Over the past week we have run a series of suggestions by Randy Beardsworth, former Assistant Secretary for Strategic Plans at the Department of Homeland Security, advising the next Administration on the DHS transition.
Below is a recap of all five suggestions:
1.) Pick the transition manager (TM) with care.
The new President will have staked out positions on various aspects of homeland security. The ideological push should come from the new Secretary, not the TM. While the TM will of course be aligned with the President-elect’s outlook, during the transition the TM should endeavor to understand the issues from the inside, be a keen observer of what is really happening within the department, seek to establish a rapport with the career executives, and should make sure the department is ready for day one. The TM should understand both the bureaucracy and the politics associated with a new administration. The more successful the TM is in the transition period, the more successful the new Secretary will be in the long run.
2.) Ensure the Department and the new President are ready for Day One
The new President’s ability to implement his homeland security agenda, and perhaps his larger agenda could be lost if the Department and new administration fail an early test. The Transition Manager should quickly establish an operational response cell made up of career and transition leaders to receive intelligence briefings and stay attuned to the operational and intelligence picture. The TM should be an advocate/driver for small table top exercises with key players within the new administration. The TM must not let the urgent overshadow the important.
3.) Listen to the key senior career leaders.
Political appointees bring political capital, energy, and a drive to implement change. Senior career folks understand how to effect change within the bureaucracy and often have excellent ideas about what needs to be changed. The TM and new administration should not fall into the trap of thinking career executives are ideologically tainted – some are, most are not. Career executives and civil servants understand democracy and their role in government and want to be part of the new boss’ team.
4.) Look for the jewels that are hidden.
The TM has a finite amount of time to understand the department, prepare for Day 1, and discern who should be prominent players in the new team. In the course of doing these things, the TM should be cognizant of a number of jewels hidden in throughout Department that deserve to be more prominent than they have been. For example there are several pockets that understand and deal with risk in a remarkable fashion, there are pockets that have done significant work with future thinking, and the Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties has been in the forefront of thoughtful policy with respect to America’s Muslim community.
5.) Don’t push reorganization.
The new administration has the privilege and responsibility to work with Congress for appropriate organizational changes. Organizational changes come at a high cost, especially after five years of fairly significant ongoing organizational changes. The most “bang for the buck” in the Department under a new administration will come from stable, professional management, thoughtful policy direction, and institutionalizing tools and processes that harness private sector energy and creativity – not from wholesale reorganizations. Early signals of major reorganization of the Department will exacerbate retention and morale issues and will paralyze meaningful progress on important homeland security issues.