Gov Career

By Phil Piemonte

Blog archive

Top dogs, same dogs

Various news organizations today have reported the names of several people who — according to the sources of news entities such as The Washington Post — will be named to top administration posts by President Barack Obama.

According to those reports, these individuals will play musical chairs. Gen. David Petraeus reportedly will replace CIA Director Leon Panetta, who will move into the top Pentagon post, replacing Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who used to be CIA director. Yeesh.

Which got us to thinking:  Although they’ve all held (or reportedly will hold) some of the same jobs, Panetta, Gates and Petraeus are pretty different guys.

Which got us to thinking some more: Anyone with the government for more than a couple of years has experienced a changing of the guard. And they must have cataloged a few observations about such changeovers along the way.

According to an often-repeated bit of common wisdom, change comes from the top. But how often does that happen?

So our question for you is: At the rank-and-file level, how much difference has a past change at the top really made at your agency? Is the effect greater at some agencies than others? Or do the changes have a day-to-day effect only in the executive ranks?

What’s your experience?

Posted by Phil Piemonte on Apr 27, 2011 at 4:02 PM

Reader comments

Thu, Apr 28, 2011

We had huge, adverse, changes at the Department of the Interior (specifically, Fish and Wildlife Service) under Gail Norton during the Bush Administration. Just google Julie MacDonald's name.

Thu, Apr 28, 2011 Ammo Joe

The problem at "The Top" is that they come into the job with a "vision" of what they want to do but when they get there they find out that their vision doesn't fit or it's only superficial to the task and doesn't go far enough to effect the day-to-day. The other piece is that they get the position and find that they've bit off more than they can chew and the "not on my watch syndrome" kicks in so nothing get changed for betteror worse.

Thu, Apr 28, 2011 Glen Dallas

As someone who has worked in positions from the frontline to headquarters office, it really depends upon how close you are to the change. Kind of like a pebble thrown into the middle of a pond. If you are in the middle of the pond it makes a huge difference. If you are near the shore you may not even know it happened.

Thu, Apr 28, 2011

In my 20+ years with the government at various agencies, I have seen several changes in "top" personnel, but very little change in the way things are done. Many promotions appear to facilitate someone riding out the years before their retirement at a higher pay grade. These folks want things to go as smoothly as possible and are not going to make any waves by holding their subordinate managers to a higher standard. The real joke is that these people at the top act like they have some special talents that enabled them to advance when in fact their main talent is the ability to close their eyes to waste and incompetency and say "yes sir or ma'am" to the person in charge. And so, very little ever changes. Clearly, change has to be forced on these people from the top, but I for one am not holding my breath until it happens.

Thu, Apr 28, 2011 ezekiel east coast

Change comes with long-term effects left in the wake of war or natural disasters (Acts of God). Do not most folks in high places retire, and when they do write memoirs, establish libraries in their honor at universities, and engage in speaking tours? If there were real change following thier departures, who would care what they did or thought? Ip-so-facto, does not the real change repudiate their 'accomplishments'? Legacies are like leeches, they hang around much too long.

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