Report: Overworked federal workforce may impact disaster response 


Greg Treverton, Molly Jahn, and David Bray, discuss a new report on understaffing in the federal workforce, and ways to improve recruitment and retainment.


According to a new report put out by the Senior Executives Association, the government is severely understaffed, which could lead to management issues during crises. Government Matters spoke with three analysts who wrote the report.

Greg Treverton, Former Chair, National Intelligence Council –

My former colleagues were quite prepared to suffer quite a lot of, not only less pay than they could make in the private sector but working conditions and constraints that are special in intelligence. That’s one thing if you’re being appreciated and feel like you are useful. But if you’re not appreciated and feel useful, or don’t feel useful that makes me worry about retention. Hiring new people is going to be hard in any case given competition as we look for more technologically savvy people across the government. That’s just very hard. First for me would be appreciating the people that are there. And in an ideal world letting them have some more autonomy… we’ve heard how constrained they feel and how risk-averse they feel lest they make a decision that’s the wrong one in the eyes of their superiors.

Molly Jahn, Former Deputy Under Secretary, USDA –

We start our study with commentary over the last 50 years. Some of the trends are most pronounced toward small government over the last 20 years. Then through the 90s and on we saw continued emphasis on small government and constrained spending. Then last 2 or 3 years have seen unprecedented departures in some parts of government at multiple different ranks. Through senior careers as well as down through the ranks.

David Bray, Former Senior National Intelligence Service Executive–

We wanted to make sure this was a data-driven approach. This report was both quantitative in that we looked at the last 20 years of what was happening with senior executives and then also doing qualitative through interviews. We actually met with people currently in government as senior executives, as well as GS-13, 14 and 15s that were aspiring to be senior executives, as well as people have been former as well. Using those different data sources we came to the conclusion that what we are seeing is the world is accelerating its pace of change. That’s been driven partly by technology, partly by flows of information. The good news is on the internet people can put whatever they want and the bad news is they can put whatever they want. These changes are challenging open societies and not just in the United States.