The Foreign Service Journal, December 2022

68 DECEMBER 2022 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL USAID VP VOICE | BY JASON SINGER AFSA NEWS Contact: | (202) 712-5267 Getting This Reorg Right Over the past months, USAID colleagues and stakeholders have shared with me their comments, concerns, and critiques on (another) agency reorganization. Their thoughts include: (1) What, another one?!; (2) Well, we all know the Bureau for Development, Democracy, and Innovation (DDI) is too big; (3) When can I just focus on my job?; (4) Do they under- stand that reorganizing is, in fact, a burden?; and (5) Sigh, OK. Please reach out to me with your own thoughts, sug- gestions, and concerns. Reorganization can yield improvements, to be sure. As FS development practitioners, we are used to change—in fact, we are often change agents.We recognize the pos- sibility of strengthening the agency, improving operations, and addressing challenges; we want a more effective USAID. But reorganizations should be entered into thoughtfully, based on data, consultations, objective assessments, and long-term strategic planning. Their planning, implemen- tation, and consequences (intended and otherwise!) distract employees and can disrupt operations long after administrations change. I hope the agency will pause, reflect, and address the following areas. Modeling Transparency and Two-Way Communica- tion . The previous administra- tion’s “transformation”was the largest agency reorganiza- tion in 30-plus years. After a rocky start, the agency embarked on a robust com- munications, consultations, and outreach campaign: A dedicated secretariat pub- lished “business principles” guiding the process, and filled webpages with congressio- nal notifications, vision and functional statements for new bureaus, fact sheets, time- lines, milestones, updates, etc. Some may feel there was too much material gener- ated; change-management is a tricky balancing act. But I appreciated the efforts of so many colleagues. Unfortunately, current efforts have not yet generated much transparency or two- way dialogue; just corridor chatter, bureau-level brief- ings, and a couple of “insider” articles in the development media. The agency needs to increase communications, transparency, and active listening in the spirit called for by President Joe Biden in his “Memorandum on Revitalizing America’s Foreign Policy and National SecurityWorkforce, Institutions, and Partner- ships.”He says: “The revital- ization of our national security and foreign policy workforce requires a recommitment to the highest standards of transparency.” Building the Capacity for Strategic Workforce Planning & Budget Unity. Astoundingly, neither the previous nor current efforts directly address strategic workforce planning and its budgetary implications. As recently as May 2022, the inspector general (IG) observed: “For nearly 30 years, USAID has worked to improve the efficiency and efficacy of its strategic work- force planning, yet despite these attempts, human capital management has remained one of the Agency’s top chal- lenges.”That’s half of USAID’s 60 years! Part of the challenge is that the Office of Human Capital and Talent Management (HCTM) does not manage the majority of decisions related to program-funded personal services contractor (PSC) and institutional support contrac- tor (ISC) positions—which the IG puts at some 3,540 individuals, or 29 percent of USAID’s workforce. Current reorganization plans do not appear to unify the program and operating expense budgets or create any entity with the capac- ity, authority, and resources to resolve this 30-year-old problem. Kicking it down the road is not advisable; the current reorganization should be cen- tered around the workforce and address this issue head- on, in the spirit of President Biden’s commitment to “pro- tect, empower, and rebuild the career Federal workforce.” Reforming and Empow- ering HCTM. I regularly engage with the fantastic and dedicated professionals in HCTM. Unfortunately, the office lacks the resources and authorities to manage USAID’s entire workforce; and HCTM colleagues are regu- larly overworked (and under- appreciated) while pulled in conflicting directions. The statutory chief human capital officer (CHCO) role has been further weakened—and politicized—by the creation of an appointed HCTMAssistant to the Administrator. Mean- while, USAID has recently advertised for a CHCO and deputy CHCO—emblematic of ongoing organizational chal- lenges. No one would deny the urgent need for major HCTM investment and reform, and agency leadership should put HCTM front and center in reorganization and reform efforts. Now or Probably Never. This is a unique window for the agency to apply the presi- dent’s call for “the highest standards of transparency” to workforce concerns, the operating expenses–program budget divide, the urgent care needed for HCTM, and revitalization of USAID to be a Foreign Service agency. The president has not only opened this window; he is pushing his executive leader- ship through it! But if USAID does not use this opportunity, energy, and momentum now, under this president, to at least try and address these well-known systemic flaws, the window will close and may be boarded up for years to come. We are USAID—we can do this. n