Thursday, December 12, 2019
Conversations with Government Leaders Changing the Way Government Does Business

Government has many diverse and unique missions, but a single constant remains regardless of the mission set: serving the public above all else. From improving government management to building a weather-ready nation, compensating the sick and injured from the 9/11 terrorist attacks, providing development and humanitarian assistance, to envisioning transportation and supply chain infrastructure for the future, this edition of The Business of Government magazine offers insights from leaders who are advancing many of these initiatives, while also overcoming seemingly intractable public management issues facing us today.

“Between the thought and the deed,” notes Aaron Wildavsky, “there is a vast chasm. That gulf can be bridged only by taking seriously the task of organizing work.” The 10 leaders profiled in this issue underscore the critical importance of doing just that. I present the leadership stories of these public servants and complement their frontline experience with practical insights from a cadre of thought leaders—merging real world experience with practical scholarship. The purpose is not to offer definitive solutions to the many management challenges facing government executives, but to provide a resource from which to draw practical, actionable recommendations on how best to confront such issues.

Conversations with Leaders

Throughout the year, I had the pleasure to speak with key government executives and public sector leaders about their agencies, accomplishments, and vision of government in the 21st century. The four profiled manifest the leadership and strategic foresight needed to meet their varied missions.

Rupa Bhattacharyya, Special Master, September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, leads the VCF, which is charged with providing compensation to any individual (or a personal representative of a deceased individual) who suffered physical harm or was killed as a result of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. She outlines the VCF priorities, how the program works, efforts to expand outreach to the 9/11 community, and what the future holds for the VCF.

Bonnie Glick, Deputy Administrator, United States Agency for International Development, is the chief operating officer of USAID, which provides development and humanitarian assistance to those countries most in need. Deputy Administrator Glick details her agencies key priorities, its digital strategy, efforts to foster self-reliance, and how USAID engages the private sector to enhance development solutions.

Dr. Louis W. Uccellini, Director, National Weather Service, manages an agency tasked with providing weather forecasts, warnings of hazardous weather, and other weather- related products to organizations and the public for the purposes of protection, safety, and enhancement of the national economy. Dr. Uccellini spearheads efforts to build a weather-ready nation. He describes the key strategic priorities of the National Weather Service, how it is using technology to meet its mission, and what the future holds for his agency.

Margaret Weichert, Deputy Director for Management, Office of Management and Budget, outlines the Trump administration’s vision for modernizing the U.S. federal government to meet the mission, service, and stewardship realities of the 21st century. She leads the management side of OMB and notes that in the 21st century, agility powered by IT, powered by data, and powered by people is how leading players execute, differentiate, and build trust.


I also had an opportunity to speak with public servants pursuing innovative approaches to mission achievement and citizen services. Five current and former government executives provide insights into how they are changing the ways government does business.

Tom Brandt, Chief Risk Officer, U.S. Internal Revenue Service, runs the agency’s enterprise risk management (ERM) efforts. He provides insights into the benefits of ERM, how risk management can enhance agency decision making, and explains the mission of the Association for Federal Enterprise Risk Management (AFERM).

Allison Brigati, Deputy Administrator, U.S.General Services Administration, is the chief operating officer of an agency with a mission to deliver value and savings in real estate acquisition, technology, and other mission support services across government. She has sought to transform the way the agency operates, finding ways to be innovative and cost effective.

Nancy Potok, Chief Statistician, Office of Management and Budget, safeguards the integrity of U.S. federal government data. She is charged with making sure that federal statistics are objective, unbiased, not politically influenced, accurate, timely, and relevant. Her office puts out methods and standards that federal agencies need to follow if they’re going to assert that their statistical data is official U.S. government data.

Al Short, Chief Information Officer, Washington Metro Area Transit Authority, is responsible for everything from fiberoptic rights-of-way along the railroad to standard enterprise resource planning (ERP) associated with finance, procurement, and HR to the public facing website. His department is involved in supporting the systems that enable the Smart Trip card to the maintenance of the technology for running the D.C. rail system.

Dr. John Zangardi, former Chief Information Officer, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, reflects on his time as CIO at DHS. Dr. Zangardi discussed the department’s IT priorities, and his efforts to modernize its IT infrastructure, and change the way IT is done across the DHS enterprise. Please note, shortly before the publication of this magazine, Dr. Zangardi left his position at DHS. The insights provided are a snapshot in time.

Perspective on Driving Digital Transformation

The Port of Rotterdam is the largest port in Europe. From all indications, the port is preparing for the future today, focusing on safety, efficiency, and sustainability. To do this successfully, the port is developing its digital twin, providing real-time situational awareness of all things static, moving, human-driven, or autonomous, pulling together all the geographic, sensor, and real-time information to provide port personnel a complete and current view of port activities.

Erwin Rademaker, Program Manager, Port of Rotterdam Authority, joined me and my co-host, Sreeram Visvanathan, IBM global managing director for Government, Healthcare, and Life Sciences to discuss the Port of Rotterdam’s digital transformation strategy, how it is creating its “digital twin,” and other ways the port is changing the way it does business. We conducted this interview at this year’s SPADE conference hosted in Soesterberg, the Netherlands. SPADE brought together defense, intelligence, and security leaders from Europe and around the world in dialogue with experts from IBM and industry. This year’s theme was designing for the future of defense and security.

Forum on the Evolving Use of Artificial Intelligence in Government

Over the last two years, the IBM Center for The Business of Government and the Partnership for Public Service have collaborated on research focusing on the use of AI in government and its implications. The finding and insights from this joint effort culminated in the release of three distinct yet complementary reports:

  • The Future Has Begun: Using Artificial Intelligence to Transform Government. This report offers four cases of organizations that have used AI. It distills findings from over a dozen interviews with thought leaders who are applying AI in government and demonstrates that government can use AI to solve real issues and meet their missions. The forum contribution will provide a synopsis of two of the four cases outlined in the full report.
  • More Than Meets AI: Assessing the Impact of Artificial Intelligence on the Work of Government. This report addresses how government can best harness AI’s potential to transform public sector operations, services, and skill sets. It draws on insights from a series of roundtables with government leaders and focuses on three areas: AI impact on a transformed workday, the potential for personalized customer service, and the increased importance of technical and data skills.
  • More Than Meets AI, Part II: Building Trust, Managing Risk. This report discusses further steps agencies can take to manage risks. While taking advantage of the many anticipated benefits of AI, agencies must also manage real and perceived risks associated with AI to build trust in the technology.

The final contribution in this forum, Agile and Inquisitive—AI Leadership, is an original piece I wrote that explores two leadership qualities essential for meeting the demands and challenges of a continuously evolving technological landscape. With the promise of artificial intelligence no longer in some far-off future, government leaders must comprehend and harness both its perils and possibilities and doing that effectively will require these leaders to be agile and inquisitive. This forum highlights the insights, findings, and recommendations derived from the IBM Center and Partnership roundtables and reports. Several of the contributions in this forum are edited excerpts of the reports referenced above. It is our aim to spark a conversation on the use of AI, help prepare federal leaders to assess the inevitable changes coming, and provide government leaders with insights to navigate this transformative time.


This edition presents a host of viewpoints from array of thought leaders. These authors explain how open innovation can transform the government technology playing field and how the use of agile principles is at a tipping point in government. They also provide insights on how using algorithmic auditing can make machine learning in the public interest, how cognitive enterprise is transforming the delivery of government services, and how behavioral science can help improve program outcomes.

I close this edition with highlights of a selection of recent Center reports. If you have not read these reports, I invite you to do so by going to I hope you find The Business of Government magazine both intellectually stimulating and rich with practical insights. Please share your thoughts by contacting me at

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