Agency personnel chiefs adjust to the limelight

Editor's note: This article is adapted from the June 15 special issue of Government Executive, "In the Spotlight," which addresses the challenges facing federal chief management officers.

Federal human resources leaders have their hands full. They are knee-deep in the first presidential transition since the chief human capital officer position was created. And they are facing an influx of job applications driven by President Obama's recommitment to public service and the government's unprecedented involvement in stabilizing the faltering economy.

This combination of shuffling and growing the federal workforce has thrust CHCOs into the spotlight, and magnified their importance in the C-ranks.

"This is a great time to be a CHCO if you want to make a difference; if you want to really have an opportunity for impact, boy, do you have it," says John Palguta, vice president for policy at the Partnership for Public Service, a nonprofit instrumental in creating the position seven years ago, as part of the 2002 Homeland Security Act. "It's not a good time to be a CHCO if you were looking for a quiet, kind of maintain the status quo situation."

Obama's election could usher in an era of acute and widespread interest in government, much like John F. Kennedy's call to service in the 1960s swelled the civil service for decades to come, Palguta says. By 2012, the government likely will have hired about 584,000 full-time employees, he says. Some of the recruits will plug holes created by attrition, but Obama has said he will add several hundred thousand people to the workforce as part of his government reform agenda.

In the June 15 issue of Government Executive, Alex M. Parker explores this struggle as human capital chiefs try to manage a shifting workforce. Click here to read the full story.

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