Fedblog FedblogFedblog
Government Executive Editor in Chief Tom Shoop, along with other editors and staff correspondents, look at the federal bureaucracy from the outside in.

It's Time for Some Experienced Leadership


Brian Fung of The Atlantic writes that Michael Morell, the CIA's deputy director, is emerging as the "leading candidate" to replace David Petraeus, who resigned late last week amidst a burgeoning sex scandal. 

It strikes me that this would be a very smart move. An experienced career leader is exactly what the CIA needs at this point. When put in charge, such executives typically immediately win the support of the career staff at an agency -- an especially valuable commodity at a time of turmoil. Generally, people who have devoted their careers to public service really know what they're doing. They also tend to be the kind of people who don't draw attention to themselves for the wrong reasons -- or even the right ones. As a result, they tend to keep their agencies out of the spotlight -- something the CIA could really use right now.

President Obama is in a good position to make a move to elevate Morell. In second terms, presidents have more leeway to promote experienced people to head agencies. The need for doling out favors, appeasing interest groups and winning support from members of Congress is lessened, and presidents are freer to focus on demonstrated leadership capability and competence as they seek to firm up their legacies.

Still, it would be highly unusual to promote a career executive to run one of government's most prominent agencies. Ordinarily, the most a career official can hope for is to win an appointment to serve as the acting head of an agency or department -- as Morell now has done twice at the CIA.

There are, of course, some exceptions. Lawrence Eagleburger became the only career foreign service officer to serve as Secretary of State when he got the top job at the end of the George H.W. Bush administration. Now seems like a very good time to make another exception. 

Tom Shoop is vice president and editor in chief at Government Executive Media Group, where he oversees both print and online editorial operations. He started as associate editor of Government Executive magazine in 1989; launched the company’s flagship website, GovExec.com, in 1996; and was named editor in chief in 2007.

Close [ x ] More from GovExec

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

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.


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