Experience Required

While an advocacy group pushes agencies to hire executives from the outside, the Bush administration goes in the opposite direction.

Early this year, the Partnership for Public Service, an organization devoted to the ideal of encouraging people to work in government, unveiled an initiative to convince baby boomers to consider "encore careers" with federal agencies.

The idea behind the effort was simple: to use one asset-a group of people who have reached the heights of their private sector careers and have a gnawing desire to give back to their country-to solve another problem: that the federal government apparently is about to have more senior-level openings than it can fill with civil servants currently working their way through the pipeline.

But actually implementing such a plan on a wide scale will be anything but simple. First, there's the problem of convincing private sector types that government is the place to go to make a difference. After all, the nonprofit sector is increasingly popular among those with a sense of civic duty, and volunteer work is always an option for those who already have earned a comfortable retirement. Then there's the whole issue of getting agencies to be more receptive to hiring candidates from outside the federal ranks. As the Partnership for Public Service itself notes, at the midcareer level (GS-12 to 15), federal agencies fill only 15 percent of their vacancies with external candidates, and less than half the openings are even available to applicants from outside government.

It's easy to dismiss that as federal closed-mindedness borne of a desire to keep the civil service an exclusive club for lifelong bureaucrats. But there's another explanation: When it comes to developing and implementing federal programs, and making sure they actually work, government experience is a highly valuable commodity.

That's a lesson President Bush seems to have learned in his second term in office, particularly since his party's stinging defeat at the polls last November. His first major postelection decision was to replace Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld with Robert Gates, a career CIA officer who rose through the ranks to become director in the George H.W. Bush administration. Gates, in turn, asked retired Air Force Lt. Gen. James Clapper, a highly experienced intelligence officer, to become undersecretary of Defense for intelligence.

And that was just the beginning. In early January, Bush shifted John Negroponte-whose 40 years of experience in government had already earned him the post of Director of National Intelligence-over to the No. 2 slot at the State Department. To replace Negroponte, Bush tapped retired Navy Vice Adm. Mike McConnell, a former director of the National Security Agency.

Then, after announcing his new Iraq policy, Bush named Ryan C. Crocker, a career Foreign Service officer since 1971, to serve as U.S. ambassador to the country. Crocker's career includes not only previous stints in Iraq, but service in Iran, Qatar and Egypt.

At the same time, Timothy Carney, a retired career Foreign Service officer, was asked to take over reconstruction efforts in the country. During his 32-year government career, Carney served as ambassador to Haiti and Sudan, held diplomatic posts in Vietnam and Cambodia, and served a stint in Iraq's Ministry of Industry and Minerals after the U.S. invasion of the country in 2003.

Even before the elections, Bush had sought out leaders with extensive federal résumés to lead key agencies: David Paulison at the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden at the CIA. And that was after naming highly experienced federal officials to head the Environmental Protection Agency and NASA earlier in his second term.

All of which begs the following question about the Partnership for Public Service initiative: Wouldn't it make more sense to try to convince senior federal employees to stay in their jobs until their agencies can develop the bench strength they need? These managers and executives already have a public service ethic, and something else that's even more valuable-the expertise and wisdom that comes with decades of working in government operations. As President Bush is learning, experience, it turns out, is worth something.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
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.