Partnership for Public Service Annual Report 2019

The COVID-19 pandemic leaves no doubt: Government matters. 

And good government—with skilled public servants and competent leaders—is essential to the health, safety and economic well-being of every person living in the United States. 

Unfortunately, as a nation, we have for years tolerated, ignored or encouraged a culture that has eroded federal institutions. We have starved federal entities of resources, diminished their importance and criticized failures without investing in the success of the government, its employees and its leaders. We are now paying a steep price in lives and economic loss. 

The stakes are even higher because of the upcoming presidential election. In a matter of months, a new president may take office and immediately will confront an enormous health care and economic crisis in addition to the normal obligations of running the largest enterprise in the world. A second term for the current administration also will present a challenging transition: Many politically appointed positions will likely turn over in a second term, adding to an already high number of vacancies at a time when leadership is crucial. Whoever wins in November will need to strengthen our federal institutions while simultaneously safeguarding public health, rebuilding the economy, dealing with the nation’s racial divide and helping the country overcome great personal loss

Today’s stark realities demand that we reform our government to meet the challenges of the moment and those to come. We must also address the systemic racism, violence and inequality that has long plagued our country. This is not about big government versus small government, but about an effective government. At the Partnership, we see a path forward for our government and our nation despite the current troubles and uncertainty. For 19 years, we have promoted service to our country, advocated for critically needed system reforms, and supported federal leaders and institutions as they responded to the challenges of our time.

We are redoubling our efforts to build consensus on the need for reform and are developing a comprehensive plan and recommendations for transforming government. We see an extraordinary opportunity to enhance the capabilities of politically appointed and career government leaders, recruit the next generation to serve, and apply the innovative practices federal leaders have adopted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

At the same time, we are committed to helping federal leaders in this current moment. We are offering opportunities for them to convene and collaborate on shared problems through virtual platforms. We are providing our transition expertise to the current administration and the transition team of Democratic nominee Joe Biden as the nation looks ahead to the 2020 presidential election. We are delivering new leadership training and other resources for federal leaders, tailored to their immediate needs. And we continue to spotlight the vital work federal employees perform.

In this annual report, we share the Partnership’s strategies for strengthening our government and highlight our accomplishments during the past year. Although our plans are ambitious, we are not immune to the financial impact of this crisis, which is adversely affecting nonprofits across the country. We are grateful that members of our board and other longtime supporters are committing additional resources to help us weather the very challenging days ahead. Our impact would not be possible without the generous support of our donors and partners, whom we thank for supporting our work. 

Together, we can restore our government. What we need is the will and the action. Join with us. 

Max Stier
President and CEO

Tom A. Bernstein

Government is our best tool for solving big problems

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—one that has the imprimatur of the public and the support of taxpayer resources. At a time when our nation is facing the combined threats of the worst health emergency since the 1918 influenza pandemic and a severe economic crisis, government has a responsibility to keep us safe, advance our national interests, support our economy and assist the people of our nation. Government must also play a role in addressing our nation’s history of systemic racism. These duties and a host of other vital services are delivered by the 2 million federal civil servants who have dedicated themselves to the public good.

Our government is in crisis

Our federal government—and our civil service in particular—is the backbone of our democracy. However, decades of persistent neglect along with antiquated technology and outdated processes have left many agencies unprepared to meet the demands of today’s interconnected, technology-driven world or prepare for the challenges we face today and will face in the future. In short, we have an outdated government that is not keeping up with the world around it, and this in many regards has become all too apparent during the COVID-19 crisis.

$4.7 trillion

Federal budget for 2020

$3.7 trillion

Projected 2020 budget deficit

2 million

Federal civilian employees


Agencies responding to the COVID-19 pandemic

$3 trillion and growing

Economic relief and stimulus approved by Congress in response to the COVID-19 pandemic


Days on average for the federal government to hire an employee


Days on average for the Senate to confirm a presidential appointment under President Donald Trump compared with 56 days under President Ronald Reagan

The Partnership’s mission has never been more urgent

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 people of our nation.

Our approach

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.

Our track record

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, contributed ideas for the president’s management agenda, and provided guidance to candidates on organizing presidential transition teams and preparing to govern. 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.


Laws and resolutions passed to make government more effective


Federal leaders and managers trained through our leadership development programs


Exceptional career civil servants recognized through the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals

Our solutions for a better government

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:

1. Be ready to govern from the start of an administration or term.
2. Adopt models, tools and data to transform their agencies.
3. 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 academia—who are committed to these solutions and equipped to act. The Partnership is uniquely situated to engage these stakeholders and lead this charge.

Helping Leaders Be Ready to Govern

Our work on presidential transitions has taken on new urgency. The upcoming presidential election offers the possibilities of a transition from a first to a second term for President Donald Trump or to a new presidency. This election will take place during a time of unparalleled risk and uncertainty for our country, and it may be the first time that a transition will be planned virtually. The need for early planning and continuity between administrations or between a first and a second term has never been greater.

When done right, a presidential transition is more than just a transfer of power and knowledge from one president to another or a continuation from a first to a second term. An efficient presidential transition is vital to our democracy and a critical moment that will set the course for the next four years. 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 appointments process and equip new political leaders for success.

Our objective for the 2020 election cycle is to convene, inform and engage members of the current administration and Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s campaign throughout the transition planning process, and to prepare potential and new political appointees to serve as responsible stewards of our federal institutions.

2019 Results

2020 presidential transition cycle. We convened former career agency transition directors who served during the 2016 transition to discuss lessons learned and what agencies will need in 2020. We briefed federal leaders responsible for preparing agencies for the transition and discussed opportunities to collaborate. We advocated for the successful passage in 2020 of the Presidential Transition Enhancement Act, which includes important improvements to the presidential transition process. 

We reintroduced the Center at an event with current and former transition leaders, and heard from Josh Bolten and Denis McDonough, chiefs of staff for Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, about the critical importance of transition planning. We strengthened the Center’s reputation as the central clearinghouse for transition-related information and resources by engaging a growing network of experts, including a bipartisan advisory board composed of experienced transition planning leaders from former Republican and Democratic administrations. We also established a bipartisan community of Center fellows: experienced alumni of past transitions who are subject matter experts and advocates for effective transition planning.

We launched a new podcast series, “Transition Lab,” featuring candid discussions with former presidential chiefs of staff, transition team leads and other presidential transition experts. Our first two episodes featured Ed Meier and Rich Bagger—who directed transition planning in 2016 for the Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump campaigns, respectively—and Chris Lu, head of Barack Obama’s 2008 transition. 

Our appointments tracker, launched in collaboration with The Washington Post during the 2016 presidential transition cycle, continues to draw attention to the high number of vacancies throughout government by charting the status of more than 700 Senate-confirmed positions. In October 2019, we released an analysis demonstrating that in the past three presidential administrations, an average of 43% of government’s most senior appointees departed following a president’s reelection, highlighting the need for second-term transition planning.

2020 Plans

Our Ready to Govern® curriculum prepares new appointees for the responsibilities of leading in government. This year, we are developing a new curriculum for individuals who want to explore serving in a politically appointed position but have not yet been vetted, nominated or confirmed. This new Ready to Serve coursework will include events, executive roundtables and training modules to help participants understand and navigate the presidential appointments and vetting processes. With many federal leaders and our own staff now working remotely, we are delivering training virtually instead of in person. 

On April 30 – May 1, 2020, we held our fourth Presidential Transition and Management Conference, which was attended remotely by representatives of the current administration and Democratic nominee Joe Biden. The sessions included experts on transition planning as well as federal career executives whose agencies are charged with providing resources to transition teams and supporting the process. 

We updated our online platform,, with new resources and a new edition of our Presidential Transition Guide, which includes new information on second-term transition planning. The guide currently serves as the only comprehensive manual for presidential transitions, with more than 11,000 copies distributed since its first edition in January 2016. We also released a new edition of our Agency Transition Guide, which provides guidance for agency leaders responsible for their departments’ transition preparations. 

Our “Transition Lab” podcast continues to grow in popularity. One recent episode featured Michael Lewis, the author of “The Fifth Risk,” who reminded us of the critical role federal employees play in managing the coronavirus crisis and offered his advice to presidential transition teams. Another episode featured filmmaker Ken Burns and historian Geoffrey Ward, who shared stories about the biggest crises in our nation’s history and how our past informs the present. The Burns episode is our most frequently downloaded podcast to date, representing nearly a quarter of all downloaded episodes.  

In the coming months, we will continue to provide data and thought leadership about the presidential transition process. In January 2020, we released a study showing that Senate confirmation of presidential appointees is taking longer than ever and offering recommendations to improve the process. We added to our growing body of thought leadership about the importance of second-term transition planning by publishing a report in April 2020 illustrating the ways in which good transition planning in the first year of a new administration and year five of a second term leads to better policy outcomes. 

“Those seeking the highest office in the land have an obligation and a duty to prepare to govern, both for their own effectiveness and, more importantly, for the good of the nation.”

Center for Presidential Transition advisory board
Center for Presidential Transition Advisory Board

Our advisory board members—Democrats and Republicans—have been involved in planning, executing and closely observing presidential transitions. They volunteer their expertise to support early and effective transition planning for new and second-term administrations.

Josh BoltenFormer Chief of Staff to President George W. Bush
Michael LeavittFormer Governor of Utah
Former Chairman of the Romney Readiness Project
Thomas “Mack” McLartyFormer Chief of Staff to President Bill Clinton
Penny PritzkerFormer Secretary of the Department of Commerce

The Partnership’s “Transition Lab” podcast gives a behind-the-scenes look at presidential transitions through candid discussions with former presidential chiefs of staff, transition team leads and other experts. 

Recent episodes feature Michael Lewis, author of “The Fifth Risk,” who outlined the importance of effective government management, both in times of crisis and otherwise. 

In the most frequently downloaded episode to date, filmmaker Ken Burns and historian Geoffrey Ward—who have captured American history by collaborating on documentaries such as “The Civil War” and “The Roosevelts”—shared stories about the biggest crises in our nation’s history and how our past informs the present. 

Anita McBride, Laura Bush’s chief of staff, shared insights on the evolution of the first lady’s role throughout history and the unique challenges first ladies face. James Baker—“the man who ran Washington” in four presidential administrations—discussed his long and distinguished career on the national stage. 

Listen and subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or Stitcher. A complete list of episodes is also available at

Equipping Leaders with Data, Models and Tools to Transform Their Agencies

The COVID-19 pandemic starkly illustrates some of the weaknesses that have existed in our government for decades, from poor cross-agency communication and coordination, to antiquated technology and infrastructure, to a lack of sufficient leadership preparation. The next president and his leadership team should focus on six areas that are essential to high-performing organizations. The Partnership offers an array of programs, services and performance insights in these areas to help federal leaders succeed.

Click on an area of focus below for more information.
Leadership Development
Leadership Development

2019 Results

In 2019, we provided training to more than 6,600 federal leaders from more than 50 offices across government through our leadership development programs, including the Excellence in Government Fellows program, Federal IT Leaders and Leadership Excellence for Acquisition Professionals.

Recognizing that leadership in the public sector differs from leadership in other sectors in important ways, in 2019 we released and began promoting a first-of-its-kind leadership model for the government. The Public Service Leadership Model affirms the core values by which federal leaders should be guided: stewardship of public trust and commitment to the public good. It defines the competencies and associated behaviors for various leadership levels in government and can serve as a tool for federal employees to evaluate their performance and chart a course for self-improvement. Members of our Government Leadership Advisory Council—composed of a diverse set of former CEOs, eminent scholars and former Cabinet secretaries—contributed significantly to the model’s development. The model now serves as the framework for the Partnership’s leadership program offerings: Each of our courses is designed to improve federal leaders’ ability to demonstrate the competencies and behaviors expected at each stage of their leadership journey.

We deepened our engagement with several large agencies in 2019, including the departments of Homeland Security, Transportation and Veterans Affairs. The VA, for example, enrolled 60 senior leaders in our Excellence in Government Fellows program, one of the largest groups ever from a single agency, and we also advised the agency on its leadership development framework. Working closely with an agency enables us to provide customized leadership development programs tailored directly to the needs of its workforce. 

The Partnership developed the Public Service Leadership Model as a guide for federal leaders, no matter their agency, geographic location or role. The model illustrates the relationship between government core values—stewardship of the public trust and commitment to the public good—and leadership competencies, both of which are imperative for effective government leadership.

2020 Plans

The Partnership’s leadership development programs have typically been delivered in person and vary in length from half-day sessions to more immersive training spread over several months. When many federal workers and our own staff began working remotely in mid-March, we pivoted quickly to deliver our programs virtually through interactive webinars or video conferences that have been supplemented with toolkits, checklists and other virtual resources. Enrollment in these new virtual programs has remained strong, and we are receiving positive feedback from participants. We are also designing new training initiatives to meet federal leaders’ immediate needs, such as learning crisis management skills, effectively managing remote teams or understanding how to use specific hiring authorities to quickly hire mission-critical talent.

In May 2020, we published an article in Harvard Business Review that makes the case for assessing the performance of federal leaders using the Public Service Leadership Model. The article was co-authored by Partnership board members Doug Conant and Bob McDonald—co-chairs of our Government Leadership Advisory Council—and Andrew Marshall, the Partnership’s director for leadership development. As a complement to the model, we developed a proprietary 360 assessment tool to measure individuals’ performance against the leadership competencies outlined in the model. Unlike existing 360 tools used in the federal government, our assessment is tailored to the unique skills required of leaders in the public sector. We are piloting the assessment with hundreds of Excellence in Government Fellows this year.

Customer Experience
Customer Experience

2019 Results

In 2019, we continued to convene our federal customer experience community and worked with high-impact service providers for a report on the customer experience in eight federal programs that have the most significant interactions with the public—the first-ever, in-depth report of its kind. We released the report, “Government for the People,” at our annual customer experience summit. The report helps measure the customer experience, serves as an early warning sign for agency leaders and members of Congress of trouble, and helps pinpoint areas that need to be improved. It includes agency data, social media sentiment analysis, plain language analysis of government websites and our review of agency practices.nd our review of agency practices.

In 2019 we expanded our customer experience work to new topics, partners and delivery methods. We launched new work to improve the ways in which government’s own mission-support services—such as contracting, financial management, information technology, human resources and other support services—serve federal employees, by hosting a workshop and publishing a report on the topic. We also designed and piloted a new training program for mission-support service leaders at Transportation Security Administration on improving the customer experience. We used the feedback from participants to help refine the course, which we will offer in 2020. 

“The Partnership is an invaluable partner and resource for the VA and government, particularly in our customer experience work. It brings together CX leaders and trailblazers from across government to share and learn new ideas we can apply and provides a rich forum to highlight achievements in this space and identify effective practices that other agencies can replicate. The Partnership is a key collaborator to help us drive customer experience as a core business discipline in government now and in the future.”

Barbara Morton
deputy chief veterans experience officer, Department of Veterans Affairs

2020 Plans

The COVID-19 pandemic has required nearly all organizations, including the federal government, to drastically rethink how they deliver services. The pandemic shuttered federal field offices, disrupted contact center operations, overwhelmed some online systems serving the public and moved most federal employees to full-time telework. Federal agencies need to find innovative new ways to interact with their customers and provide good customer service in this new world. And while trust in government currently remains near an all-time low, providing better experiences for customers who interact with government can help rebuild that trust. 

In 2020, we are tailoring our thought leadership, and the programs and services we offer federal leaders, to reflect this new reality. This year’s edition of our “Government for the People” report will examine how government shifted services to meet customer needs during the COVID-19 pandemic and identify innovations spurred by the crisis that have the potential to continue. We are also adding three new federal programs to the report and will provide more data and deeper analysis about the programs we profile. We are beginning to add benchmark data to the study as a step toward our longer-term objective to rate agency services on key customer experience components.


2019 Results

The federal government is one of the most prolific innovators in modern history—sending astronauts to the moon, initiating the human genome project and helping launch the internet. What unites these seemingly disparate accomplishments is a definition of government innovation that is focused on impact: a new or improved process, product or service that delivers significant positive outcomes in furtherance of the public good.

In 2019, the Partnership focused on developing and growing a community of innovative federal leaders and helping agencies deliver services and solve problems more effectively through the understanding and application of innovative practices. 

On November 1, we hosted our first annual summit for more than 100 federal innovation practitioners. During the event, we released a report that highlighted federal innovation best practices, including common characteristics found in innovative organizations, and profiled five successful federal innovations. Developing the report helped us build relationships with agency leaders and innovation teams across government. It was also the crucial first step toward our goal of building an innovation framework to enable organizations to assess and measure their strengths and weaknesses and improve their innovation capacity. 

Our Federal Innovation Council—composed of agency chief innovation officers, data and technology officers, and leaders of innovation labs—also led work to address four barriers to government innovation: overly complex procurement, heavy handed compliance and oversight, absence of incentives and resources for taking initiatives to scale, and problems hiring and retaining innovative talent. In parallel, we delivered our first-ever innovation training program for federal leaders. This six-day program, coined Gov21, convened rising federal leaders to foster new networks and learn about human-centered design and other innovative techniques.  

2020 Plans

Federal agencies and their employees must innovate to keep up with a changing world and to better serve the public, and many are doing so. The Department of Veterans Affairs, for example, created an interconnected, hospital-based 3D printing network that is helping doctors improve surgical outcomes and medical care. In response to the COVID-19 crisis, this 3D printing network was used to design face masks, shields and other protective facial gear, much of it approved for clinical use. We are working with our Federal Innovation Council to identify other innovations taking place in response to the current crisis, so that the best ideas are sustained and shared across government.  

In 2020 and beyond, our goal is to expand the community of federal innovation practitioners and develop and disseminate new resources to guide federal leaders in the use and application of innovation tools, methodologies and practices. We will expand the Partnership’s engagement with federal innovators by collaborating with the Federal Innovators Network—a community of hundreds of current and former federal innovation practitioners—and we will reconvene federal innovation leaders at our second annual innovation summit in late 2020. 

Through Gov21, we will train more federal employees in innovation tools, practices and methods, and design and deliver other targeted programs and activities to address the barriers to innovation identified by the Federal Innovation Council. We will also continue to develop our innovation framework as a tool to help federal agencies assess the environment for innovation within their organizations.


2019 Results

New technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain and edge computing have the potential to transform how government achieves its mission. Government needs leaders and managers with the technical expertise to lead innovation initiatives and deploy new technologies as well as replace legacy computer systems. Some of government’s challenges in responding quickly and effectively to the COVID-19 pandemic are due to outdated technology.

The Partnership sees great potential in assisting federal leaders in this arena. During the past three years, we have started to build a foundation of knowledge about new technologies, released studies and reports to share insights, and convened federal leaders to discuss the possibilities and implications for the federal workforce. We seek to help federal leaders embrace technological change, understand emerging technologies, and recruit and hire top technology talent. 

We have a growing network of partners with whom we collaborate to identify our government’s strategic technology challenges, navigate complicated internal hurdles to implementing new technologies, and evaluate anticipated talent needs. For example, we piloted a leadership development program for members of the Senior Executive Service focused on the transformational opportunities presented by AI. Providing training for this group of government’s most senior career leaders has a compounding effect: the cohort collectively supervises more than 600,000 federal employees and oversees more than $1 trillion in federal spending. We see this as a pilot project that could lead to a new community of senior leaders who can deploy new technologies to transform agency operations.

“I really appreciated being a part of the AI Federal Leadership Cohort sponsored by the Partnership and Microsoft.  I learned a lot from the exposure to the topic and loved the insight I gained from experts and other federal executive colleagues about the relevant issues involved in developing AI projects and products.  I am grateful for the investment made to convene us and ignite conversations about possibilities.”

Mark Washington
deputy assistant secretary for management and planning, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, Department of Education

2020 Plans

The COVID-19 pandemic has illuminated the technology challenges government faces at a time when technology is vital for communicating with the public and enabling federal employees to collaborate across the federal enterprise and work well remotely.

In 2020, we are expanding our technology programs and services to help federal leaders. We are building our internal capacity, launching a new initiative on artificial intelligence and the use of data in technology, and developing a long-term organizational strategy for addressing government’s technology needs. 

We are also continuing to publish thought leadership to help government address its technology issues. Earlier this year, we released reports on three technology issues: the top technology and innovation leadership positions in government; the use of emerging technologies to improve service to the public; and the use of artificial intelligence to improve California’s response to natural disasters. We will issue a report later this year about how federal, state and local governments are using technology to govern remotely, serve customers and research treatments or cures for COVID-19.

Employee Engagement
Employee Engagement

2019 Results

In December 2019, we released the 14th annual Best Places to Work in the Federal Government® rankings, which capture employees’ views and attitudes about their respective agencies. The rankings showed a federal employee engagement score of 61.7 out of 100, a 0.5-point drop compared with 2018. This year’s engagement score dropped modestly despite a tumultuous time for our nation’s public servants—a time when about 800,000 of the 2 million federal employees were affected by a lengthy government shutdown, when there were a number of critical leadership vacancies across the government, and as many agencies had to deal with a variety of political headwinds. The rankings received extensive coverage by Politico and The Washington Post, and we shared the findings broadly with agency leaders and members of Congress and their staffs.

Employee engagement is a critical component of agency health and performance, and we encourage federal leaders to strive toward creating workplace conditions that meet or exceed the private sector engagement score of 77.0 out of 100. Only 11 of the government’s 70 large, midsize or small agencies in the Best Places to Work rankings scored above the private sector average in 2019, including NASA, the Federal Trade Commission and the Peace Corps. We delivered training to teams at seven agencies to help federal leaders improve employee engagement.

Government comparison with the private sector

The 2019 federal government-wide Best Places to Work employee engagement score is 61.7 points out of 100. In contrast, the private sector employee engagement score is 77.0 out of 100, 15.3 points higher, according to data provided by employee research firm Mercer | Sirota. Big gaps exist on resources, merit-based awards and performance management.

The best private sector organizations understand that improved employee engagement leads to better performance and improved outcomes. Our government should aspire to meet the private sector standard by focusing on supporting the federal workforce and improving the workplace culture.

2020 Plans

For many supervisors and leaders across government, the shift to remote work represents a new way of doing business that poses many challenges, including how to keep employees engaged when they are physically isolated. The Partnership is providing resources for agency leaders and supervisors to support their employees and keep agencies performing well in a remote working environment.

Once we are through the immediate crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic, there will likely be a call for Congress to assess federal agencies’ performance. As has been the case for more than a decade, our Best Places to Work rankings remain an invaluable tool for members of Congress and the public to measure agencies’ performance. 

The annual Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, on which our rankings are based, will be administered in September this year and we will release our Best Places to Work rankings in 2021.   

We stand ready to work with agencies to improve their management, operations and employee engagement. In the coming months, we will work with several federal agencies to help them better understand and respond to their employees’ feedback by conducting working sessions that include data analysis, action planning and leadership development. 

Federal Recruiting and Hiring
Federal Recruiting and Hiring

2019 Results

Roughly 6% of the federal workforce is under the age of 30 compared with nearly 24% of the total U.S. labor force. We have helped federal leaders address this talent deficit and other obstacles to recruiting and hiring top-flight talent by drawing on our nearly two decades of experience promoting public service careers and improving federal hiring processes and practices. In 2019, we focused on federal internship and fellowship programs, which represent powerful ways to expose individuals to public service and fill critical talent gaps.  

In support of the Partnership’s West Coast expansion, we published a report on federal hiring in California that identifies the top talent needs among federal agencies there and addresses the barriers agencies face in recruiting top talent from California’s robust and highly competitive job market. We collaborated with federal agencies in the state on a plan to recruit and hire engineering talent, which our report identified as one of the top talent gaps.

This past year, we began managing the Harold W. Rosenthal Fellowship, a long-standing and prestigious summer internship program that places graduate level students into national security or international affairs internships in government. In 2019, we selected and placed 26 Rosenthal fellows with eight federal agencies, one U.S. embassy and three congressional offices.

In partnership with several companies and federal agencies, we also piloted a unique program—the Cybersecurity Talent Initiative—to recruit and place undergraduate and graduate level graduates from across the country into a program that will provide participants with a federal government cyber position for two years followed by the opportunity to receive priority consideration for private sector positions with our corporate partners.

Finally, we successfully championed legislation to improve federal recruiting and hiring. Working with the staffs of Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.), we advocated for a measure authorizing federal agencies to expedite the hiring of college graduates and post-secondary students.

2020 Plans

The federal government has an urgent need to bring in new talent with specific technical or subject matter expertise to help respond to the COVID-19 pandemic but has been stymied by cumbersome hiring practices. We will offer our services to help federal leaders understand and use novel hiring authorities to more quickly secure the talent they need.  

We will continue helping federal leaders design and execute effective recruiting and hiring strategies. We will issue a report of best practices in federal recruiting and hiring, including recommendations for building a healthy talent pipeline. We also are studying how, at the start of a new administration or a second term, federal leaders can overcome challenges caused by years of talent attrition. We will issue a white paper this fall that includes case studies of federal agencies that have successfully used federal hiring authorities to rebuild their talent pipelines, and recommendations for rapidly filling talent gaps. To address the engineering talent gaps identified in our 2019 report on California’s federal hiring needs, we held a hiring fair for engineering talent in February 2020. Students from nearly 20 California colleges and universities attended and had the opportunity to talk with representatives from 14 federal agencies located in California.

We also will continue to build our expertise in designing and managing federal internship and fellowship programs. More specifically, we will pilot our own federal internship effort by placing an initial cohort of interns from George Washington University in summer internships in government. In addition, the inaugural group of participants in the Cybersecurity Talent Initiative will begin virtual onboarding activities this summer and will start their fellowships with federal agencies in the fall.

Creating Critical Connections

Most consequential problems for our government require multi-agency, intergovernmental or cross-sector action, but the federal government is organized in silos that often hamper collaboration and coordination. 

The Partnership has created many communities across government where leaders from different organizations can learn from one another and collaborate on shared problems. We offer roundtable discussions on a variety of topics for assistant secretaries for administration and management, deputy secretaries, chief human capital executives, general counsels and other executives who have significant management responsibilities for their agencies.

Federal leaders consistently affirm that we are an indispensable resource for providing high-quality, nonpartisan insights into how to improve government operations and workforce management—through our constructive recommendations, our connections with outside stakeholders and our relationships throughout the executive and legislative branches.  

In the absence of clear and consistent guidance from central government agencies during the COVID-19 pandemic, the communities we host have become more important than ever. Our forum for general counsels, for example, has evolved from a monthly to a weekly event, and from 60 attendees to more than 230, as its participants seek to learn what is needed and what is working among their agencies and across government.

Members of the Strategic Advisors to Government Executives network, which comprises more than 120 former political and career executives who continue their commitment to public service by supporting current government leaders.

2019 Results

Political appointees from all 15 Cabinet-level agencies participated in at least one of our forums for political leaders in 2019. 

In California—the state with the largest number of federal employees outside of the Washington, D.C., region—we convened more than 30 federal, state and local government officials to address disaster preparedness as well as response and recovery strategies. Participants credit the training with helping them break down barriers and improve communication across different levels of government, which has the potential to improve the delivery of disaster relief services to California residents. 

We also worked to help Congress become a better steward of federal agencies. Congress has established the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress to carry out activities to improve the institution. The Partnership is providing our expertise to the committee, including about providing better oversight of the executive branch. We also designed and promoted an oversight scorecard for congressional staff to evaluate the health of federal agencies by using Best Places to Work agency rankings and other data. 

2020 Plans

The current health and economic crises have shown the power of our ability to convene top leaders and our reputation as a trusted, neutral space for discussing governmental challenges. We will continue to offer events for various professional communities so federal leaders can come together to discuss and address shared concerns. Our objective is to ensure that representatives from all Cabinet-level agencies participate in our forums regularly and that when they leave government service, they recommend their successors also attend.  

In April, we published an issue brief about our federal, state and local government collaboration initiative in California, including recommendations for how this project could be replicated in other regions or on other topics. We are also exploring the potential for building and launching a new entity, organization or network to advocate for and help build capacity in Congress and encourage public support for the legislative branch.

“Many thanks to the Partnership for Public Service for facilitating this useful and practical forum for agency GCs to exchange experience, ideas, and information during this most extraordinary time.”

Gretchen Jacobs
general counsel, US Access Board

Raising the Importance of Government and Our Ideas

Witnessing our government’s difficulty coordinating an effective response to the pandemic is a wake-up call for the urgent need to repair and rebuild our federal institutions. As a nation, we must persevere through this current health and economic crisis, and we must address our government’s shortcomings so it will be better prepared for the future.

We aspire to bring our ideas to a broad audience, attract support and create a movement of engaged individuals and organizations. We also seek to increase awareness of the many outstanding contributions federal employees make and foster a culture of recognition within government.

2019 Results

In 2019, the Partnership seized opportunities to amplify its message about the importance of an effective federal government.  Over the course of the year, we got than 700 media hits, published six op-eds, and were featured in news outlets from The Atlantic magazine to The Wall Street Journal. Our 2019 Sammies finalists and honorees were highlighted in a piece on TBS’ “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee” and a live broadcast on CNN’s “Newsroom.” 

The intense media focus on the partial government shutdown that began in December 2018 and extended into January 2019 helped generate significant coverage about the government and its important functions, with more than 600 media mentions. Three Partnership op-eds covering the shutdown were published in major news outlets. And during that time, in addition to our traditional media efforts, we used our numerous social media platforms to showcase the work of our nation’s federal employees. This promotion included the Partnership’s #IStandWithFeds social media campaign, which generated more than 290,000 social media impressions, attracted 114 new social media followers and increased engagement by 520%.

Even after the government reopened, the Partnership continued to communicate the potential harmful lasting effects of the shutdown on government operations and employee morale and, in September 2019, we published a report that outlined the lingering effects six months after the shutdown. The potential for a reoccurrence remains, and we are advocating for changes in the annual federal budgeting process to avoid future painful and costly government shutdowns.

Best-selling author Michael Lewis’ 2018 book, “The Fifth Risk,” continues to amplify our message about the importance of government effectiveness. The book prominently features the Partnership and now seems starkly prescient: It vividly outlines the serious management risks that come with politicizing or under-investing in our federal institutions. In December 2019, Lewis included a new chapter in the book’s paperback edition featuring 2019 Sammies finalist Arthur Allen, a now-retired Coast Guard oceanographer who pioneered and perfected a modeling program that predicts where people lost at sea will be found. 

In June 2019, Partnership President and CEO Max Stier participated in a panel discussion at the influential Aspen Ideas Festival with two former Cabinet secretaries, Janet Napolitano and Penny Pritzker, on the topic of renewing the call to public service. 

2019 Sammies winners, from left to right: National Security and International Affairs award winner Ryan Shelby, Ph.D.; Science and Environment award winner Dr. Daniel B. Jernigan; Paul A. Volcker Career Achievement award winner Dr. Ann McKee; Federal Employee of the Year award winner Victoria (Vicki) Brahm; Management Excellence and People’s Choice awards winner Robert (Bob) Cabana; and Safety and Law Enforcement award winner Jamie Rhome pose for a group photo with their awards at the Partnership for Public Service’s 18th annual Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals gala in Washington, D.C.

Recognizing Good Work 

During the past 19 years, the Partnership has celebrated the achievements of more than 550 exceptional civil servants through our annual Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals®, also known as the Sammies. The 2019 Sammies was hosted by NBC news commentator Andrea Mitchell.  The event recognized six outstanding award winners from among 26 finalists and more than 300 nominees. Some of their accomplishments included restoring the quality and safety of a broken veterans’ health care center that had become notorious for unsafe medical practices, excessive opioid use and a toxic work environment; revolutionizing scientific research and our understanding of the long-term effects of concussions, including chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE; and providing training and resources to help people in Haiti rebuild thousands of homes and roofs ripped apart by a Category 4 hurricane in 2016, making the structures safer and stronger to withstand future disasters.

We also presented the second annual Spirit of Service award to Michael Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg LP & Bloomberg Philanthropies, and 108th mayor of the City of New York. The award recognizes individuals outside of government who have made significant contributions to public service. Bloomberg’s 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. We broadcast the award ceremony live on Facebook, and, throughout the night, #Sammies2019 was among the top four trending topics on Twitter in the U.S.. We also recorded interviews with several of the 2019 Sammies finalists on the popular StoryCorps mobile tour and shared their inspiring stories on social media.

2020 Plans

Lasting change can only come about when there is the will and action. The Partnership strives to educate the public and partners—corporations, foundations, nonprofits, universities, state and local governments—about the importance of an effective federal government and the outstanding contributions made by our nation’s civil servants. 

We are increasing awareness of the Sammies and the extraordinary work of federal employees among the administration’s leaders, within federal agencies and the larger Washington, D.C., community and throughout the country. On May 3, to kick off Public Service Recognition Week, we announced the 27 Sammies finalists, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, director the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a key player in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. We also organized a widely viewed virtual event with Axios, hosted by CNN’s Anderson Cooper, that promoted the Partnership and the Sammies and included a discussion with best-selling author Michael Lewis and two of the Sammies finalists about the importance and value of public service. This fall when we announce the Sammies winners, we will recognize Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, our third annual Spirit of Service award recipient, as a leader outside the federal workforce who has made significant contributions to public service.  

Penny Pritzker, former secretary of Commerce, and 2019 Spirit of Service award winner Michael R. Bloomberg sit down for a “fireside chat” at the Partnership for Public Service’s 18th annual Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals (aka Sammies) gala in Washington, DC on October 16. 

Building Our Organization’s Future

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. We invite you to join with us to work for a better government.

To achieve our objectives, we also need a clear and compelling message and call to action. In 2020, we will complete a brand study intended to provide clarity and insight on the current state of the Partnership’s brand and our reputation among the key audiences we seek to engage. The study will result in new messaging enabling us to reach a broader audience.

Recent events in our nation have once again exposed the systemic racism and inequality that pervades our country and institutions. There is absolutely no place for hate, violence or inequality in our economic, social and civil systems or in our workplaces, whether overt or covert. The Partnership for Public Service emphatically disavows all forms of racism, bigotry and discrimination. We are committed to fostering a culture of inclusion in which a diverse workforce has equitable opportunities to contribute, succeed and grow. We believe that our organization is strengthened when all employees with varied experiences and ideas have a voice and when we, as an organization, better reflect the diverse makeup of the public and our nation’s ideals of equal opportunity, tolerance and acceptance. In addition to strengthening our organization, this foundation will help us respond better to the needs of our federal partners, who are increasingly asking for our help with diversity, equity and inclusion training. In 2020 and beyond, we commit to realizing our  diversity, equity and inclusion vision, measuring our progress, and holding ourselves accountable, both in words and in action.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Commitment Statement

The Partnership for Public Service is committed to building a culture of inclusion in which a diverse workforce has equitable opportunities to contribute, succeed and grow. 

Ensuring employees’ psychological safety and inviting a wider range of viewpoints enables new and creative ways of thinking. This foundation expands our perspective, empowers better decisions and ultimately leads to higher organizational performance. 

We define diversity expansively: We seek to bring together people with different backgrounds and qualities, both visible and invisible. We value all experiences and also acknowledge the injustices suffered by specific communities. We recognize that racism, sexism, religious bigotry, homophobia, xenophobia, transphobia, ableism, classism and other forms of discrimination make the need for equity critical. Advantages are not universal and so we must dismantle barriers to ensure that everyone can succeed at the Partnership. We are also deeply committed to inclusion—creating an environment of belonging in which people with different personal histories, political ideologies, personality types and other attributes are valued and feel like they matter. 

We understand that the work of diversity, equity and inclusion is a challenging, continuous journey that demands humility, empathy and growth. We commit to realizing our vision, measuring our progress, and holding ourselves accountable, both in words and in action.

Donor List

We gratefully acknowledge the generous support of the following corporations, foundations and individuals who sustain our work to transform government. 

Accenture Federal Services

S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation

Booz Allen Hamilton

Boston Consulting Group

Democracy Fund

Ford Foundation

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation

Ronnie F. Heyman and Family



The Rockefeller Foundation



Bloomberg Philanthropies

Charina Endowment Fund




Grant Thornton Public Sector

The James Irvine Foundation

David Marchick

McKinsey & Company

Ingeborg and Ira Leon Rennert

Rockefeller Brothers Fund

Lise Strickler and Mark Gallogly

Patricia A. and George W. Wellde, Jr.



Roberta and Steven Denning

General Assembly

IBM Center for The Business of Government

Ira A. Lipman (Deceased)


Teresa and Daniel J. Murrin

Project Management Institute


The Volcker Alliance

Andi and Tom Bernstein

Celgene Corporation


Daniel and Michelle Lubetzky

Fortress Investment Group LLC

The Marc Haas Foundation


Dina Powell McCormick and David McCormick

The MITRE Corporation

Mario M. Morino

Samuel I. Newhouse Foundation

Tom Nides

Robertson Foundation for Government

The Edward John and Patricia Rosenwald Foundation

Leonard D. Schaeffer

Alfred P. Sloan Foundation

SoftBank Group

Tech Talent, a project of New Venture Fund

Verint ForeSee

ANDAH Foundation

Cornerstone OnDemand

Michael Herrinton

J.P. Morgan

David J. Kappos and Leslie Kimball

Morgan Stanley Foundation

Steve and Molly Preston

Joel L. Fleishman

Nora Gardner

Meg and Bennett Goodman Family Foundation

W. Scott Gould and Michèle Flournoy

Donald E. Graham

Larry Grisolano

Carl C. Icahn Foundation

The Ludwig Family Foundation

Robert A. and Diane J. McDonald Family Foundation

Sabina Menschel and Bill Priestap

Sean and Laura O’Keefe

Diana Farrell and Scott Pearson


Stan Soloway

Dan and Theresa Tangherlini

U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation


John Yochelson

Roger Baker

Robert Belfer

Judy Blanchard

Harold & Stephanie Bronson Fund of the Liberty Hill Foundation

Larry Buchalter

Lisa Capobianco

David Cohen

Michael Froman

Brian Gagnon

John Gilligan

Ralph Huber

Criss Kennedy

Barbara Kibbe

Betty Levin

David Mandelbaum

Nathan Mandelbaum

Merchey Charitable Donations Fund at Schwab Charitable

Florence Pan and Max Stier

Meroe Park

Amy and Bruce Pascal

Steve Roberts, in honor of Cokie Roberts

Neal Wolin and Nicole Elkon

Jonathan and Stacie Alboum

3 Anonymous Donors

Alan Balutis

Francis Beidler Foundation

Robert Burton

Christine Carroll and David Robertson

Michell C. Clark

Troy Cribb

Doug Criscitello

Linda and Doug Cureton

Michael Cushing

Brodi Fontenot

Mark Forman

Stephen Galvan

Ventris Gibson

Vincette Goerl

Chuck Grimes

Sallyanne Harper

John Harris

Deborah Hirtz

E.J. (“Ned”) Holland Jr.

Jody L. Hudson

Jill Hyland and John Hutchins

Eric Javits Family Foundation

Patrick Kennedy

Roger Kodat

John Koskinen

Peter L. Levin

David Mader

John Marshall

Luke McCormack

Tim and Mary McManus

Jerome Medalie

Patrick Moulding

Eileen O’Connor

Jeff O’Malley

Howard Osborne

Kevin Youel Page

John and Shaaron Palguta

Gloria Parker

David Powner

Amiko Matsumoto Rorick and Rob Rorick

Dwight Sanders

John Sepulveda

Henry Sienkiewicz

Kristine and John Simmons

Felicita Sola-Carter

Richard Spires

Hal Steinberg

Norma Tiefel

University of Maryland University College

Lydia Van Sant

Dave Wennergren

Jim Williams

Gerald Andriole

7 Anonymous Donors

Mara Burnett

George Brown

Katherine Bryan

Martha Carey

Shannon Carroll

Beth Chandler

Adam Chandler

Theodora Chang

Ellen Cleary

Mike Clow

Robert Cohen

Lia Collen

Margot Conrad and Anne Leopold

Ken Crites

Rob Dennis

Samantha L. Donaldson

Dan Durak


Phyllis Ford

Robert F. Hale

Annette Germana

Betsy Wright Hawkings

Diane Hill

Harold E. Hinds, Jr

Paul Hitlin

Ella Holman

Dan Hyman

Shin Inouye

Meg Kays

Eric Keller

Rick Kempinski

Craig LaCasse

Lindsay Laferriere

Andrew Marshall

Erik and Megan McLeish

Timothy J. Michalak

Monica Moniz

David Naimon

Michael Overby

Audrey Pfund

Kari Rea

Johnhenri Richardson

Daniel Ritter

Alicia Schapire

Chris and Kevin Schiavone

Carolyn Shanoff

Seth Shapiro

Steven Shaw

Kelly Shih

David Sokolow

Julie Taylor

Nola Tolsma

Justin Vogt

N. Malik Walker

Mark Washington

Stephanie Waxman

Adam Weisler

Shelby Wenner

Jaime Werner

Christopher O. Wingo

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.

Jon Alboum

Thad Allen

Napoleon Avery

Frank Baitman

Roger Baker

Alan Balutis

Bernie Banks

Charlie Bolden

Josh Bolten

Rafael Borras

Robert Brese

Jeri Buchholz

Dick Burk

Al Burman

Robert Burton

L. Reynolds Cahoon

Scott Cameron

Roger Campbell

Scott Charbo

Dan Chenok

Michell C. Clark

David Cohen

Casey Coleman

Nani Coloretti

Rebecca Contreras

Stephen M. R. Covey

Cravath, Swaine and Moore LLP

Doug Criscitello

Chris Cummiskey

Linda Cureton

Michael Cushing


Melinda Darby

Vincent Dennis

DLA Piper

Michael Donley

Amy Edmondson

Michael Fischetti

Michèle Flournoy

Brodi Fontenot

Mark Forman

Stephen Galvan

Ventris Gibson

Greg Giddens

John Gilligan

Richard Ginman

Daniel Ginsberg

Vincette Goerl

Claire Grady

W. Todd Grams

Dave Grant

Chuck Grimes

Michael Hager

Robert F. Hale

Krysta Harden

Sallyanne Harper

Sonny Hashmi

Robert Haycock

Cynthia Heckmann

Vance Hitch

Ira Hobbs

Jon Holladay

E.J. (“Ned”) Holland Jr.

Michael Howell

Jody L. Hudson

Sally Jewell

Steve Kelman

Patrick Kennedy

Roger Kodat

Harry Kraemer

Joseph Kull

Michael Leavitt

Peter L. Levin

Shoshana Lew

Gail Lovelace

David Mader

Christine Major

John Marshall

Kymm McCabe

Dave McClure

Luke McCormack

Diann McCoy

Beth McGrath

Thomas “Mack” McLarty

Ed Meagher

Kathryn Medina

William Milton

Dan Mintz

Andrea Mitchell

Mario Morino

Jeff Neal

Molly O’Neill

Howard Osborne

Kevin Youel Page

Krista Paquin

Gloria Parker

Bob Perciasepe

Jeff Pon

Chris Porath

John Porcari

Dave Powner

Penny Pritzker

Scott Quehl

Anne Reed

Christine Rider

Gale Rossides

Anne Rung

Ron Sanders

Tony Scardino

Pat Schambach

Lisa Schlosser

Mary Lynn Scott

John Sepulveda

Robert Shea

Myra Howze Shiplett

Henry Sienkiewicz

John Sindelar

Felicita Sola-Carter

Stan Soloway

Richard Spires

Hal Steinberg

Jeff Steinhoff

Sterne Kessler


Pat Tamburrino

James Taylor

W. Hord Tipton

Pete Tseronis

Kathleen Turco

Twitter, Inc.

Alan Wade

Mark Weatherly

Reginald Wells

Dave Wennergren

Danny Werfel

Frontis Wiggins

Jerry Williams

Jim Williams

Karen Wilson

Liz Wiseman

Maureen Wylie

Financial Statements

Board of Directors

(As of July 27, 2020)

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 

Joel L. Fleishman 
Professor of Law and Director, Heyman Center for Ethics, Public Policy, and the Professions, Duke University 

Nora Gardner 
Senior Partner, McKinsey & Company 

W. Scott Gould 
CEO, Mountain Lakes Associates, LLC 

David J. Kappos 
Partner, Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP 

Lester Lyles
Former Chairman of the Board, USAA 
Retired General, United States Air Force 
Former Vice Chief of Staff, United States Air Force 

Robert A. McDonald 
Former Secretary, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs 
Retired Chairman, President and CEO, The Procter & Gamble Company 

Jennifer Millstone 

Tom Nides 
Vice Chairman, Morgan Stanley 

Indra K. Nooyi
Former Chairman and CEO, PepsiCo

Sean O’Keefe 
University Professor and Howard G. and S. Louise Phanstiel Chair in Strategic Management and Leadership, Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University 

Dina Powell McCormick
Managing Director, Goldman Sachs 

The Honorable Steven C. Preston 
President and CEO, Goodwill Industries International, Inc. 

Kevin Sheekey
Global Head of External Relations, Bloomberg LP 

Max Stier 
President and CEO, Partnership for Public Service 

Dan Tangherlini 
Chief Financial Officer, The Emerson Collective 

Jim VandeHei
Co-founder and CEO, Axios 

George W. Wellde, Jr. 
Former Vice Chairman, Securities Division, Goldman Sachs & Company 

Neal S. Wolin 
CEO, Brunswick Group 

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