On Transformation

Reform is under way in many corners of our far-flung government.

Nearly three years ago, writer Shane Harris set out to assess reports that the State Department finally was bringing its approach to management up to date.

He found that then-Secretary of State Colin Powell in fact had spent a lot of energy securing the resources that the department needed for infrastructure, training and security. Our cover headline read: "Colin Powell has won his campaign to reform management at the State Department. Does it matter?"

Obviously, the kind of infrastructure and morale improvements Powell brought matter a lot. Equally clearly, the mission is what matters most, and as the United States has focused on the global war on terror, State's mission has shifted to imposing a "New Order" led by Powell's successor, Condoleezza Rice.

Rice's goal of a new "transformational diplomacy," Harris reports, may not come easily to the Foreign Service. Its members are being asked to learn the "hard" languages, to interact more with nonofficial actors like religious and nongovernmental organizations, to acquire the skills needed to help foreign citizens strengthen the rule of law, start businesses and improve health and education. Foreign Service officers cannot be promoted without serving in hardship posts like Ethiopia, China and Iraq.

Transformation is a term that's applied more and more to describe the internal reforms under way all across government. It was much in use during our Excellence in Government conference last month (some of whose proceedings are blogged at http://blog.excelgov.com). Many speakers described ambitious change initiatives:

Jacqueline Myers of the Forest Service recounted wrenching consolidations in agency business systems, changes that have cost hundreds of jobs and forced many people to move to a common site in Albuquerque, N.M.

Lt. Cols. Mark Tribus and Nate Allen told of Companycommander.com, an up-from-the ranks program to gather and disseminate information of particular utility to the 3,200 officers, ages 26 to 30, who lead the Army's key combat units.

Col. Kent M. Crossley of the Center for Army Lessons Learned related efforts to move beyond passive after-action reports to an aggressive program employing retired military officers to figure out what's working in Iraq and Afghanistan for the benefit of units preparing to deploy.

Adm. James Loy, who stood up the Transportation Security Administration and then helped do the same with the Homeland Security Department, described the extensive administrative consolidations that are providing a backbone for operating the department, while George W. Foresman, current undersecretary for preparedness at DHS, said that until the American people adopt a "culture of preparedness," the nation will not be ready for catastrophe.

For all the challenges, an innate optimism borne of a faith in our nation reigned at EIG. As former Ambassador Prudence Bushnell observed, our strength lies in the melting pot of white, black, Hispanic and Asian kids growing up together: "Not a country in the world is more diverse than ours, and there's not a challenge on the globe that does not exist within our borders." And so, she suggested, we will again become a beacon of hope for all.

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