Management Matters Management MattersManagement Matters
Practical advice for federal leaders on managing people, processes and projects.

Mergers and Acquisitions

ARCHIVES

Kenneth Buck likes a challenge. When Homeland Security Undersecretary for Management Rafael Borras called Buck earlier this year to ask him to head a new office dedicated to integrating management efforts across the department's disparate agencies, Buck couldn't say no. He and Borras had worked well together at the Commerce Department and the General Services Administration, and the prospect of doing so again was too good to pass up, he said. In July, he became the first executive director of the Management Integration Office at the Homeland Security Department, taking on the unenviable task of getting the department off the Government Accountability Office's list of agencies most vulnerable to waste and fraud.

"It was just a great opportunity to come over and use some of the skills I had used in previous positions, as well as my academic background. It would be fun," Buck said during a recent interview in his spacious office at DHS' headquarters compound in Northwest Washington. His 30-year federal career includes senior leadership positions in acquisition and program management at GSA, Commerce, the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments, and the U.S. Postal Service. During that period, he also earned two master's degrees and a doctorate in human and organizational systems.

"At some agencies, there are constraints" to what you can do, Buck said of his new assignment. "Here there seems to be a willingness to continue to build the organization" along lines compatible with management innovator W. Edwards Deming's philosophy of continuous improvement. "If you can build a case that makes sense, you're given the authority to implement," he said.

His new challenge is daunting, by any measure. The creation of Homeland Security, which brought together elements of 22 agencies in 2003, represented one of the largest federal reorganizations in history. Seven years later, DHS is the third-largest department, with more than 200,000 employees and an annual budget of nearly $50 billion.

Cathleen Berrick, managing director for homeland security and justice issues at GAO, told Senate lawmakers in September that the audit agency's work on mergers and acquisitions showed that successfully transforming large organizations, even those far less complex than DHS, takes years. Berrick noted that a management integration plan department leaders developed in February lacked sufficient detail and wasn't clearly linked to DHS's overall transformation strategy.

Buck said his office is working closely with GAO to refine the integration plan, which predated his arrival at Homeland Security. Borras and Deputy Secretary Jane Holl Lute view that plan as a "first cut," he said. In refining it, leaders are focusing on specific steps needed to improve the personnel, processes and structures that facilitate acquisition, financial management and human capital management across the department, he said.

"The first phase is to focus on acquisition improvement," he said. "The reason is it's roughly 50 percent of the entire budget of this department." Buck refers to what he calls "big A" acquisition -- the entire cradle-to-grave process that encompasses programs from conception through life-cycle support to retirement.

A critical step will be to implement an effective process for developing program requirements that involve investment above a certain threshold. The idea is to prevent duplication among agencies and achieve greater efficiency across the department. A new joint requirements board will be composed of key department leaders, as well as senior officials from the agencies that make up Homeland Security.

"We want to support what the agencies are doing. By the same token, we have a responsibility to make sure we see efficiencies across organizational bounds," Buck said. Besides creating a joint requirements board, DHS also is working to identify the appropriate workforce for managing programs and contracting.

"This is not rocket science. It's about good management," he said. "If I do my job well, I'll be working myself out of a job. That's my goal."

 

Katherine is deputy editor of Government Executive Media Group, a division of Atlantic Media, where she oversees editorial coverage for GovExec.com and Government Executive magazine. She previously was executive editor of Nextgov.

FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.