Air Force sets example for long-term planning

Successful long-term agency planning requires federal career civil servants and political appointees to trust each other and to use innovative thinking, according to a recent report from the PricewaterhouseCoopers Endowment for the Business of Government. In "Corporate Strategic Planning in Government: Lessons from the United States Air Force," Colin Campbell, a public policy professor at Georgetown University, suggested that federal leaders need to envision the range of roles their agencies may play in the future and plan accordingly, instead of just projecting current programs into the future. Agencies should engage in role-playing and imagine the various scenarios in which they may find themselves, Campbell said. Such innovative thinking is key to long-term corporate strategic planning in government, he said. But, so is building trust and establishing strong communication between career employees and political appointees, Campbell wrote. "If departmental secretaries in the U.S. choose to engage in corporate strategic planning, they must, by the nature of the system, enter a dialogue with permanent officials. Officials, thus, will find it hard to bring authoritative corporate change if their political appointees have not participated in the process," wrote Campbell. Campbell praised Gen. Ronald Fogleman, Air Force chief of staff from 1994 to 1997, for imagining how technology and other external events could transform the way the Air Force does business 25 years in the future, and for attempting to instill that type of 'forward-thinking' into the agency culture. Fogleman believed that by 2025, the Air Force would evolve from a fixed-wing aircraft culture into one focused on space missions. According to Campbell, this kind of innovative thinking enables agencies to develop long-range strategic plans and evaluate the kind of resources they will need to achieve those goals. Fogleman's persistence and willingness to include a broad range of Air Force and Pentagon colleagues in planning sessions about the future of the Air Force was important, said Campbell. Although the Air Force ultimately had problems implementing Fogleman's vision, the foundation for changing the way the agency viewed long-range strategic planning was laid, Campbell said. "The Air Force leadership has become more aware of the challenges presented by this gap [between its vision and its program] and has increased greatly its institutional effort to narrow it," Campbell said. Campbell acknowledged that, for some federal agencies, gazing into a crystal ball 25 years hence does not seem practical. However, agencies should structure strategic goals around their own individual timeframes. Such long-range thinking for programs such as Social Security and Medicare would be particularly beneficial, he said.
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
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care


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