You’re Not in a Broom Closet, Are You?

Office space has been in the news lately. Karl Rove mourns that his old office in the West Wing has been carved into four cubicles. Four – imagine! Al Kamen has reported the furious jockeying of critical spots somewhere, anywhere, in the West Wing of the White House by the new staff. You can see the diagram here. Proximity to power is power? See which one is number 1 and 2.

You can almost expect this same thing replicated in all executive offices as every new cabinet secretary and staff moves in. So it was only a matter of time…

Office Snafu at State
touts Madam Secretary over at Foreign Policy. The 7th Floor folks reportedly are not happy being bumped to make space for Jack Lew. “We hear rank-and-file foreign service officers (FSOs) are none too happy with the move, which is considered a slight to Burns, a career diplomat who is the highest-ranking FSO in the country.”

Should I add this to my Huh? News?

A slight to Burns, plueeze!

State just got a sparkling newly minted Deputy Undersecretary for Management and Resources. Alleluia! This was a slot that went unfilled under Condi Rice; a great decision that really helped her resource gathering talents at Capitol Hill.

So now there is the Secretary of State, then James Steinberg (D) and Jack Lew (D/MR), then Bill Burns (P). While “P” has traditionally been the number #3 person at State (and the top career official), change has come to the State Department. Now this change has bumped “P” down to number #4 (still the top career official) and on and on it goes cascading down the chain and the collateral office spaces. But I fully expected this, why would anyone imagine otherwise?

A Diplopundit reader who saw the office snafu entry asked if the office space issue is really that bad: “People go from cheering in the halls to expecting the worst in the space of a week? It’s too bad, because I was so taken with the idea of an optimistic, united State Department.”

I don’t know what it’s like over at the 7th Floor. But Bill Burns is a professional career diplomat. I’m sure that he, as well as most of the employees of the State Department appreciates the importance and the significance of bringing in Jack Lew to deal with management and resource issues. Mr. Lew said that he will focus on making sure the Department “is well-coordinated internally and is collaborating effectively with others agencies and organizations, on spending smarter as we build capacity to execute against our objectives and on delivering results.” At his confirmation hearing he pledged to work with Congress “to demonstrate that resources are used effectively and to make the case for the additional resources need to ensure success.”

Call me naïve, but I like what I heard. And frankly, I’d like to roll out the red carpet for this guy. I hope Jack Lew delivers. Short of giving him the Secretary’s office, he should have his choice of official digs at Foggy Bottom, seriously. If “R” or whatever letter of the alphabet soup needs to move one floor down to facilitate this, so be it. I for one would like Jack Lew to be as close to the Secretary’s office as possible for the regular access he needs.

Besides, unless the principals or their staffers have been consigned to a broom closet with no telephone and internet connection, I really don’t see this office space rigodon as an issue. I’d like to see Jack Lew get as comfortable as he can and receive all the support that he needs — so he can get some work done.

As one sensible blog comment made recently: “Give it a break folks. Bill Burns is not concerned about his office space based on people I have talked to. What people really care about is can Jack Lew deliver the resources hoped for. If he can there is reason to rejoice. If he can’t, there are more important things to worry about than just office space — like getting the job done.”

I’d like to put this as nothing more than part of the normal transition process. We all have some strong reactions to change, not just in our work lives but also in our personal lives. I think that reaction comes from the fact that change comes with its permanent shadow of fear. The reinvention, reorganization, turnaround and every new management, in and out of government – they all impact people’s emotion – whether in terms of our role, importance, our influence, attention we receive, staff we get — you know, office space, paper clips, etc. etc. and where we all fit in the larger puzzle of the universe. One alternative is to hold on to the existing state of affairs, maintaining the status quo. The other alternative is to get over that fear and open up to the new possibilities.

More new possibilities, please.