The Business of Government Hour

 

About the show

The Business of Government Hour features a conversation about management with a government executive who is changing the way government does business. The executives discuss their careers and the management challenges facing their organizations. Past government executives include Administrators, Chief Financial Officers, Chief Information Officers, Chief Operating Officers, Commissioners, Controllers, Directors, and Undersecretaries.

The interviews

Join the IBM Center for a weekly conversation about management with a government executive who is changing the way government does business.

Cameron Findlay interview

Friday, August 15th, 2003 - 20:00
Phrase: 
Mr. Findlay is the Deputy Secretary for the Department of Labor
Radio show date: 
Sat, 08/16/2003
Guest: 
Intro text: 
Mr. Findlay is the Deputy Secretary for the Department of Labor

 

Complete transcript: 

Arlington, Virginia

Tuesday, February 25, 2002

Mr. Lawrence: Welcome to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence, the co-chairman for the IBM Endowment for The Business of Government. We created The Endowment in 1998 to encourage discussion and research into new approaches to improving government effectiveness. Find out more about The Endowment by visiting us on the web at www.businessofgovernment.org.

The Business of Government Hour features a conversation about management with a government executive who is changing the way government does business. Our conversation is with Cam Findlay. Cam is the deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor. Good morning, Cam.

Mr. Findlay: Good morning.

Mr. Lawrence: Joining us in our conversation is Fred Fagerstrom. Good morning, Fred.

Mr. Fagerstrom: Good morning.

Mr. Lawrence: Cam, let's start by talking about the mission and responsibilities of the department. Can you give us an overview?

Mr. Findlay: The Department of Labor is the principal government agency that is involved with protecting workers in the work place. We have several agencies within the department such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration which is known as OSHA, the Mine Safety and Health Administration, the Office of Labor and Management Standards which regulates the relationship between union members and their unions, and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, or OFCCP, which prevents work place discrimination. So with the worker protection focus we have several agencies.

We also are the federal agency, which protects your employee benefits. Your health care benefits if you're in the private sector, of your pension benefits, we regulate those under a law called ERISA.

We operate about $11 billion worth of job training and employment service programs to help get dislocated people back to work. Then finally, we operate the $45 billion a year unemployment insurance system, which helps people when they are between jobs.

Mr. Lawrence: You described some dollar numbers, the size of the budget. What about the number of people in the department?

Mr. Findlay: We have about 17,000 employees at 570-plus locations around the country. Our budget varies considerably year to year because it's dependent quite a bit on the unemployment rate. The budget last year, I believe, ended up being about $70 billion because the unemployment rate was relatively high. The proposed budget for fiscal year 2004 which we've just submitted is for about $56 billion. That's not because we're cutting $14 billion out of our budget, it's just because of projections as to what the unemployment rate will be, which means that there will be fewer unemployment benefits paid.

Mr. Lawrence: You described a wide range of activities going on in the department. Could you give us a sense of the types of skills the employees have?

Mr. Findlay: We have a very highly skilled and well-educated work force. We have agencies like the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is composed of economists and statisticians. We have what used to be called the Pension and Welfare Benefits Administration and is now called the Employee Benefits Security Administration. This is the agency that protects your pensions and health benefits. That is composed of a lot of actuaries and highly trained professionals as well.

Then, of course, our OSHA inspectors, our inspectors in the Office of Labor Management Standards, and our inspectors in the Wage and Hour Division which I didn't mention before which regulates wages, overtime, and things like that, those tend to be law-enforcement types that get out there in the field and protect workers.

Mr. Fagerstrom: What are your responsibilities and duties as the deputy secretary?

Mr. Findlay: The job of deputy secretary is always a slightly undefined one because it depends somewhat on the relationship with the secretary. I feel like I have a very good relationship with the secretary, and I spend a lot of time dealing with the boring day-to-day issues that we don't want to trouble her with.

But I think formally my role is to run the budget process. As I said, we have a budget in the tens of billions of dollars, and we begin putting that budget together in the early summer, we submit it to OMB in the fall, and then work with OMB from the fall to the introduction of the budget in February.

I am in charge of our regulatory process at our department. We have a body that we call the Policy Planning Board that is all of our agency heads. We bring them together once a week, and every regulation that comes through the department, every major new policy initiative, has to come through this Policy Planning Board. I chair that board along with our assistant secretary for policy.

Then I think broadly I guess I'm in charge of the management of the department. I am the person that is supposed to be watching over the implementation of the President's management agenda, issues like financial management, competitive sourcing, human capital, e-government, those sorts of issues.

Mr. Fagerstrom: As deputy secretary, you are also a member of the President's Management Council. Could you tell us about the council and your role within the council?

Mr. Findlay: Yes. This council was an innovation of President Bush who it's often been said is the first MBA president. It brings together all of the chief operating officers of all of the departments and smaller agencies throughout the government. It's a forum to exchange best practices amongst each other on management issues, to press for management changes on things like e-government, program evaluation, and financial management. It's really been a great catalyst for this administration to take management issues very seriously.

As to my own role on the council, I'm one of probably 20 or 30 COOs on the council, but I happen to chair the E-Government Committee of the President's Management Council. What we've tried to do with this committee is to bring some focus and coherence to all of the vast amounts of IT spending and planning that is going on throughout the federal government.

In particular, there are 24 e-gov initiatives, things like govbenefits.gov which is one site where you can go and look up all the benefits that might be applicable to you. There's recreation.gov where you can register to stay at a lodge in Yellowstone, or you can get a permit for some other federal facility some place else in the country.

We have these 24 e-government initiatives, and it frankly was kind of a hodgepodge at the beginning because they were all off doing their own thing. They were being forced to beg departments for money and to plead with departments to shut down duplicative investments. So this committee was formed in order to bring some order to this process.

Mr. Lawrence: Just to follow-up on that, how would they do that? As I understand it, they have no real authority to do the kinds of things. So how would actually some of those things get done?

Mr. Findlay: All we've got is moral suasion backed up by the President's great desire to see this work. It was tricky at the beginning because what happened was that OMBs in past years would approve budgets, and they would say to the Department of Veterans Affairs here is your X million dollars for a project to do this IT investment. Then after we set up the e-government initiative that was supposed to say put all government benefits on the same site, we were in the position of OMB having to go back to the Department of Veterans Affairs and saying, you thought that was your money. It's actually money we're going to use for this e-government initiative. So please give us the money back. And by the way, please stop the spending that you were planning to do. You can imagine that that caused a lot of friction amongst agencies and between the agencies in OMB.

So what we've tried to do is to get all the involved parties in a room together and agree that a cross-agency project is a good one, and then agree as the President's Management Council on how it's going to be funded and how we're going to shut down duplicative investments. So far it's actually worked pretty well.

It is still a work in progress, and I would be lying if I said it's been absolutely smooth sailing, but I think the formation of this E-Government Committee has made a big difference.

Mr. Lawrence: Tell us about your career prior to coming to the department.

Mr. Findlay: Well, I graduated from law school in 1987. I came to Washington to clerk for a judge at the D.C. Circuit, and then I did a second clerkship at the Supreme Court. When I came off that clerkship, all of my colleagues were going off to law firms, and I decided to enter public service. So I went to work as the special assistant to the secretary of transportation who at that time was a guy named Sam Skinner. I was in that job, or actually I became counselor to the secretary. Then in 1991, Sam Skinner was named White House chief of staff, and I went over with him to the White House as deputy assistant to the President and counselor to the chief of staff, thereby proving the rule that the longer the title, the less important your job.

I was at the White House through the very difficult year of 1992 when we were trying to get President Bush reelected. Then like everyone else that worked at the White House, had to look for a job in the private sector in 1992.

So I have been trained as a lawyer, and I went back to Chicago and went to work at the law firm of Sidley & Austin and spent almost 9 year there until I got the call to come out and be deputy secretary of labor.

Mr. Lawrence: It's time for a break. We'll stop on that point. Stick with us through the break and come back as we continue our conversation with Cam Findlay of the U.S. Department of Labor. What are the different programs at the department and how are they changing? We'll ask Cam to tell us about these programs when The Business of Government Hour continues.

(Intermission)

Mr. Lawrence: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence, and today's conversation is with Cam Findlay, the deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor. Joining us in our conversation is Fred Fagerstrom.

Cam, let's find out a little bit more about the Department of Labor. We know the department is organized into major program areas. Could you tell us more about the Employment and Training Administration?

Mr. Findlay: The Employment and Training Administration, or ETA as we call it, is our largest agency. Its principal goal is to help dislocated workers. It does this by running $11 billion or so of job training and employment service programs that are operated throughout the country through one-stop employment centers. Then it also runs the unemployment insurance system.

ETA has some dog and cat roles. It also has a role in labor-based employment programs, things like that. But basically it runs our training programs and the unemployment insurance program.

Mr. Fagerstrom: Speaking of that, what about the Employee Benefits Security Administration, what does it do? And why was its named changed recently, last February, from the Pension and Welfare Benefits Administration?

Mr. Findlay: We changed the name of the Pension and Welfare Benefits Administration to better reflect what its actual duties are. When people heard the name welfare, they assumed that it was an agency that somehow dispensed government benefits. But in fact, this is an agency, as I mentioned earlier, that regulates the security of employee benefits, principally pensions, 401(k)s, plans like that, and then also all private-sector employer-provided health plans. So we thought the idea of the Employee Benefits Security Administration better guided what the role of that agency is.

This agency, EBSA as we call it now, is really a terrific agency. They do a great job of protecting Americans' pensions and health care benefits with a fairly lean staff. They routinely recover $6- or $700 million a year in pension benefits for workers, and they are going to be beefed up in the next couple of years to do an even better job. We've asked for a 10 percent increase in their budget for fiscal year 2004 so that they can have more people on the ground investigating pension plans and health plans.

Mr. Lawrence: Are there any management challenges with changing an organization's name?

Mr. Findlay: Principally, business cards and stationery, I think. It was something that we were able to do just a secretarial order, we didn't need legislation to do it, but we were happy to be able to better get the message out about what this agency does.

Mr. Lawrence: In your opening description you talked a lot about what the department does in terms with regards to occupational injury and illness. I wonder if you can take us through the different organizations and how they all work together, how you pull that together.

Mr. Findlay: Yes, there are some synergies, particularly between OSHA and the Mine Safety and Health Administration which regulates employee safety in mines, and both agencies have done very well in the last couple of years.

As for OSHA, the most recent statistics show that employee injuries and fatalities have continued to decline for several years under our stewardship. As for the Mine Safety and Health Administration, or MSHA, we had a record low number of fatalities last year in mines in the United States. And of course, we had that very dramatic rescue of nine miners at Quecreek in Pennsylvania where MSHA really lead the effort along with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. So we are very proud of those agencies.

Our other worker protection agencies are perhaps less well know, but we have the Office of Labor Management Standards which enforces requirements that unions file financial statements with the government, and also regulates union elections and has other functions like that. Its basic function is to ensure that union members' rights are fully protected within unions.

Then we have the Wage and Hour Division, which is responsible for ensuring that people are paid the minimum wage and that people are properly paid overtime. Then we have this Office of Federal Contract and Compliance Programs, which enforces the executive order that requires nondiscrimination in the work place of all federal contractors.

Mr. Lawrence: One can't help but think that when you describe those missions of a time in our history, say 50 years ago, when many of these were very pressing and important issues. One senses that over time the work place has gotten safer or there is less effort to bypass the law. Is that perception true, or are these things still aggressively out there?

Mr. Findlay: I think that is true, Paul, and it's one of the things we're trying to do at our department. We have to recognize that our department was established in 1913 and many of the laws that it enforces were enacted in the '30s, '40s, '50s, or '60s. The work place has changed so much since then, so our constant challenge is to update all of our laws, our regulations, our policies, and our programs to take account of the changes in the work place.

You mentioned OSHA. I think it is true that most employes want to protect their employee's safety. It's in their interests to do that. So OSHA wants to add to its enforcement activities what we're calling compliance assistance. We want to get the word out to employers to help them understand how to avoid injuries before they occur rather than fine employers for injuries after they occur. So OSHA has been very aggressive in getting its information up on the web, in holding seminars around the country, in entering into partnerships with trade groups and employers, and the proof is in the pudding: we believe that injuries and fatalities are going down.

Mr. Fagerstrom: Another whole area within the Department of Labor is the Bureau of Labor Statistics. What is that responsible for, and how do those activities fit within the department?

Mr. Findlay: The Bureau of Labor Statistics is one of the jewels of the federal government. It's an agency that is responsible for compiling a whole number of statistics about what is going on out in the work force. Most famously, on the first Friday or every month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics issues the unemployment rate. One of my duties as deputy secretary is to have the Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics come to my office every first Friday of the month at 8 o'clock and walk me through the latest employment statistics.

Sometimes it's good news as it was this past month, and sometimes it's less good news, but it's always interesting to guess at what the unemployment rate is going to be before everyone else finds out.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has a whole number of other programs. It measures the consumer price index, the producer price index, productivity, things like that. It's a terrific agency that does excellent work.

Mr. Lawrence: One of the things we noticed when we were studying the department is you have the Center for Faith Based and Community Initiatives. I wonder if you could tell us about that?

Mr. Findlay: Yes, the Department of Labor is one of five or six federal agencies that was required by executive order to set up a Center for Faith Based and Community Initiatives. The mission of this center, which we're very excited about is essentially to remove barriers to faith based and community organizations to participate with the federal government and to participate in the federal government's programs.

At one level, this is just a matter of eliminating unnecessary and artificial restrictions, say, in grant proposals. We don't want to shut out faith based groups simply because they're faith based groups, and we've had a lot of success in that and have been able to get out some grants.

Then the second part of the job of this center is to get out there and gin up interest in the faith based community in our programs. We have a lot of pilot programs around the country. We've got one called Ready for Work in Jacksonville, Florida, that is linking returning offenders coming out of prison with our employment and training system. We've got another program with public-private ventures that teams up with our Job Corps Centers which are job training centers to do mentoring in Job Corps Centers. So we're very excited about the work of this part of our department. And we were very proud that we were the first agency to get out some grants to faith-based organizations.

Mr. Lawrence: When you think about the broad range of programs we've been talking about, how do you manage them all in terms of the scale? Let's take something like communication. How do you get a relevant message out to all of these people?

Mr. Findlay: It is a challenge in a department as big as ours with so many employees and so many locations. One of the things we always hear from our stakeholders is that we may be saying one thing in Washington, but at the district office in Pocatello, Idaho, they're not hearing the message. I'm making that up. I don't want to say anything bad about the district office in Pocatello, if we do have one there.

But we have undertaken a considerable effort to communicate with our employees. The secretary sends e-mail messages all the time to employees on issues of concern, and any major new initiative she'll make sure to announce them to that way. We do web-casts that all of our employees can pick up so that if we're holding an event in the Francis Perkins Building, our headquarters in Washington, many times all of our employees all around the country can log on and watch the event.

Several of our assistant secretaries and deputy assistant secretaries and I have made it a point to try and get out and hit every regional office so that our goal is that every regional office will have a senior department official visiting every quarter.

Mr. Lawrence: It's time for a break. Rejoin us in a few minutes as we continue talking about management with Cam Findlay of the U.S. Department of Labor. How is Labor doing with the President's management agenda? We'll ask Cam for his insights when The Business of Government Hour returns.

(Intermission)

Mr. Lawrence: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence, and today's conversation is with Cam Findlay, deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor. Joining us in our conversation is Fred Fagerstrom.

Mr. Fagerstrom: Good morning. Can you tell us about the department's four strategic goals?

Mr. Findlay: Yes. When I arrived at the department we had three strategic goals, a prepared work force which reflected our mission of training dislocated workers, a secure work force which involves our mission of providing unemployment insurance principally to workers, and the third was quality work places. That meant safe work places, work places free from discrimination, work places where you were paid a fair day's wage for a day's work. Those are obviously very important goals, and we are working very hard to achieve them.

But we also decided to take a look when we were required to develop a new strategic plan at a new goal, and the new one we came up with after a lot of semantic back and forth amongst the senior staff of our department was a competitive work force. The idea there is to deal with the changes that are taking place in the global economy.

It's not enough to be trained once, you may have to be retrained to deal with the dynamic global economy. We didn't want to leave in place particular regulations, laws, or policies if they weren't really relevant to the 21st century economy. So the idea of this last goal was to force our department to ask itself on a continual basis, Is this the best way to be carrying out the mission of the department? Could we regulate in a different way? Could we protect employee safety in a different way? Could we protect employee benefits in a different way? So that was the idea behind adding this fourth goal, and we're very with how our strategic plan has worked out, and we intend to vigorously go after all four of our goals.

Mr. Lawrence: Could you tell us more about the department's Management Review Board?

Mr. Findlay: Yes. We set up something we call the Management Review Board soon after I arrived to put in place a sort of coherent and across-the-board approach to the management issues facing our department. The Management Review Board is chaired by our assistant secretary for management, Pat Pizella, and it brings together all the agency heads within our department. We deal with issues like IT, information technology, issues, common human capital issues, competitive sourcing. It's really a department tool to implement the President's management agency and to deal with all the management issues that arise in a department like ours.

Mr. Lawrence: Does it have the authority to make decisions, or is it more of this moral suasion of getting people on the same page?

Mr. Findlay: I think it has the authority to make recommendations to the secretary. Ultimately, the secretary is the final decision maker on all these things. I'll give you an example. We have a variety of e-mail systems at our department, an almost preposterous variety of different systems, different name conventions and so forth. So one of the things we decided to do early was to convert to a single e-mail system that would make it secure, it would make it easier to communicate in the department, and it would take on a name convention so that it will be easy to figure out what someone's e-mail address is.

A part of our department, the Employment Standards Administration, which has the Office of Labor Management Standards and a couple of other departments, Wage and Hour, and they have this hilarious name convention, that you use the initials plus the word fenex2 (phonetic) at dol.com or something. So you could never figure out how to e-mail somebody in that part of our department.

So we took the issue to the Management Review Board after a lot of vigorous discussion, a lot of very interesting issues, for instance, BLS, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, wanted to keep its own separate e-mail system because it used it to collect information from the field. After all that discussion, we decided to go with a common e-mail system and we made the recommendation to the secretary to essentially implement it throughout the whole department.

There were, frankly, parts of our department that did not want to implement a common e-mail system even after the discussion was over. But imprimatur of the Management Review Board really did help seal the deal.

Mr. Fagerstrom: You mentioned the President's management agency. How has the department done in achieving the goals of the President's management agenda?

Mr. Findlay: I'm proud to report that the Department of Labor has the best scores in the federal government on the President's management agency. There are five initiatives under the President's management agency, and on status we have got yellows on four and red on one. On progress we have green on four and yellow on one. The outlier in each case is competitive sourcing. It is an area where no department in the entire federal government has gotten a yellow score for status. So we're in good company on that area, but we still want to do better.

Mr. Lawrence: Any particular highlights or things of note through the scorecard?

Mr. Findlay: Yes, I think the places where we made improvements are worth mentioning. In financial management, we had had a red score when the OMB management scorecard was first developed. We asked OMB why did we have red, and they said you don't have a good plan in place for preventing erroneous payments in the unemployment insurance system and it's costing the federal government billions of dollars a year.

So I came back to our CFO, Sam Mock (phonetic) and our head of the Employment and Training Administration, Emily Deroko (phonetic), and said let's put together a plan for dealing with this erroneous payment problem. We were able to put together a plan that assisted states in ferreting our erroneous payments by getting access to various databases, and with that improvement, OMB took us from a red to a yellow.

We've had similar successes in some of the other areas. We're one of the leaders in e-gov because we have been the managing partner of perhaps the most successful e-gov initiative, govbenefits.gov. I would encourage all our listeners to log on. It's a really great site. It is a citizen-centered site in the sense that you don't have to guess at what government department to go to find out what benefits you're eligible for. What you do is you go to the site, it asks a series of questions about you, and then after you've gone through three screens, it will tell you all the government benefit programs that you might be eligible for, how to apply, and who to contact.

That was one initiative that we led, and we were very proud of it. So we've made a lot of progress in the e-gov area as well.

Mr. Lawrence: When you think about moving the scores from red to yellow, what are the management lessons learned in terms of the energy needed to effect those changes?

Mr. Findlay: I think it varies. There are some problems that are almost insoluble in the short-run. We have financial systems that were developed many years ago and really are past their prime. So if we decide today we want to upgrade those financial management systems - or a better way to put it is we decided last summer to do that when we were putting together the fiscal year 2004 budget. So we sought $20 million in the fiscal year 2004 budget to get that work done.

It will be a 3-year project, so it's something that will not be done until 2006, 3 or 4 years from now, and only then will we really have the financial system that we need to manage the department the way the private-sector enterprise might be managed. There are real obstacles in that area.

As I mentioned, the erroneous payment issue under UI was just a matter of asking the question, How can we solve this problem? They came up with some fairly simple fixes pretty quickly. I think it varies initiative to initiative.

Mr. Lawrence: One of the things we were noticing in the department is the Center for Program Planning and Results. I'm curious about that, especially as you think about performance-based management initiatives.

Mr. Findlay: In this past year we set up this new Center for Program Planning and Results in the office of the assistant secretary for management. This center is in charge essentially of two things, the GPRA process, the Government Performance and Results Act, and then also our progress on the President's management agency. This is the part of our department that goes out to the agencies and encourages them to make their GPRA goals much more outcome oriented as opposed to input oriented. It's the part of the department that tries to come up with good information and good measures for all of these metrics.

Then it's also the part of the department that puts out our annual report. Every 6 months or so I work with that center to sit down with each of our agency heads and assess their progress towards their GPRA goals and their President's management agency initiatives. I think it's been a very useful thing to do because in the day-to-day work of government, it's very easy to get fixated in what was in the "Washington Post" that morning, and you need to have the long-term focus on management issues.

Mr. Lawrence: That's a good stopping point. Some back in a few minutes as we continue our conversation about management with Cam Findlay of the U.S. Department of Labor. What does the future hold for the department? We'll ask Cam for his perspective when The Business of Government Hour continues.

(Intermission)

Mr. Lawrence: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence, and today's conversation is with Cam Findlay. Cam is the deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor. Joining us in our conversation is Fred Fagerstrom.

Cam, can you tell us more about the mission of the secretary's 21st Century Work Force Initiative?

Mr. Findlay: Yes. One of President Bush's and Secretary Chou's biggest initiatives since we arrived at the Department of Labor is to focus all of our efforts on the work force of today rather than the work force of the past.

I mentioned earlier that our department is almost 100 years old, and many of the statutes that we administer are decades old. Many of the things that we do have not fully taken account of the way the work place has changed in recent decades. The work place is much more diverse than it used to be. We have a different workday, a much more 24/7 orientation. As I mentioned before, many employers have stepped up to the plate already and begun to protect their workers on their own, so we wanted to take a look at everything we do and see whether it's relevant to the 21st century.

So President Bush's executive order set up in our department an Office of the 21st Century Work Force to focus a spotlight on these kinds of trends, and it has done a great job in highlighting some of the trends out there. I mentioned before that there is diversity in the work force.

Another thing is that there's a skills gap out there. There are a lot of people out of work still, but there are a lot of jobs that are being advertised in the paper every day that there aren't enough good people to apply for, so we want to close that skills gap. So this 21st century office has held a number of events such as a 21st Century Summit that the President and Alan Greenspan and a number of leaders came to address. It sponsored the Saver Summit, which was intended to focus on the need for all employees to begin think about. And it held a Women Entrepreneurship Conference last year at which the President spoke that was intended to focus on the issues that face women small-business owners, which are an increasing segment of the economy.

More recently, the office in conjunction with the American Enterprise Institute held a conference on productivity and how we can increase productivity. This is in line with that final strategic goal that I mentioned, a competitive work force, because ultimately the way we increase our incomes and we increase jobs is to make workers more productive.

So this 21st century office has really been there to act as a catalyst for us to all examine our premises as to whether we're doing our jobs in a way that's relevant to today's workers.

Mr. Fagerstrom: Would you reflect on the recent rescue of the nine miners and any lessons learned from that?

Mr. Findlay: That was probably the most emotionally satisfying thing that's happened since I came to the Department of Labor. I got a call from the head of the Mine Safety and Health Administration late one night and was told that nine miners were trapped underground, and while he was optimistic as one should always be, he made clear that this was a very difficult situation.

Then we got about 50 people from the Mine Safety and Health Administration out there to Pennsylvania very quickly. They were able to move very unique equipment out there very quickly. But even with all that effort, I think there was always some doubt that we would get those people out alive.

When I woke up that weekend morning and saw the pictures of the miners being hauled out of their mine in that yellow capsule, I was happy as I can remember being since my marriage or the birth of my children. It was very exciting.

We've had the miners and their families to our department, we brought the yellow capsule that you saw on TV in for the event, and it was very, very special. I think what it does show is that the sort of partnerships that MSHA was able to form with the states can be very effective. MSHA provides grants to states for training, and then it has this operational role of miners. Ou people really came through, and we were as proud of them as we could possibly be.

Mr. Lawrence: When you look out to the future, what are the next challenges on the horizon for the department?

Mr. Findlay: I think out biggest legislative challenge is to obtain reauthorization of the Work Force Investment Act. This is the law that authorizes all of our training programs. It expires this year, so we've got to reauthorize it.

The President has just put forward his proposal which would eliminate some of the silos in the programs, change the governance structure that has prevented money from getting to people that need it, and try to increase the role of employers in the work force investment system. We think that latter point is very important. Employers are the people that provide jobs. That's a tautology, but we have to always remember that because if employers are not part of the system, then we're not necessarily training people for the right things, we're not aware of what jobs are out there, and we're not making the connection between employers and dislocated workers.

Regulatorily, we have a very full regulatory agenda. We are updating the white color exemption rules under the Fair Labor Standards Act. These are the rules that determine whether you're a blue collar worker that gets paid overtime or a white collar worker that doesn't. These regs were last significantly changed in the '40s and early '50s, and so they're badly in need of change. They still provide detailed guidance on jobs like Linotype operators, straw bosses, gang leaders, and leg men. I don't know what any of those things are, but we don't need rules that apply to them anymore.

Then we have several other regulations. We have proposed to update the forms that unions use to file their financial statements with us. We have put out a rule that would enhance the integrity of the unemployment insurance system by withdrawing permission that was given out a few years ago that states could use money from their unemployment trust funds to pay maternity leave, and we've got a couple of other major rules out as well.

Then I think more broadly, we want to continue the management reforms we've been pursuing at the Department of Labor. We have a lot of work to do in the financial management area, a lot of work to do in competitive sourcing, and still a lot of work to do in human resources. We we'll be pursuing those things.

Mr. Fagerstrom: You've talked about a number of things and challenges for the next few years. What's your vision for the agency over the longer term, the 5- and 10-year horizon?

Mr. Findlay: I hope that we will be very bold in terms of thinking about how our agency relates to the 21st century work force. I know I've said it a couple of times, but this is a very old agency. Unlike most of the other domestic agencies, we are not a "Great Society" agency. We're not even a "New Deal" agency. We're really a turn-of-the-century agency. Many of our laws, the Fair Labor Standards Act was passed in 1938, even recent laws like the Occupational Safety and Health Act are a generation old now. I hope we will be bold in terms of looking to see if there are any changes that need to be made to those laws, to the regulations under the laws, to opinion letters and things like that, so that we can really make our department relevant.

I've often remarked that the Department of Labor seal reflects the anachronism of some of our programs and policies. It shows as the symbols of our work force an anvil, a plow, a mill wheel, and a steamship, and those are really 19th century symbols, they're not 21st century symbols. We've got to make sure that our department is more up to date than its seal is.

Mr. Lawrence: I'm curious, as you think about your career, what advice would you give to a person interested in a career in public service?

Mr. Findlay: I think the main advice I'd give people is that it's important to be nimble and flexible, and that it's impossible to plan your career in a linear way. I think my career offers a good example of that in that I started out of law school as a law clerk, and it's the sort of job where typically would go be an appellate lawyer some place, and found myself with a great opportunity to work for a cabinet department that I didn't know much about. I went there, and then through pure chance found myself at the White House.

I couldn't have planned that progression, but I just did things that were interesting to me, and somehow things have worked out reasonably well. I guess I would just say to people don't try to look 25 years ahead and plan everything out. Be flexible, because in today's economy people don't stay in jobs for their lifetimes anymore.

Mr. Lawrence: Cam, I'm afraid we're out of time. Fred and I want to thank you for being with us. Throughout the conversation you mentioned a couple websites. Did you want to remind the audience?

Mr. Findlay: Yes, let me first give the Department of Labor's website which is www.dol.gov. That would be a good place to learn more about our department. But I also mentioned the govbenefits.gov website. It's just as it sounds, it's www dot g-o-v-b-e-n-e-f-i-t-s dot gov.

Mr. Lawrence: Thank you. This has been The Business of Government Hour featuring a conversation with Cam Findlay, the deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor. Be sure to visit us on the web at businessofgovernment.org. There you can learn more about our programs and get a transcript of today's conversation. Once again, that's businessofgovernment.org. This is Paul Lawrence. Thank you for listening.

Cameron Findlay interview
08/16/2003
Mr. Findlay is the Deputy Secretary for the Department of Labor

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