What SES reform could mean for interagency collaboration

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2013_05_SES Image: IBM’s Center for the Business of Government

Many senior government officials have called for a whole-of-community approach to address sequestration and other looming issues, but do government executives really have the ability to work together across agency barriers?

According to a recent report presented by IBM Center for the Business of Government and written by Bruce T. Barkley, Sr., the answer might be no.

The report, “Developing Senior Executive Capabilities to Address National Priorities,” found the lack of Senior Executive Service mobility across agencies to be a major obstacle to developing the talent and experience needed for effective interagency collaboration.

It should come as no surprise SES executives have trouble building cross-agency partnerships, particularly if their home agency is low on resources or concentrates agency resources on local programs. Current Office of Management and Budget guidance in performance management is also problematic because it focuses largely on single-agency results instead of cross-cutting, governmentwide outcomes.

There is a mandated urgency to build this cross-agency, SES collaboration resulting from the Government Performance and Results Modernization Act of 2010. The GPRAMA necessitates governmentwide goal setting and performance management processes to address interagency priorities and minimize duplication and waste. Fulfilling this mandate will require a cadre of senior executives with cross-agency leadership capabilities as well as an office responsible for managing the new corps of leaders, according to Barkley, a former federal senior executive.

Current SES executives may possess the aptitude to collaborate, but the opportunities, incentives, and support systems requisite for leading cross-agency initiatives do not yet exist. The report suggested SES be modified to facilitate this executive collaboration, creating a subset of SES members designated as interagency leaders and assigned to a new federal office managing their work.

“Recent trends in government have created a new demand for cross-agency capabilities, thus resurfacing the importance of leaders who understand cross-agency impacts,” the report said.

Addressing interagency capabilities requires a group, consisting of both public and private experienced executives, that could be deployed as needed to respond to such broad governmental and cross-cutting challenges.

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Agencies, Government IT News, Management & Budget, Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Sequestration
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