Change Agents

Fresh faces and new priorities on Capitol Hill.

This year has been all about change in the federal sector. There's a new administration in town, and that has meant new appointees, policies and management approaches. Across government, managers and executives are adjusting to new political bosses and working to implement Obama administration priorities. It's all part of the critical process of showing that the bureaucracy, at its core, exists to implement the will of the people, as reflected in the priorities of their elected leaders.

Of course, most of those elected officials actually toil on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue from where President Obama lives.

In two feature stories in this issue, we focus on emerging leaders on Capitol Hill. Alyssa Rosenberg profiles Reps. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass.; John Sarbanes, D-Md.; and Gerry Connolly, D-Va. All three are relatively new to Congress-and very new to the process of overseeing federal workforce issues. And, of course, they share the same political party affiliation.

But they have more in common than that. Each is steeped in public service issues. In Lynch's case, it's because more than a dozen of his immediate and extended family members have worked for the U.S. Postal Service. Sarbanes is the son of a man who represented thousands of federal civil servants in the Senate for 30 years, and has state government experience of his own. Connolly spent a decade as a congressional staffer before steadily working his way up the ranks in the government of Fairfax County. There he focused, among other things, on converting the county to a paybanding system aimed at tying employee compensation more closely to job performance.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth Newell reports that when it comes to federal management, a different set of congressional leaders is emerging. Rep. Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y., spent almost 27 years toiling behind the scenes on management issues before stepping up to lead the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

On the same panel, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., has come out from behind the shadows of former committee chairman Tom Davis, R-Va., to be its leading conservative voice. In the Senate, Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., is leveraging her experience as a state auditor to engage in some serious number-crunching as head of the new Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight.

Many of these lawmakers support key elements of Obama's management agenda. Not surprisingly, they especially like his expressed commitment to transparency in government operations. You can bet that when it comes to flexing their oversight muscles, they will put that commitment to the test.

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