Expect some changes in the ranks of appointees

IT political appointments on the bubble

Scott Charbo, Agriculture Department CIO

Steve Cooper, Homeland Security Department CIO

Karen Evans, Office of Management and Budget administrator for IT and e-government

Stephen Galvan, Small Business Administration CIO

Clay Johnson, OMB deputy director for management

Jack Koller, OMB government-to-citizen portfolio manager

William Leidinger, Education Department CIO and assistant secretary for management

Dan Matthews, Transportation Department CIO

Vickers Meadows, Housing and Urban Development Department CIO and assistant secretary for administration

Kim Nelson, Environmental Protection Agency CIO

Patrick Pizzella, Labor Department CIO and assistant secretary for administration and management

Carlos Solari, Executive Office of the President CIO

Tim Young, OMB associate administrator for IT and
e-government

Vacant, Defense Department CIO

'Some of the best thinking comes during times like this,' former GSA official Emory Miller says.

Henrik G. de Gyor

Like lemmings to the sea, political appointees and senior managers stage a mass exodus from the government every four years following the presidential election.

No matter who wins on Nov. 2, career federal employees should prepare for changes in the roster of top players within their agency.

'The career civil servant is the continuity of the government and that is an important responsibility,' said Mark Abramson, executive director of IBM Corp.'s Center for the Business of Government in Washington. 'This is an opportunity for the career people to grade themselves and lay out their plans for their programs and agency. They should welcome the chance for the change.'

Up to speed

Many current and former federal employees say program and project briefing books are important to bringing their new political chiefs up to speed quickly and identify areas that need improvement.

'Some of the best thinking comes during times like this,' said Emory Miller, who worked for four agencies during a 36-year federal career before becoming a senior vice president for government affairs at Robbins-Gioia LLC of Alexandria, Va. 'You have the ability to think freshly and anticipate possible changes and opportunities to make your case for what you think is best. I put
a lot of my best ideas forward during these times of less pressure and less direction.'

To prepare for change, one government official recommended that employees bone up on the people being rumored to lead their agency.

'You should try to shape the briefing book to reflect those things you found out about that person,' the official said. 'The new person must be able to understand what is going on, how it is good and how they can help keep it going.'

In the IT arena, some agencies could go as long as a year without a CIO if the post is a political appointment, Abramson said. Currently, about a half dozen CIOs serve at the discretion of the president.

The delay in getting appointees in place will slow projects and programs, another government official said. So, the career crew will have to focus on day-to-day IT operations and the most crucial new systems efforts, the official said.

'Employees may want to assess what kinds of legs certain initiatives have,' the official said. 'It may depend on budget priorities. A lot of things will operate on autopilot and big decisions will be held up until there is someone there to make them.'

But the official also said agencies should expect many of the current e-government and IT policies will continue apace.

Less turnover

Most former and current employees say the transition will be easier if President Bush is re-elected because there will be less turnover and fewer policy direction changes than if John Kerry wins.

If Bush is re-elected, agencies can expect many changes in the top jobs'secretary, deputy secretary and other executive positions'but many of the midlevel chiefs, including CIOs, will stay and the administration's overriding policy priorities will shift little. 'New personnel could have their own styles or visions, but it will be less dramatic of a change,' Miller said.

But under a Kerry administration there would be a clean sweep among the top and midlevel appointee ranks, and employees should expect a new administration to institute its own vision, he said. The first year would be especially chaotic, Miller said.

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