The More Things Change

The President wanted to "increase the effectiveness and economy of federal agencies." He sought to improve relations between Washington and workers in the field who "provide the principal day-to-day contact with the citizens of this country." In addition, he hoped to encourage agencies to "pool experience and resources, and to accomplish savings" in "management and budgetary procedures, personnel policies, recruitment efforts, office space uses, procurement activities, public information duties."

Was it President Clinton speaking in 1993 or 1996, perhaps? No, the quotes are from John F. Kennedy ordering formation of the first 10 Federal Executive Boards (FEBs) in 1961. Kennedy sounded themes that have become perennial presidential concerns and ongoing interests of the boards.

The boards were born of a series of White House management conferences with field agencies in 1961. White House staffers traveling the hinterlands hawking Kennedy Administration priorities discovered communications between Washington and the field needed improvement and interagency cooperation was weak. So, on Nov. 10, 1961, Kennedy called for creation of boards comprising the chief executives of all agencies in 10 designated cities-Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Denver, New York, Philadelphia, St. Louis, San Francisco and Seattle. The boards were to cooperatively solve common management problems and be the federal government's eyes, ears and helping hands in dealing with urban problems. Today, there are 28 boards serving as important vehicles of communications from Washington to the field. The boards also have become coordinators and even leaders of governmentwide efforts such as reinvention, improving customer service, career transition and partnership with local governments and communities.

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