The pandemic changed how the federal government operates, but should some of those changes stay in place?

The pandemic changed how the federal government operates, but should some of those changes stay in place?

Many things changed during the four years Donald Trump was president – press briefings all but disappeared, tweets replaced official statements, and golf was played with a frequency not seen since the Woodrow Wilson administration. Yeah, Wilson liked to hit the links.

And with Trump’s commitment to deregulation the federal government itself changed. Deregulation left some agencies understaffed, underfunded and in some instances, unable to function properly.

Then the pandemic hit, which highlighted some of the harm of deregulation, given the federal government’s hobbled response to the crisis.

The pandemic also changed how the federal government and its two million employees operate, as many began, and many still are, working from home.

So, what will a new administration – and perhaps the beginning of the end of the pandemic – mean for our federal employees and how government operates going forward?

Produced by Kurt Gardinier


  • Max Stier President and CEO, Partnership for Public Service; @publicservice
  • Jennifer Rubin Opinion columnist, The Washington Post; @JRubinBlogger


  • 12:00:14

    KOJO NNAMDIYou're tuned in to The Kojo Nnamdi Show on WAMU 88.5, welcome. Many things changed during the Trump administration. But one of the biggest shifts was in the federal government. Trump's focus on deregulation and less government oversight left some agencies understaffed, underfunded and in some instances without permanent department heads. When the pandemic hit, it changed how the federal government and its two million employees operate as many began and are still working from home.

  • 12:00:44

    KOJO NNAMDISo what will the new administration and perhaps the beginning of the end of the pandemic mean for our federal employees and how government operates going forward? Joining us now is Jennifer Rubin who is an Opinion columnist covering politics and policy for The Washington Post. Jennifer Rubin, thank you for joining us. Well, we don't have Jennifer yet, but we do have Max Stier. Max is the Founding President and CEO of the Partnership for Public Service, a non-profit, non-partisan organization focused on the federal government and government workers. Max Stier, thank you for joining us. Good to talk to you again.

  • 12:01:20

    MAX STIERGood talking to you. And I will take two seconds to say, thank you, Kojo for your unbelievably powerful voice on D.C. and much more. You're awesome and I'm particularly pleased to have an opportunity to say thank you right now.

  • 12:01:37

    NNAMDIWell, you're welcome, Max, and thank you for your kindness, but on to the topic at hand. How did four years of the Trump administration and the push for deregulation affect the regular government and its employees?

  • 12:01:50

    STIERSo that's a question that we could go on for quite some time on. Look, I think the four years of the Trump administration were challenging. And I think the most profound challenges were really in the way that, you know, President Trump and many of his leaders, you know, fundamentally challenged the basic purpose of our government organizations. And in a way that has never been done before and I think actually does a disservice to the American public.

  • 12:02:23

    STIERBut the drumbeat goes on. We have a government that in my view has suffered from decades of rust. And the Trump administration was the sledge hammer. Decades of rust can cause a lot of harm obviously. A sledge hammer much faster. But we need to rebuild. And this is a moment I think of immense opportunity to make our government better in order to help the American people.

  • 12:02:51

    NNAMDIWhich agencies and departments were most affected in your view?

  • 12:02:57

    STIERSo, look, I think you can look at the workforce itself to help answer that question. And we produce our best places to work rankings. There are a bunch of agencies that saw significant declines according to the people who work there who know best. And they include, you know, organizations like the EPA, the Department of Justice, the Department of Interior, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Department of Agriculture. I mean, it's a pretty lengthy list, though, interestingly, if you look at the overall average of government morale, they did not go down all that much during the Trump terms. And certainly were not at the lowest that we've measured.

  • 12:03:35

    STIERBut there are a number of agencies, a fair number of them where there was real harm done. And as I said, I think even more fundamentally there were in my view inappropriate challenges to the basic purpose of our government. This whole notion of even of a deep state was a misnomer, a lack of appreciation for the way in which our career civil service is actually sworn to uphold the Constitution. And will follow the policy directives of, you know, elected leaders, presidents, but are also required to follow the law. And that's -- you know, there were norms and laws challenged in ways that we've never seen before.

  • 12:04:17

    NNAMDIOn the other hand, Max, we also saw one of the fastest vaccine trials and rollouts in history, a partnership between the federal government, the national institutes of health and private companies. How would you rate that rollout and how do you see partnerships like that working in the future?

  • 12:04:35

    STIERSo it's a great question. And, again, I think leadership is everything. And, you know, one thing I will note is at the National Institutes of Health, NIH, you had a leader who was, if not the only -- I don't know of another example. You know, carry over from the Obama administration. So Francis Collins is a world-class scientist, a world-class leader. He served as the NIH director for the full eight years of Obama. He served for the full four years of the Trump administration and now is in place still. And I think this underscores both the importance of terrific leaders and of continuity.

  • 12:05:15

    STIERAnd so I would say, you know, judging from just the benchmarks against the rest of the world, the U.S. has clearly done exceptionally well in developing these vaccines. It was career civil servants who were responsible for these vaccines, and in a relative to the rest of the world an exceptional job in rolling out that vaccine.

  • 12:05:34

    STIERAlthough, we obviously have some distance still to travel, but the bottom line is, you know, our government continues to do amazing work. Fundamentally that's inevitably going to be about great career civil servants and, you know, leaders that help them support them to do their jobs well.

  • 12:05:53

    NNAMDIPresident Joe Biden didn't waste any time acknowledging the federal workforce and the important work that federal employees do. Here he is addressing federal workers two days after being sworn in.

  • 12:06:05

    PRESIDENT JOE BIDENHey, team. How are you doing? I mean that sincerely. You're a team. We're a team. It's not about me as president. It's about one team for one America. I've worked with your agencies for a long time as U.S. senator and as a vice president. You're patriots. You could have done a lot of other things with your career. But you chose public service. And I know this transition was a little more challenging than usual to say the least. I commend you for your professionalism, your honor, your integrity.

  • 12:06:39

    NNAMDIMax Stier, what's the significance of President Biden's words there and what effect may they have on the two million federal workers?

  • 12:06:48

    STIERSo it's an exceptional move on this part. You know, and as you said, what's so unusual is that it's a statement that went out from him personally at the very beginning. I don't know of anything quite like it. I will say that, you know, one of the challenges is communicating with the broader federal workforce is enormously difficult. So just getting federal employees to hear that, my bet is the vast majority unfortunately didn't hear that message or certainly not in real time.

  • 12:07:18

    STIERBut it's a critical message that I think enables the federal workforce to understand that they actually have a leader who understands his responsibilities, which is not only to be a, you know, center of the policy for our country, represent our country, but to run largest most complicated and most meaningful organization in our country and probably on the planet. And that recognition is I think fundamental to overall success of our government.

  • 12:07:52

    STIERPresidents are symbolic figures and they are also operating leaders. And they need to understand that operating leader piece if they're going to succeed in the incredibly diverse set of problems that we face as a country. And so it's a wonderful beginning. Fundamentally he needs to walk the talk. He needs to make sure that his leadership team, the political point he's coming in also focus on these issues. There's a tendency for political leaders to focus on policy announcement and not policy implementation and organizational health. But these are really good early signs that President Biden gets it. And I've been encouraged by what I've seen in his larger leadership team as well.

  • 12:08:39

    NNAMDIJoining us now, Jennifer Rubin. She is an Opinion columnist covering politics and policy for The Washington Post. Jennifer Rubin, I count myself among the gazillions of your readers. Thank you for joining us.

  • 12:08:51

    JENNIFER RUBINIt's my pleasure.

  • 12:08:53

    NNAMDIYou wrote an opinion piece in the Post last month noting the federal government shift to work from home. While many companies made that shift, the federal government is in a way different because of its sheer size. How did that go and what are the implications in your view?

  • 12:09:11

    RUBINWell, I think as Max was saying sometimes diversity and challenge and adversity is the stimulus for some pretty interesting innovation. And Max's organization put out a report that documented some of the success stories. And although one might imagine there would be all sorts of problems, productivity would go down. There would be less communication with the public. Those things by and large did not happen, and there were a number of policy successes and institutional successes, which I think suggest that ironically although we're still in the midst of a pandemic and we still have some employees who are remote that this might be a good time for innovation.

  • 12:10:01

    RUBINThat when you get people out of their normal pattern or go normal rut they may be more amenable to some innovation and some I think new ideas. One of the things that we saw for example was that generally productivity did not go down. I think both the private sector and the public sector have this hang up that they want to see their people. But if they are at home somehow they're not getting the job done. And in fact, what they found was with all the distractions, all of the problems many people were more productive.

  • 12:10:37

    RUBINAnd I think we all know that sometimes time in the office is not spent shall we say purposefully. There's a lot of chit chat. There's a lot of distractions in the office. And so I think some of our preconceptions about virtual work turned out to be wrong. And I think this is an area in which we can now capitalize. We look at what worked. We look at some of the really remarkable that agencies undertook because they realized that they were not going to have people in offices in many cases. And they were innovative in their outreach to the public. They upgraded in some cases their software or hardware.

  • 12:11:21

    NNAMDIAllow me to interrupt you for a second, because we've got to take a short break. When we come back, we'll continue this conversation with Jennifer Rubin and Max Stier. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

  • 12:11:57

    NNAMDIWelcome back. We're discussing how the federal workforce has been affected both by the Trump administration and by the pandemic and whether or not government should be reinvented. We're talking with Jennifer Rubin, an opinion columnist covering politics and politics for The Washington Post who wrote a column on whether or not government should be reinvented, and Max Stier, the Founding President and CEO of the Partnership for Public Service. That's a non-profit, non-partisan organization focused on the federal government and government workers. Jennifer Rubin, when we took that break you were talking about how working from home has affected the federal government in many favorable ways.

  • 12:12:34

    RUBINYes. As I think we were saying before the break, although there were real concerns about would departments be able to coordinate either internally or with other departments? Would they maintain productivity? Would they maintain communication with the public? People innovated and people did that. And I think we have all learned whether private or public sector there are certainly drawbacks to working from home. Most especially for those people who also have their children at home, which is a particular challenge. But there may be many qualified employees, very good employees who have that preference. And if that has become an aspect of government service that may benefit the federal government or allow them to recruit people who sort of enjoy that and have gotten used to it.

  • 12:13:24

    NNAMDIHere now is Kelly in Falls Church, Virginia. Kelly, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:13:29

    KELLYGood. Thank you. I just wanted to share the experience. Some federal employees like myself chose to leave the federal government even after for me 12 years in the military service and 8 years of civil service experience and chose to leave because we never thought we would face -- unfilled the challenges we did for unfilled positions. For instance, leadership positions that just made our jobs insurmountably challenging and chose to leave.

  • 12:13:58

    NNAMDIMax Stier, care to comment on that?

  • 12:13:59

    STIERThat's such an important point and one that Jennifer has also written about. And I can't help but resist saying that when she talks about an increased productivity, she is the epitome of productivity. It's hard to believe how diverse and fast she is about every issue of the day. It's a big issue that your caller raised. And one that I think is both a particular problem with the last administration where they were the slowest to fill their leadership positions. Ultimately even by the end of the 700 plus Senate confirmed positions we tracked there was still 160 plus that they had never filled.

  • 12:14:39

    STIERBut it's also a broader problem I think of the actual system we have ourselves. It's crazy. There are 4,000 political appointees. There are 1200 requiring Senate confirmation. These are numbers that are unheard of anywhere else in any democracy in the world. And they cause big problems because it means that even if you are well organized and lots of administrations coming in aren't that you take upwards of a year to fill your senior positions.

  • 12:15:08

    NNAMDIAnd that is very much a big contributor to dysfunctionality in our government. And it also means that in the leadership, the very top leadership ranks you have people who are short-term leaders. The average tenure of the Senate confirmed folks is barely two years. And they, again, are incented to focus on the near term policy announcement, but not on the follow through, the execution or the institutional health. So really key issue that your caller raises.

  • 12:15:38

    NNAMDIIn 1993, President Bill Clinton created the National Performance Review, known simply as NPR. Yes, I know. The point of the NPR was to reform the way the federal government works. Here he is announcing the program.

  • 12:15:57

    PRESIDENT BILL CLINTONToday I am taking what I hope and believe will be a historic step in reforming the federal government by announcing the formation of a National Performance Review. Our goal is to make the entire federal government both less expensive and more efficient. We intend to redesign, to reinvent, to reinvigorate the entire national government.

  • 12:16:19

    NNAMDIJennifer Rubin, your opinion piece was titled, "It's About Time We Reinvent Government Again.". Before we get to how a reinvention may look for today's government, talk about how the Clinton administration led by then Vice President Al Gore, reinvented government in the 1990s.

  • 12:16:36

    RUBINWell, it was I think a seminal moment for the federal government and a lesson for us today that the first thing that Bill Clinton did was he put a very high level person in charge. He put the vice president, who was very close to him, who certainly spoke with authority. And any time you're going to undertake one of these exercises, you better have someone with a lot of clout at the top otherwise they get ignored, because you are trying to go into every department, every agency and say, "All right, what's not working? Can you give me this information? Can you give me that information? Have you thought about X, Y and Z?"

  • 12:17:18

    RUBINSo if you're going to do one of these you should do what Bill Clinton did, which was appoint someone who is knowledgeable and high level. The other thing is you should be quick about it. Max will correct me, but I think that -- recall that it was all done within the space of about six months. And that's vital too because if you take two years to do this, you're hardly going to have time for people to learn what changes they should be making before you may be out of office again.

  • 12:17:43

    RUBINSo I think you have to focus on the things that matter. One of the big issues if you recall back then was having government speak in plain English rather than in government ease. But those problems are hugely different from the problems we have now. That was undertaken before personal computers were in widespread use. It was undertaken when the government was smaller even though it was large, but much smaller than now. It was undertaken before we had the complete reorganization of a whole new department, Homeland Security.

  • 12:18:21

    RUBINSo, I think some of the things that he undertook then should be a model for what we do now, but the problems are very different. It would be as if in 1980, you went back and said, "Well, we're just going to keep running the government the way it was during World War II." That's kind of where we are right now. And that, obviously, is not the best way to operate.

  • 12:18:57

    NNAMDIJennifer, is reinventing the government again part of Biden's agenda?

  • 12:19:03

    RUBINHe hasn't said it in so many words, but there are lots of elements which lead me to believe that he certainly is interested in reform and an execution, simply by the nature of the people he appointed. He is not an outsider. He did not run with the notion that he was going to come and run Washington like a business, which I think we all learned was a little bit of nonsense. He not only has years and years of experience, but he brought in people who have years and years of experience, many of them in the federal government, many of them with executive experience.

  • 12:19:38

    RUBINHe has also set up his very close adviser, Susan Rice, with a particular mission that can be part of a reinventing government, which is to pay close attention to hiring -- and other practices, as well -- with diversity in mind. We have certain departments, and I can think of the State Department as the example that people point to that are not diverse. And as a result of not being diverse, the State Department is at a handicap. It's not representing the diversity of America, and it doesn't have, I think, an international base of experience that would benefit us.

  • 12:20:18

    RUBINSo, one thing he has done by executive order was to set her out to get data, get information, make recommendations about hiring and about other policy and other processes in order to help the government look more like America. So, that's one instance where he's taken one portion of, if you will, reinventing government or government reorganization, government change and put, again, a very high-level person in charge of that.

  • 12:20:53

    RUBINAnd I would suggest that given all of the things he is now doing, passing a huge $1.9 trillion rescue plan, there will be lots of opportunities, I think, to present themselves where he can enlist a high-level individual to make the kind of changes we need, as Max said, so that the government runs more efficiently, more effectively and less expensively.

  • 12:21:15

    NNAMDIMax Stier, do you agree with Jennifer that it's time for another reinvention of our federal government? And what reforms do you think are needed to make our government work more efficiently?

  • 12:21:27

    STIERSo, I 100 percent agree with everything that Jennifer has said. And, you know, for me it's a little bit like thinking about reinventing government. It's as if I, you know, you know, did a makeover of my wardrobe from the 1990s and thought that I was set for today. You know, the world is changing in very fast and big ways, and we need our government to keep up with it. And we actually need to see not, you know, a periodic, every quarter century reform of government, but a continuous improvement in government.

  • 12:21:59

    STIERTo the question on the agenda, you began with it and Jennifer began with it, which is to take advantage of the changes that have already taken place with the, you know, response to the pandemic, there is so much innovation that is taking place moving our government to, you know, almost fully remote, had enormous advantages and ones that we can carry over, even when it's not required, both about how it functions and also what it's been producing.

  • 12:22:27

    STIERAn example of that would be the VA, which has had an enormous increase in telemedicine, which solves the problem for the now, but also a longstanding problem, how do you actually help people in remote and rural areas? So, you're seeing that all across the board, where people are truly innovating. A second piece has to be refreshing the workforce. Jennifer's 100 percent right on the importance of focusing on diversity in the broader workforce, and especially in the leadership.

  • 12:22:54

    STIERThe Biden administration has the most diverse set of appointees of any presidency, ever. Although I should be careful, you know, I'm pretty clear that's the case, but certainly I have it for all modern presidents. But the reality is that it's not just -- it's also generational diversity. The federal workforce today is only barely over 6 percent under the age of 30. If you look at the IT workforce, it's only 3 percent under the age of 30. We need to see a real renaissance refreshing of that workforce, if we're going to have the right talent for today and for tomorrow.

  • 12:23:28

    STIERWe're also going to need to see a big effort on improving employee morale. And we talked a little bit about this earlier, but the reality is that the federal workforce is about 15 points lower than the general workforce in its morale. And it doesn't need to be that way, because the core value proposition of a job with mission exists in the government in a way that you don't find in the for-profit sector.

  • 12:23:53

    NNAMDIGot to take another short break. When we come back, we will continue this conversation. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

  • 12:24:14

    NNAMDIWelcome back to our conversation about the possibilities and/or the necessity of reinventing the federal government. We're talking with Jennifer Rubin and Max Stier. Jennifer Rubin, another criticism of the inefficiencies of our government in your piece was: How many presidential political appointees have to be confirmed by the Senate? How many actually need the Senate's approval? And how is the process going with President Biden's nomination -- with President Biden's nominees? I heard a figure of 4,000, at some point. Yes.

  • 12:24:45

    RUBINYes. It's going very slowly. President Biden, despite the delayed transition and all the rockiness that that held, did a pretty good job of rolling out his appointments. But compared to other presidents -- at least the last time I looked last week at (unintelligible) charts that appear in the Washington Post, the confirmation process was really lagging.

  • 12:25:11

    RUBINAnd you might think that's a little surprising, given the fact that the Democrats are nominally in charge of confirmations. Now, there might be some excuses. We had a pandemic (word?). We had the impeachment trial, but really, the process is very, very slow. And the sheer number is not only inefficient, but it's really ridiculous and counterproductive.

  • 12:25:38

    RUBINYou would be surprised, your listeners would be surprised at the people who require Senate confirmation. These are staff personnel, for example, the chief of staff of a Cabinet secretary. Why in the world does Congress need to have that person confirmed, the Senate confirmed, or a CFO of an agency? There's no particular expertise that come with this. It's not a policymaking position. It's a policy execution post.

  • 12:26:10

    RUBINAnd I think having that many people means that when you don't have someone, there's a hole in the organization. One of your listeners called in to say she left because there were so many people who didn't have their spots filled. There's so many empty offices. That happens because you have so many positions that have to be turned over, and then have to wait through this lengthy Senate process.

  • 12:26:36

    RUBINIt's also completely arbitrary. Why is the national security advisor, top foreign policy advisor to the president, subject -- not to get a confirmation, but ONB is, the Office of Budget Management? So, I think we need a top-to-bottom review to slice, rather dramatically, the number of political appointees and Senate confirmation...

  • 12:26:51

    NNAMDIOkay. Max Stier, in 2012, Congress passed legislation to reduce the number of Senate-confirmed political appointees. How many did they reduce then, and do you agree with Jennifer, as you -- well, you indicated earlier that there are way too many presidential political appointees. But do you think that this Senate, as it is now constituted with Democrats, as Jennifer said, in the nominal majority, can now change that?

  • 12:27:23

    STIERSo, I 100 percent agree with Jennifer. Just a small point of clarification, and that is, she's very much right, that the positions that are fundamentally reporting to other people who are Senate-confirmed, many of those don't need to be Senate-confirmed. Chiefs of staff are not currently Senate-confirmed, but, you know, if you were the assistant secretary for legislation, often, you are. And it really, again, just as Jennifer stated, slows things down and creates gaps that are really detrimental to the functioning of government.

  • 12:27:54

    STIERSo, the Senate can -- and, frankly, it actually needs more than the Senate, the whole Congress -- can reform the system. Your reference to the changes that were made in 2012 is an example of that, where there were, I think, 163 positions removed from Senate confirmation. I would describe that not as the full loaf or half loaf or quarter loaf. It's a slide of bread against the full problem, you know, 1,200 Senate-confirmed positions. But it was meaningful, and it shows that change is possible.

  • 12:28:24

    STIERIt really requires, you know, cooperation. This is a nonpartisan issue. It's not good for Republicans or Democrats. And it doesn't help the Senate, as Jennifer stated. It actually means that positions that you might think are important stay unfilled, and it diminishes the Senate's overall ability to serve as a counterweight to the executive in its advice-and-consent form, because -- consent role, because executives usually try to do an end-run around it. So -- and that's what the Trump administration did. So, this would be to everyone's benefit to actually make it a much smaller number of Senate-confirmed positions and to reduce the overall number of political appointees.

  • 12:29:07

    NNAMDIHere now is Richard in Fairfax, Virginia. Richard, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:29:11

    RICHARDYes. I heard your discussion about the Al Gore initiatives, and I was in the federal government at that time. And I'd just like to make the comment that if this is going to be done again, they're going to have to guard against cynicism in the ranks. Because the ranks have been through MBO and TQM, and there's other flavors of the year.

  • 12:29:30

    RICHARDThe second thing I would say is, I really am disturbed by pointing out problems at the State Department, because generally speaking, there are a lot of very bright and motivated people there. I'd hate to see that change. If you're looking for an example of where diversity was done very well and successfully, look to the GAO. They are consistently considered one of the best places in government to work, and they have managed that well.

  • 12:29:58

    NNAMDIThank you very much for your call. Jennifer Rubin, we did -- I was about to observe that a lot of federal employees may be wary about reinventing government again, but how would you respond to Richard?

  • 12:30:11

    RUBINWell, first of all, I want to absolutely agree with him that the State Department has some of our finest employees. The problem is, a whole slew of them left during the Trump administration, in large part because the State Department wasn't led by experienced, competent people. Because, in some ways, the initiatives that the administration were undertaking were a huge departure from really bipartisan values.

  • 12:30:41

    RUBINSo, the biggest problem at the State Department, aside from diversity, a much bigger problem is we don't have enough of them. And we don't have enough people with those language skills. So, I would implore your readers, your listeners, rather, and my readers to, you know, if you have language skills, if you want to see the world, if you want an exciting job, go apply at the State Department.

  • 12:31:05

    RUBINIn terms of employee cynicism, I think that's entirely understandable, but I would also say, for that very reason, now is absolutely the time to do that and overcome that. Joe Biden, as a president, loves the government. I think that's pretty obvious. And he is one of the least-cynical presidents we've had in recent years. And I think his sincerity, his devotion to making the government serve all Americans, as he put it, will trickle down to the workforce. And I think it will set a new tone that this is for the betterment of their jobs and for the American people.

  • 12:31:42

    NNAMDIPaul tweets: Under the former president, USCIS, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, and its mission was undermined in numerous ways. We were also subjected to two threatened furloughs allegedly related to finances. There may be some challenges, but it seemed motivated by an attempt to undermine employee morale. It didn't help that we were headed by illegal acting political appointees who were incompetent, unqualified and worked to slow legal and illegal immigration. Here, now, is Charlotte in Falls Church, Virginia. Charlotte, your turn.

  • 12:32:15

    CHARLOTTEHi. So, it seems like the EPA was a big target of former President Trump's. What does EPA look like today, with all this deregulation of the agency?

  • 12:32:24

    NNAMDIMax Stier.

  • 12:32:27

    STIERSo, again, big questions, and I should start by saying, I agree with everything Jennifer said. So, answering the question on EPA, they're going through a pretty significant review right now of the decisions made, and to ensure that they're able to come back to science and evidence as the basis for decision-making. They have real issues around all the things we've talked about so far, which is morale of the overall workforce and also around the need to refresh that workforce.

  • 12:32:57

    STIERIf you look over time -- and it's not just the last four years of the Trump administration, it extends well before that -- the EPA has seen huge declines in its budget and its personnel, and therefore, its ability to perform its function. So, there's a major rebuild needed at EPA. And they also -- you know, they had their administrator in, but they don't have the larger new political leadership team in place.

  • 12:33:24

    STIERBut, you know, that's -- you know, you can pick almost any agency and believe that there's a lot of work to be done, there. EPA clearly is, you know, top of the list in terms of the importance of rebuilding it and the need that exists there.

  • 12:33:41

    STIERComing back to the question about employee cynicism, look, this is part and parcel of what good leaders have to address in any context. They have to show that they're listening. They have to show that they are really going to be adding value and helping. And I think, fundamentally, the federal workforce is extraordinary in its mission commitment. If leaders show that they're going to help get the mission done better, employees will come along.

  • 12:34:06

    NNAMDIHere, now, is Robert in Fairfax County. Robert, you're on the air. Go ahead, please. Hi, Robert, are you there? Robert doesn't seem to be there anymore, so let's go to Ansum (sounds like) in Columbia, Maryland. Ansum, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:34:26

    ANSUMWell, thank you very much. I am proud federal employee, and I think part of the challenge that we talk about reinventing the government is really helping the American people to understand the scope and the context of the government. We have an incredible workforce of a lot of talented people who are doing great things on behalf of the American people. So, the socialization around reinventing government sometimes sends a message, especially when you have political appointees who sometimes really don't understand how government works and the value of federal employees.

  • 12:34:58

    ANSUMAnd as we talk about reinventing the government, I think we've got to get a lot more federal employees engaged in that process, so that it becomes a more viable way going forward.

  • 12:35:11


  • 12:35:11

    ANSUMSecondly, with adversity...

  • 12:35:14

    NNAMDI(overlapping) I'm afraid I’m going to have to -- Ansum, I'm afraid I'm going to have to interrupt you, because frankly, we are just about out of time. Max Stier -- so I'll let yours be the last word, Ansum. Max Stier is the founding president and CEO of the Partnership for Public Service. It's a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization focused on the federal government and government workers. Max, thank you so much for joining us.

  • 12:35:35

    STIERThank you so much, Kojo. And thank you, again, for your exceptional service and strong voice on behalf of the public in this area.

  • 12:35:43

    NNAMDIYou're welcome, Max. Jennifer Rubin is an opinion columnist covering politics and policy for The Washington Post. Jennifer, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:35:51

    RUBINThank you, and I would echo Max's comments, and also thank Max for doing what he does. There is no organization that does a better job of tracking these issues than Max's. He's an invaluable aid to government and to journalists.

  • 12:36:07

    NNAMDIThat's why we have him on here, all the time. Today's show on reinventing the federal government was produced by Kurt Gardinier. Coming up tomorrow on the Politics Hour, Washington, D.C. is tantalizingly close to becoming a state. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton talks with us about last week's hearing on HR51 and next steps in the road to D.C. statehood.

  • 12:36:25

    NNAMDIThen Maryland State Senator Clarence Lam gives us a preview of the last three weeks of the legislative session and weighs in on the state's vaccine rollout. That all starts tomorrow, at noon. Until then, thank you for listening, and stay safe. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

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