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Santa…Errr Congress is Coming to Town

You better watch out

You better not cry

You better not pout

I’m telling you why

Santa Claus is coming to town.

Capitol Christmas TreeAll around the country, kids are gearing up to sing Santa Claus is Coming to Town at their annual Christmas pageants. But Santa Claus isn’t the only new face coming in town. A new Congress will be seated on January 3rd. So what can govies expect from the 114th Congress?

Tom Fox, Vice President for Leadership and Innovation at the Partnership for Public Service, told Chris Dorobek on the DorobekINSIDER program that the 114th Congress should focus on three major issues in their first session.

The Partnership for Public Service has created a Congressional agenda they hope the Congress will look at closely. The number one priority for the Partnership is career leadership. “Congress needs to find the best way of building the pipeline of future leaders. We need to make sure agencies are investing in the future,” explained Fox.

Seventy-five percent of the Senior Executive Service will be eligible to retire in two years. By virtue of the tight budget constraint agencies have been under, agencies have not been investing in developing the leadership pipeline.

“Agencies need to have leaders available to help them navigate the rocky road ahead,” said Fox. “Congress can help by codifying what it looks like to effectively develop your leadership pipeline. If we can really put leadership best practices into rules and regulations we can set the tone for agencies to make those investments.”

The second major priority for Congress, according to the Partnership, should be around preparing for presidential transitions. “It’s fascinating to me that something that’s so vitally important to our democracy is often left to an oral history. Typically stories and advice are handed down from one administration to the next. But it would be nice to have an actual transition plan in place. That way incoming leaders know what it takes to set up an effective White House,” noted Fox.

Another aspect of the transition period is hiring the right talent to lead the executive branch agencies.

“We need to figure out the best way of finding the right talent to bring on board. We don’t want folks who are simply policy experts – we need people who also understand what it takes to manage and operate large organizations,” said Fox. “One immediate thing that we could do to ensure that agencies operate effectively is to ensure that every single occupant in those senior leaderships roles. This is especially important in those deputy secretary roles, is equipped to run a large organization.”

Finally, Congress should really look at civil service reform. “The current civil service system was designed back in the 1940s. It’s time for a refresh,” said Fox.

However, despite the glaring need for civil service reform, Fox isn’t very optimistic. “The conditions right now will make it difficult to pass any comprehensive civil service reform. But we are optimistic a broad reform package – some of the low hanging fruit – could pass. In the short term we could look at some of the low hanging fruit where there is some consensus among Republicans and the Democrats.”

One potential reason for optimism is the incoming Oversight and Government Reform Chairman – Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) – is focused on improving government performance and operations. “There is some common ground thinking among the two parties right now that our federal government could perform better. We need to make sure we have a modern management system, not one that’s intentionally difficult by virtue of the fact it was designed so many years ago,” said Fox.

Just like when Santa comes to town, a new Congress brings with it hope for change. “Often times it’s easy to find the problems and to look at fixing or otherwise tweaking the system so that we solve for those problems,” said Fox. “But I’m a big believer in the in the notion that everything that’s happening in government is happening somewhere. If we could find some more of those success stories, spread those best practices into other agencies, then I think that would help tremendously too.”

 

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