks again, it's been a pleasure.

Mr. Morales: Great. Thank you.

This has been The Business of Government Hour, featuring a conversation with Raj Chellaraj, Assistant Secretary of State for Administration at the U.S. Department of State.

My co-host has been Bonnie Glick, project executive within IBM.

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

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

Thank you for listening.

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

Until next week, it's businessofgovernment.org.

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