As Americans prepare to go to the polls for this year's presidential election, a positive point overshadowed by the contentious campaign season has been the progress we've made over the past decade or so in smoothing the transitions that take place as new administrations assume power following elections.
Thanks to the advocacy of the Partnership for Public Service and other good-for-government organizations, new laws and policies were introduced with the arrival of the Obama Administration aimed at giving incoming administration staffs a running start as they prepare to take over leadership of the federal government.
Specifically, the General Services Administration (GSA), my former employer, has taken on an expanded role to support candidates from both parties as they prepare for the possible transition. Previously, this type of support was provided only after elections to staff members of the president-elect. Under the new program, GSA provides both candidates’ teams with office space, computers, mobile devices and services such as email and security. Support begins as soon as each party has nominated their candidate, providing several months more of transition and planning time.
This arrangement — already in place with candidates from both parties — gives both candidates’ teams access to key government data. This is important because new administrations tend to want to sweep away everything associated with the previous office holders upon their arrival in Washington. By giving them access well in advance, these new folks in town will have much better insight into which programs are working and which aren’t.
It also elevates the importance of IT and management issues like procurement reform — issues that don’t get that much attention during campaigns but are essential to keeping the wheels of government turning.
Other areas of focus for the incoming administration include talent management, achieving agility in the federal budget process, approaches to cybersecurity and promoting innovation. These are largely nonpartisan activities for which we have broad agreement.
A couple of government/industry groups have recently published recommendations to help the incoming administration hit the ground running following the election. ACT-IAC, an organization that promotes collaboration between government and industry, recently published a report titled, " Transforming Government Through Technology: A Report for the New Administration," which outlines steps incoming executives can take to address the issues outlined above.
The ACT-IAC study was co-chaired by my colleague at Unisys, Mark Forman, a former federal CIO, and by Roger Baker, former CIO at the Department of Veterans Affairs. As Mark recently noted, the goal of this report is to "
to provide the next administration with the key insights that ensure that whatever the government does, it does it well."
The group identified seven focus areas for the incoming administration:
- Attracting and retaining a high performance workforce;
- Making management processes more agile and data-driven;
- Streamlining the budget process;
- Making IT more focused on citizens;
- Systems that focus on citizens’ life events as opposed to agency structures;
- Improving cybersecurity;
- Promoting innovation.
In September, the Professional Services Council(PSC), a group representing the professional and technology services industry, published its own set of recommendations in its report, " PSC 45: An Agenda for the Next President of the United States." The PSC report focuses on four areas to help the incoming administration be as effective and efficient as possible upon arrival: modernizing government service delivery; improving government operations to better compete globally; improving the engagement model to bring in ideas and solutions from industry; and developing future government and industry workforces.
Regardless of party affiliation,
most observers can agree that a transition like the one we face in the coming months presents an opportunity for positive change. While partisan differences can sometimes appear overwhelming, it is heartening to see government and industry coming together to plan a seamless transition and to continue to improve the way government operates.
Casey Coleman is group vice president for civilian agencies at Unisys Federal. She previously served as an IT executive at the General Services Administration, holding the position of CIO from 2007 to 2014.