For 17 years, the Partnership for Public Service has brought people together for constructive conversations and action to improve the way government works. The federal government is the one institution in our democracy with the public mandate, resources and ability to address the nation’s most difficult problems. Our nation needs a government that’s effective at delivering results for the public.
In this moment, however, our government has reached a tipping point. Our federal institutions and hardworking civil servants are still reeling from the longest government shutdown in the nation’s history, when a significant portion of the civilian workforce was out of work and vital federal services were halted or delayed. Until the administration and Congress take steps to fix the broken annual budget process, there is no assurance that the government won’t be plunged into chaos again fall by another shutdown. Meanwhile, the harmful impact on the government’s long-term health from the last one is only beginning to be understood.
Michael Lewis’ latest best-selling book, “The Fifth Risk,” which features the Partnership, reinforces why people should care about the state of our government. It starkly outlines the many risks that come with politicizing or underinvesting in our federal institutions. Decades of persistent neglect, antiquated systems and political division have left much of the federal government unable to meet the demands of today’s interconnected, technology-driven world or prepare for the challenges of tomorrow.
The media focus on the government shutdown fueled public interest in the government, how it operates and the services it provides. At the Partnership, we believe there has never been a more important time for individuals and institutions that care about the integrity of our government to get involved.
Our government can move beyond this moment, and with a steady focus on what works, our federal institutions and workforce can succeed. The Partnership’s new strategic plan reaffirms our organization’s areas of proven expertise—a deep knowledge of the federal workforce and environment, the fundamentals of leadership development, and smart management principles. It also embraces exciting new areas—improving the customer experience, fostering government innovation, strengthening government’s use of data and analysis, and expanding our services outside of Washington, D.C.—to meet the evolving needs of federal leaders, the workforce and the public.
In the following report, we share the Partnership’s strategies for a more effective government and highlight our accomplishments over the past year. Our organization’s achievements would not be possible without the generous support of our donors and partners, whom we thank for investing in and supporting our work.
We look forward to a promising year for our organization and our government.
President and CEO
Tom A. Bernstein
President and CEO
Tom A. Bernstein
Our federal government represents far more than the politics and policies of the day. It is the central institution of our democracy and the primary vehicle for collective action on our most pressing shared challenges, with the imprimatur of the public and the support of taxpayer resources. Our government keeps us safe, advances our national interests, supports our economy and assists Americans in need. These and other vital services are delivered by the thousands of civil servants who have dedicated themselves to the public good and are carrying out the nation’s policies.
Our federal government—and our civil service in particular—is the backbone of our democracy. However, our government is now reaching a critical moment. Decades of persistent neglect, antiquated systems and, just recently, the longest government shutdown in our history have left much of the federal government unable to meet the demands of today’s interconnected, technology-driven world or prepare for the challenges of tomorrow. In short, we have an outdated government that is not keeping up with the world around it.
2 3 Source: Mercer | Sirota
We are seizing the chance to help build a government of the future and make lasting impact. We are developing current and future federal leaders who can address today’s urgent challenges at home and abroad, and deliver a more effective and innovative government for the American people.
Our nonpartisan, nonprofit stance enables us to pursue practical solutions.
We act as a force for positive change.
We serve as a bridge between administrations, across the political aisle and between government and the private sector.
We are nonpartisan, and our work is evidence-based and rooted in experience.
We have created a robust community of leaders, practitioners and experts within and beyond government.
We help federal leaders take meaningful action.
We have established a reputation as the leading organization on government effectiveness. Federal leaders who participate in our programs report being more effective at their jobs. Agencies and departments that have partnered with us report that their employees are more engaged, which leads to better performance for the public. Our recommendations have informed improvements in government operations such as federal recruitment and hiring, the president’s management agenda and the transfer of power between administrations. Our steady drumbeat on presidential transitions, the political appointments process, and government effectiveness has caught the attention of the national media and the public and resulted in increased focus on these issues.
While modernizing government requires action on many fronts, studies show that effective leaders are the most important factor in any organization’s success. Therefore, we focus on solutions to improve the skills and abilities of career, elected and appointed leaders in the executive and legislative branches. We help these leaders to:
Be ready to govern from the start of an administration or term
Access data to improve decision-making and results
Adopt models and tools to transform their agencies
Work across agencies, branches and sectors to solve big problems
Creating a better government also requires a diverse community of stakeholders—including business, philanthropy and universities—who are committed to these solutions and equipped to act. The Partnership for Public Service is uniquely situated to foster this community and lead this charge.
At the start of each new administration, a president takes the oath of office and instantly assumes responsibility for a 4 million-person organization with an annual budget of nearly $4 trillion. Each new or second term president must deal with a multitude of global emergencies and pressing economic and domestic challenges, while simultaneously filling 4,000 politically appointed positions.
The peaceful transfer of power and knowledge from one president to another is a hallmark of American democracy, but behind the scenes it has traditionally been chaotic, resulting in delays in filling key jobs, policy blunders and management missteps.
New administrations are often unfamiliar with the very institutions they were elected to lead. They typically start slowly and struggle with fully staffing important leadership positions throughout their tenure. Presidents seldom appreciate the strong link between the success of their administrations and the need for capable leaders with management experience. Without key leaders in place, it is difficult for a president to govern effectively.
The Partnership’s Center for Presidential Transition was established in 2016 to provide information, advice, training and advocacy to help ensure smooth transitions, improve the nominations and appointments process, and equip new political leaders for success.
The Partnership delivered leadership training to nearly 550 political appointees and senior career leaders to encourage collaboration and help orient appointees to their new roles. Political appointees from all 15 Cabinet-level agencies participated in one of our forums for political leaders. In preparation for the next presidential election cycle, we released an updated presidential transition guide, which includes a new chapter on planning a second term. We provided new political leaders with other helpful resources, including checklists of recommended actions and best practices for both their first year on the job and their first month.
Many leadership position vacancies and frequent turnover within the current administration impedes government effectiveness and weakens employee morale. The Partnership’s advocacy and outreach drew attention to the high number of vacancies throughout government and continues to do so. Our appointments tracker, which charts the status of more than 700 Senate-confirmed positions, informed extensive media coverage about these risks, including two recent op-eds in The Washington Post and a piece in The New Yorker.
“Thank you for leading an impactful and enjoyable management retreat. The Partnership team was exceptionally prepared and the content was spot on. You did a wonderful job laying the groundwork for our team and getting the needed buy-in for our future success. I’m enthusiastic about the path ahead for CNCS and appreciate your guidance and support.”
The Partnership’s vision is for incoming or incumbent administrations, Congress, career executives, and current and prospective political appointees to work collaboratively to ensure a smooth transfer of power between administrations and a successful start for a new administration or a second presidential term. Our transition work is accelerating as the year progresses, more Democratic hopefuls announce their candidacies, and the Trump administration begins to plan for a possible second term.
Building on our past work highlighting transition best practices and recommending improvements in the transition process, we are developing new guidance specific to second term transitions. We will be updating our presidentialtransition.org site and other resources to share refreshed content on the transition and appointments processes. We are also creating new resources and training that meet the needs of transition teams, incoming and incumbent administrations, senior career leaders, and the many other individuals and organizations with a stake in the transition process. In addition, we are working to improve the federal policies and processes that govern transition-related activities.
Good agency performance information is necessary for federal leaders to manage effectively and for the public to hold them accountable. However, leaders in government often lack access to robust, real-time data about their organizations and the effectiveness of their programs. Because the government’s goal is improved public goods and services rather than better financial returns, measuring and managing for performance is difficult.
The Partnership seeks to provide a broad view of federal leadership and management performance for agency leaders and members of Congress, so leaders can be held accountable for better results for both their agencies and the public. We identify common issues, opportunities and best practices around the collection and use of data across government, and we advocate for reforms to improve the ability of federal leaders to gather and share the information they need to assess their agencies’ performance.
Since 2003, the Partnership has measured federal employee engagement—acknowledged as the single most important factor to an organization’s success. Our Best Places to Work in the Federal Government® rankings offer the most comprehensive assessment of how federal public servants view their jobs and workplaces. The rankings, based on an annual federal survey, provide employee perspectives on leadership, pay, innovation, work-life balance, and a range of other issues. They provide the media, agency leaders and members of Congress and committee staff with data to guide inquiry and a tool for monitoring the health of federal agencies.
The 2018 Best Places to Work rankings received significant media attention, and we shared the findings broadly with agency leaders, and members of Congress and their staff. We also conducted focus groups and completed custom data analysis for federal leaders interested in improving the employee experience and fostering stronger engagement in their agencies.
The Partnership is also developing and sharing performance information to assist federal leaders in improving the customer experience. All federal organizations serve a customer: the American people. In the digital age, citizens have benefitted from customer service improvements in many aspects of their lives, but our government has not kept pace.
To administer their missions effectively, federal leaders should apply a customer-centered approach toward how they design and deliver services. Many customer interactions with government are concentrated in 25 federal programs, that deliver services such as Medicare, Social Security benefits and veterans’ health care. Improving the ability of these programs to meet the needs of the people they serve is essential to transforming the customer experience with government.
The Partnership has built a foundation of customer experience knowledge, released studies and reports to share insights, and regularly convened most of these 25 high-impact service providers as a customer experience community. Our insights guided the administration to make the improvement of service delivery a centerpiece of the president’s management agenda. Data shows that customer satisfaction scores are improving across government and, specifically, among many of the federal programs collaborating with the Partnership.
In 2018, we continued to convene our federal customer experience community and work with most of the high-impact service providers to develop the first-ever comprehensive assessment of the customer experience in eight public-facing federal programs.
“The Partnership has played a significant role in bringing together leaders who are driving innovation in the federal space. Through the Partnership, we are able to share experiences and learn from our successes as well as our challenges.”
The Partnership seeks to encourage and enable leaders to improve their agencies’ performance. Building on the Best Places to Work rankings, we are expanding our analyses to assess other important government performance measures over the next four years. We are starting with the customer experience—where we have established our knowledge and leadership—and will expand to include performance insights for leadership development, innovation, and recruiting and hiring.
The administration has an ambitious Federal Data Strategy that incorporates requirements from the recently passed Foundations for Evidence Based Policymaking Act and the OPEN Data Act of 2018. Building on the foundation laid by the prior administration, the Trump administration is seeking bipartisan and cross-sector help in four key areas: unleashing government data to create greater economic value; establishing ethics, privacy and data protections; facilitating next-level data science, especially workforce capabilities; and taking additional administrative and policy steps to accelerate progress. The White House Office of American Innovation invited the Partnership to help shape and facilitate a roundtable of cross-sector participants to dive deeper into these issues, and we are offering our services to help support implementation.
Beyond these efforts, government also needs program managers with the expertise to understand and apply data to improve decision-making and results. In response, we are developing a new course to train leaders in data analytics.
Government needs to keep up with an ever-changing world, which requires quick and agile responses. While some leaders are adapting, there are few clear models or tools for transformation and, as a result, leaders rarely focus on the right things or make much progress.
The president’s management agenda provides an outline for government transformation efforts. It defines cross-agency priorities that include reshaping the federal workforce, improving citizen services, modernizing federal IT and building a 21st-century data framework to create more efficient and effective government programs. The Partnership is establishing its leadership around each of these priorities and providing support and guidance to leaders as they implement reform plans for their organizations.
The Partnership offers programs, services and performance insights to build stronger, more effective federal leaders in five areas that are essential to high-performing organizations.
Click on an area of focus below for more information.
We delivered an array of successful leadership development programs, including our flagship offerings: Excellence in Government Fellows program, Federal IT Leaders, and Leadership Excellence for Acquisition Professionals. Participants consistently gave our programs top marks and affirmed they are applying what they have learned on the job.
To inspire and inform federal leaders and help improve the quality, scale and impact of our leadership development efforts, we launched a Government Leadership Advisory Council, composed of a diverse set of former CEOs, eminent scholars and former Cabinet secretaries.
The council champions the cause of good government and advised us on the design of a public service leadership model, which will serve to inspire and guide federal leaders. The model will affirm the responsibility to uphold the Constitution and the core values by which leaders should be guided: commitment to the public good and stewardship of public trust and resources. By also outlining competencies and associated behaviors for various leadership levels in government, the model will help orient federal leaders’ professional development and growth.
“The Excellence in Government Fellows program was an incredible experience. It helped me become a more effective leader, capable of driving change in my organization. I am mentoring a new class of EIG fellows this spring, because I want to stay involved as one of the 5,723 program alumni working to change government from within.”
Within this area of the Partnership’s work, our objective is for agency leaders and members of Congress to understand the overall health of federal institutions and focus on the right issues to improve agencies’ performance. Our collaborations with the leadership teams at the departments of Labor and Education and other federal institutions have helped build stronger, more cohesive teams and improved the ability of those organizations to deliver on their missions. Looking ahead, we are offering a full suite of programs, services and performance insights to help federal leaders manage more effectively.
Click on an area of focus below for more information.
For our government to address today’s most critical issues, we need leaders who can engage a diverse workforce, reimagine operations, tackle 21st-century challenges, and foster collaboration. The Partnership strives to be the premier organization for developing government leaders.
We will publish our public service leadership model and advocate for its adoption across government. It can serve as an inspiration and guide for federal leaders on their leadership journey, regardless of their agency, geographic location or role. The model will also help the Partnership provide leadership training that builds the specific skills and abilities leaders need at different stages of their careers.
We will continue to refine our course offerings to align with the model and support the federal workforce. To better meet the needs of government’s highest-level career public servants, we will design a new leadership development course for members of the Senior Executive Service. These senior career executives play a critical role in government change initiatives and typically have the most interaction with political leaders. We are also expanding outreach to our program alumni as we seek to nurture a cohort of leaders who can help improve government from the inside.
Most consequential problems require multi-agency, intergovernmental or cross-sector action, but the federal government is organized in silos, which often hampers collaboration and coordination.
In response, the Partnership has created many communities across government where leaders from different organizations learn from each other and collaborate on shared problems that do not align to agency boundaries. Federal leaders consistently affirm that we are an indispensable resource for providing high-quality, nonpartisan insights into how to improve their operations and workforce management through our constructive recommendations, our connections with outside stakeholders and our relationships throughout the executive and legislative branches.
The nearly two dozen forums we regularly host for federal leaders to discuss shared challenges and solutions are among our most valuable offerings. We offer roundtables on a variety of topics for assistant secretaries for administration and management, deputy secretaries, chief human capital executives, and many others.
In 2018, we assessed ways to help the federal government drive better outcomes for the people of California. The state is home to more than 123,000 federal civilian workers, the largest population of federal employees outside of the Washington, D.C., area. California also boasts an immense and largely untapped potential to use its innovative thinking, technological prowess and mission-oriented talent to improve the capacity of agency leaders and transform how they deliver services to state residents. We identified gaps in cross-sector collaboration and federal talent pipelines as among the most promising areas of opportunity for agency leaders in the state.
“The Partnership’s Assistant Secretaries for Administration and Management Roundtable is a unique and valuable opportunity to connect with and learn from peer government leaders and subject matter experts on a broad range of management and operational issues. I appreciate the candor of my colleagues on what works, and lessons learned. This gathering and exchange of ideas and best practices better prepares me, and all of us involved, to address the key issues of importance for the successful management of my agency and our government.”
The Partnership serves an important role as a hub for learning and conversation between the executive and legislative branches, and among leaders across agencies. We continue to create and deliver high-quality forums. We are also establishing relationships with potential new partners in business, philanthropy and universities. We will convene a group of universities this fall to discuss opportunities for using academic research and insights to help improve government.
We are publishing two reports that assess the consequences of dysfunction in the presidential appointments process and the congressional budget process. The first will focus on the impact of vacancies in politically appointed positions, and the second will examine the lingering effects of the partial government shutdown, six months later. We will also provide information, training and community-building events for agency and congressional staff to improve engagement and dialogue between the branches.
Building on last year’s assessment, we are carrying out our first long-term initiative outside the Washington, D.C., area to strengthen the skills and abilities of federal civil servants in California. Our objectives are to help federal agency leaders work with state and local governments, nonprofits and businesses to improve responses to natural disasters; build a stronger pipeline of talent for federal agencies in California; and improve the ability of federal leaders in California to learn from the state’s innovative technology sector.
Solving our government’s management, operational, performance and talent challenges requires the involvement of people within and outside the federal government and across many sectors. The Partnership seeks to increase awareness of the many outstanding contributions federal employees make and foster a culture of recognition within government. We are bringing our ideas to a broad audience to attract support and create a movement of engaged individuals and organizations.
Many events in 2018—both positive and negative—amplified our message about the importance of an effective federal government.
Best-selling author Michael Lewis’ latest book, “The Fifth Risk,” prominently features the Partnership. It explores the many risks that come with politicizing or underinvesting in our federal institutions and makes a compelling case for why people should care about the state of our government. The book is reaching new audiences with a message we fully support: our federal institutions matter and people who care about the integrity of our government must hold the administration accountable for its performance.
The intense media focus on the administration, Congress and the partial government shutdown helped generate significant coverage of our issues, with more than 600 media mentions and five Partnership op-eds in 2018. In our advocacy and outreach efforts, we continued to hold the administration accountable for managing government effectively, and Congress for overseeing the executive branch responsibly. Our work has been featured in major news outlets from The Atlantic to The Wall Street Journal. We also launched the Partnership’s blog, “We the Partnership,” to share thought-provoking insights about federal government management issues and our organization.
The partial government shutdown that began in December and extended into the new year left 800,000 federal employees furloughed without a paycheck and halted or delayed many crucial federal services. Throughout the 35-day shutdown, we shared stories about our hardworking federal workforce and the services they provide. Three Partnership op-eds about the harmful impact of the shutdown were published in major news outlets. Once the government reopened, we provided advice and information to help federal leaders resume normal operations and restore employee morale, and we renewed our call to reform the annual federal budgeting process to help end these costly and harmful government shutdowns.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg reflected on why our government matters at a reception for best-selling author Michael Lewis in November.
Over the past 17 years, the Partnership has celebrated the achievements of more than 500 exceptional civil servants through our annual Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals, also known as the Sammies. In 2018, we recognized seven outstanding award winners from among 27 finalists and more than 300 nominees. Their accomplishments included identifying a new class of rare genetic diseases and finding treatments to alleviate the suffering of thousands of patients; bringing justice for hundreds of thousands of people defrauded by money-transfer scams who now have a way to recoup their financial losses; designing a traffic-management system for the large-scale use of aerial drones; and providing electricity to more than 50 million people in sub-Saharan Africa while also creating export opportunities for U.S. companies.
We presented the first-ever Spirit of Service award to Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos at the Sammies award ceremony. The award recognizes individuals outside of government who have made significant contributions to public service. Bezos’ participation brought additional media and public attention to the Sammies and the award winners, and to the importance of celebrating the contributions of our outstanding federal civil servants. The 2018 Sammies generated more than 57 million media impressions. We broadcast the award ceremony live on Facebook, and #Sammies2018 was the number one trending topic on Twitter in the U.S. throughout the night.
2018 Service to America Medals winners with Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos at the gala.
The Partnership’s goal is for our federal government to be viewed as worthy of attention and investment. To work toward that goal, we strive to be a reliable and trustworthy resource for the media and the public on government effectiveness. We are increasing awareness of the Sammies and the extraordinary contributions of our federal employees among the administration’s new leaders, within federal agencies and the larger Washington, D.C., community, and throughout the country. At this year’s Sammies, we will recognize Mayor Michael Bloomberg as our second annual Spirit of Service award recipient, as a leader outside the federal workforce who has made significant contributions to public service. We are also writing a book that will present the Partnership’s approach to improving government and serve as a guide for future administrations.
At no time in the Partnership’s history has there been such a significant focus by the media, the philanthropic community and the public on our government—how it is run, and the need to strengthen it. We invite you to join with us to work for a better government.
We gratefully acknowledge the generous support of the following corporations, foundations and individuals who sustain our work to transform government.
Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of contributions received from January 1 through December 31, 2018. Kindly inform the development office at (202) 464-5387 of any oversights or inaccuracies.
The support of these individuals and companies that provided the Partnership with pro bono or volunteer services has helped make the Partnership’s work possible. We gratefully acknowledge their generous support.
(As of June 3, 2019)
Tom A. Bernstein
Chairman, Partnership for Public Service
President, Chelsea Piers Management, Inc.
Douglas R. Conant
Founder and CEO, ConantLeadership
Former CEO and President, Campbell Soup Company
The Honorable Tom Davis
Partner, Holland & Knight
Joel L. Fleishman
Professor of Law and Director, Heyman Center for Ethics, Public Policy, and the Professions, Duke University
Partner, McKinsey & Company
W. Scott Gould
CEO, Mountain Lakes Associates, LLC
Lloyd W. Howell, Jr.
Chief Financial Officer, Booz Allen Hamilton
David J. Kappos
Partner, Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP
Robert A. McDonald
Former Secretary, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Retired Chairman, President and CEO, The Procter & Gamble Company
Vice Chairman, Morgan Stanley
University Professor and Howard G. and S. Louise Phanstiel Chair in Strategic Management and Leadership, Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University
Managing Director, Goldman Sachs
The Honorable Steven C. Preston
President and CEO, Goodwill Industries International, Inc.
Political Commentator, ABC News
Senior News Analyst, NPR News
President and CEO, Partnership for Public Service
Chief Financial Officer, The Emerson Collective
George W. Wellde, Jr.
Former Vice Chairman, Securities Division, Goldman Sachs & Company
Neal S. Wolin
CEO, Brunswick Group