If not the Career SES, Then Who?
That’s the question I keep hearing asked in Washington policy circles. The genesis of that question is one of the biggest – and most unexpected – surprises of my first six months as SEA’s President.
As I have met with players within Washington’s policy ecosystem – Congress, the White House, policy institutes, academics, etc. – to a person, they believe that the SES and other career Federal leaders are a largely untapped resource. They believe that the career SES are a loadstone of experience and knowledge, but are at a loss when it comes to tapping into that resource.
And so they ask: how can we better utilize this national resource to resolve some of the biggest challenges confronting the Federal government: civil service reform, managed attrition, agency reorganizations, budget reductions, cyber attacks, improving national security, to name a few.
This eagerness to engage with SES and other senior leaders was unexpected because I rarely brought the subject up. Most of the time a Member of Congress, Hill staffer, OMB leader or other policy player would say they were frustrated because they did not know how to tap into the expertise of senior career leaders.
Whether it is responding to the latest initiative from the Trump Administration, crafting legislation, commenting on new OMB initiatives, or providing insights into how to make Federal agencies more effective and efficient, senior leaders are viewed as a unique and indispensable resource. The only problem is that Washington’s policy leaders have had a difficult time tapping into that expertise because no mechanisms exist to filter that advice to those who want it.
This is a void that SEA will fill by creating Communities of Practice (CoPs) in six areas – Acquisition, Cybersecurity, Governance Innovation, Human Capital/Leadership, and National Security. Each of these Communities of Practice will be led by SEA members who are “thought leaders” and have a goal of aligning Federal government practices and processes to 21st Century realities of exponential and radical changes.
The CoPs will only succeed, however, if SEA members step up and engage in the extraordinary policy debates ongoing in Washington, D.C. Just some of the issues that the CoPs will engage in are:
- How do career SES contribute to the implementation of needed cyber frameworks at their agencies, even if you are not in the CIO’s shop?
- Is it possible to bring acquisition practices into the 21st Century and align them to the rapid cycle business requirements of most agencies?
- Does the Federal workforce need a complete overhaul or should we make changes at the margins?
- Where is the Federal government going to find the next generation of leaders?
- How do career executives deliver on missions in a time of constrained fiscal resources?
These and other challenges are at the forefront of policy and legislative initiatives being developed by the Congress and the Trump Administration. SEA believes that our members can be a constructive and thoughtful resource when developing solutions that improve the functioning of the Federal government and its ability to deliver on its vital missions.
If you would like to join with us, then please sign up for one or more of the Communities of Practice. We will be announcing their formation in early May. During the interim, if you would like more information, please do not hesitate to shoot me an email at Bill.Valdez@seniorexecs.org.
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