State’s “T” Bureau: Where Restructuring Was “Easy” as Pie…

And Condi’s transformational diplomacy went kaplunk

Well, I guess the marching order was to “restructure” so they did. Nobody said it had to be coherent or needed an end state. “Just do it!” Like the ad campaign says. 400 employees were reportedly impacted – but heck — you don’t have to agree with it, just move wherever they want you to move your desk, right? There were complaints that staff decisions were politically motivated – aw — I mean, really!

is the 2005 on-the-record briefing on the Reorganization of the Bureaus to Better Address the Threat From Weapons and Mass Destruction and to Promote Democracy: “It had to be done right because it is absolutely essential, as part of what the Secretary calls transformational diplomacy, that we readjust the structure of the State Department bureaus in order to be able to best contribute to the national security agenda that has been set by the President.”

Sigh ;> A funny thing happened on the inkway to the history books.  The GAO
just came out with  its assessment of the restructuring of the Nonproliferation,
Arms Control, and Verification and Compliance bureaus in 2005.  Below is a
summary of its finding:

State cannot demonstrate that the 2005-2006 restructuring of its Nonproliferation, Arms Control, and Verification and Compliance bureaus achieved all of its objectives because it did not clearly define the objectives and lacked metrics to assess them. State’s objectives were to enable it to better focus on post -September 11 challenges; reduce bureaucratic inefficiencies and top-heavy management; and eliminate overlap. State sought to achieve its first objective by creating new offices and roles to address terrorism and counterproliferation issues.
To meet its second objective, State merged three bureaus having 30 offices and functions into two bureaus having 26 offices and functions and freed up staff slots for these new roles, but problems with workload mismatches persisted after the reorganization as State employees noted it left some offices overworked and some offices underworked. State cannot demonstrate that it met its third objective, reducing top-heavy management, as its goals were undefined. Although it reduced the number of senior executives from 27 to 20 and reduced office directorships, the overall number of higher-ranking employees increased from 91 to 100 and executive office staff increased from 44 to 50.
Moreover, concerns about mission overlap persist, in part because bureau roles remain undefined in the FAM. State’s reorganization addressed few of the key practices for organizational mergers and transformations that GAO developed in 2002. These practices are found to be at the center of successful mergers and transformations. As illustrated below, State generally addressed one key practice, partially addressed two, and did not address the remaining five. For example, State did not address establishing coherent mission and strategic goals because it did not define an end state with measurable goals, nor did it devise a means to gauge progress toward such goals or assess the results of actions taken. As a result, State lacks reasonable assurance that the reorganization achieved its objectives or that it can identify any lessons learned.

The GAO’s damning assessment of the reorganization process includes the following on State’s unsystematic approach and its contribution to staff and employee group concerns:

Instead of using the above [GAO identified] practices to plan, implement, and assess the results of the restructuring, State reorganized the bureaus unsystematically, contributing to staff and employee group criticisms of the process and suspicions that some staff decisions had been politically motivated. State officials told us that they spent most of their time in the months before September 2005 developing the organizational structure for the new bureau and little time planning to implement the reorganization. In the wake of the reorganization, some ISN staff stated they perceived morale within their bureau to be lower. According to State data, attrition rates rose to levels higher than the average for State’s civil service as a whole.
To implement the reorganization, the T human resource office furnished an informal implementation guide to the SMP at the panel’s request. This paper envisioned a reorganization directed by the Bureau of Human Resources and the T bureaus’ human resource office, while the SMP would serve as an advisory body that would recommend specific actions, such as decisions on acting directors, staffing levels, and other details for the new ISN offices. Instead, according to a senior T official, the SMP made its own implementing decisions and reduced HR’s and the T bureaus’ human resource office’s roles to ensuring that State followed all applicable legal and regulatory requirements.
State officials and employees expressed concerns about the SMP’s direction and conduct of the reorganization even before the panel made its first public announcement about the reorganization on September 28, 2005. While the Office of the Legal Advisor and HR stated that the SMP could direct the reorganization, some officials in HR and the T bureaus’ human resource office disagreed with this decision.38 According to T bureau officials, they were concerned that the panel’s members were not sufficiently knowledgeable about change and personnel management principles. On September 29, 2005—the day after the SMP sent out its summary of the reorganization procedures—a senior T bureaus’ official with human resource responsibilities sent an e-mail to the SMP stating that it was not following sound personnel management principles.39 The email also stated that the SMP had ignored or misinterpreted her office’s recommendations, advice, and suggestions to the extent that the office had been unable to contribute meaningfully to the reorganization process.
Some ISN employees and AFSA officials also criticized the SMP’s decisions after it publicly announced its reorganization procedures and named acting office directors in September 2005. Eleven ISN employees wrote a memorandum to the Undersecretary for Management and the Director General of the Foreign Service in October 2005, stating that morale was poor within the new ISN bureau. 40 Moreover, these employees stated that the SMP’s selections for acting office directors (which resulted in passing over several experienced officials for these positions) reinforced their doubts about the impartiality of the process, as did the lack of career officials or representatives from the T bureaus’ human resource office, HR, and the Office of the Legal Advisor. They also expressed concern about other aspects of the process, such as the requirement to express workforce preferences without first having concrete position and office mission descriptions, position grades, or the names of permanent office directors or deputies. The employees asked the Undersecretary for Management and the Director General of the Foreign Service to suspend the reorganization until a comprehensive staffing plan had been developed and add career civil service or FSOs and HR staff to the SMP, among other actions. AFSA expressed similar concerns in a November 2005 letter to the Secretary of State and noted that the reorganization could result in the potential downgrade or elimination of Foreign Service-designated positions. It also requested, among other things, that State form an independent panel to review all proposed reorganization decisions related to Equal Employment Opportunity concerns and allegations of prohibited personnel practices. In response to these concerns, State named a career official to the SMP, and included representatives of the HR bureau and the Office of the Legal Advisor in the SMP’s discussions, and agreed to have HR review the position descriptions of the acting office directors and prepare new position descriptions where necessary.
The lack of confidence in the reorganization may have adversely affected staff morale and may have contributed to increased ISN civil service attrition rates that immediately followed the reorganization, according to current and former State officials and documents. Twelve percent of ISN’s full-time civil service employees retired or otherwise left the bureau in fiscal 2006, the highest level for the bureau and its predecessors from fiscal year 2004 to fiscal year 2008. In contrast, State’s overall civil service attrition rate during the same period averaged about 8 percent.

Wouldn’t you want to know who former Secretary of State Rice appointed to that Senior Management Panel (SMP) tasked with restructuring these bureaus? I think the GAO should start naming names; it is, after all, an agency tasked with providing accountability reports.

Back in 2006, Dean Rust, a 35-year veteran of
Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and State (who was acting deputy director of the office that dealt with nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and International Atomic Energy Agency matters) did write about this one in Reorganization Run Amok, a must read if you want an excellent background on this restructuring effort.

My jaded brain assumes that exceptionally talented individuals must now be sharing their restructuring and reorganization talents from some corner offices earning VPs or directorship salaries. Fabulous, really! And no consequences for the mess left behind.

Still, considering that Gonzo did manage to find a job after leaving a higgledy-piggledy DOJ, I am convinced now more than ever that if there is ever a place where second chances can be a lucrative gig (and it might as well be in the bill of rights) — that is the United States of America. [According to Texas Tech Provost Bob Smith, Gonzales’ $100,000 paycheck is on-par with the amount paid to other university employees who are high performers with significant experience or expertise. Someone with a national presence and a long list of accomplishments would be hired at the full professor level,” Smith said.]

This is when I get fire ants in my pants — because really — where else but in the USA can radioactive blokes “re-invent” themselves time after time, counting on the public’s short memory and apathy, and rise again to wreck havoc once every few years — all in the name of serving the public like you and me? PS: No offense to the real public servants who gets restructured and realigned and reinvented and rightsized under whatever ice cream flavor is hot.

Related Items:

  • GAO-09-738: STATE DEPARTMENT Key Transformation Practices Could Have Helped in Restructuring Arms Control and Nonproliferation Bureaus | July 2009 | PDF

  • On-the-Record Briefing: Reorganization of the Bureaus to Better Address the Threat from Weapons and Mass Destruction and to Promote Democracy | 2005 | PDF