Message from Your SEA President
The transition to a new Administration is moving ahead quickly and it is becoming clear that the next four years will bring substantial changes to the way that career Senior Executives and other senior leaders interact with the new President.
Consider the following:
- The new President has never worked in government and has never served in the military. No other President in our Nation’s history has ever come from a purely business background. Add to that President-elect Trump ran as an “outsider” and you have a new Administration that is not only unfamiliar with the Federal government, but considers that lack of knowledge to be an asset.
- The 2016 Presidential campaign was among the most bitter and partisan in history, with the winning campaign vowing to “drain the swamp” in Washington and casting the Federal government as a failed enterprise that needs a complete transformation. It is common for new Administrations to view the previous Administration’s policies and programs with skepticism, but not since the Ronald Reagan Administration has a new President come in vowing to shake things up the way that the Trump Administration is vowing to do over the next four years.
- The new President’s trusted circle of advisors is extremely small, while his network of individuals with Federal government experience is more limited than any other in recent memory. The probability is high that most of the President’s political appointees will have had limited or no experience in the Federal government and how the Executive Branch works. This will have a direct impact on the ability of the Administration to implement its policies and it is an easy prediction that frustration will mount early as new appointees deal with complex rules and procedures that seemingly hinder their progress.
- The Administration comes into power with a Congress controlled by its party and an opportunity to reshape the Supreme Court. This offers a rare opportunity for the new President to make changes to the Federal government that were previously unimaginable, including a substantial reform of the career civil service and the elimination of agencies, programs, regulations and Presidential Executive Orders.
This will be an extremely challenging operating environment because the career SES and other senior leaders are the individuals the new Administration will interact with first and who have the obligation to help the Administration to implement its policies. Career leaders also must help the new Administration understand why the career civil service is so important to being able to carry out its goals and that rather than being part of a swamp that needs draining, the career Federal services is a non-partisan and highly effective part of the solution.
This will be difficult given the fact that the new Administration is likely to call for a hiring freeze for most agencies, has vowed to cut the size of the Federal workforce by 25% through managed attrition, and is deeply skeptical about the missions of many agencies. The latter point – a deep skepticism of the missions of many agencies – will prove most challenging because civil servants are all about the mission. Learning that the programs you’ve spent decades working on are now irrelevant will be jarring and, in many cases, deeply troubling to many career employees.
But it is the duty of career Federal leaders to assist the new Administration as it implements its agenda, while always maintaining the highest professional and ethical standards. Now is the time for career SES and other senior leaders to step up and confront these challenges head on.
As we begin this journey, the Senior Executives Association will be your trusted partner as we ensure that no matter which direction the new Administration takes, the best interests of the Nation will always be our highest consideration and priority.
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