As a potential partial response to the shortfall in personnel in the senior ranks of government, Congress and the executive branch have initiated a number of small recruitment and retention initiatives. For example, a 2003 Presidential Executive Order (13318) authorized a Senior Presidential Management Fellows program, intended “to provide for the recruitment and selection of outstanding employees for service in public-sector management” for terms of up to three years (Bush, 2003).2 Individuals were to be selected through a merit-based system from among people with “extensive work experience” and “exceptional leadership or analytic ability.” Five years later, the program awaits implementation guidance from the Office of Personnel Management before it can begin. However worthy in intent, fellowship programs make a small contribution, considering the size of the overall need.

In addition to identifying highly qualified people within the department for promotion to senior ranks,3 recruitment of the next generation of department leaders will have to look outside. The loss of scientific talent is particularly severe in some agencies. For example, a 2007 Institute of Medicine report reviewing the future of drug safety recommended increasing the scientific capacity of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) staff (IOM, 2007a):

The IOM committee concluded that, in order to better plan and evaluate research on drug risks and benefits, the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research needs “more expert staff, deeper expertise in the staff it already has, and different kinds of expertise.” (p. 127)

Findings such as these suggest the need for a concerted effort at recruitment from academia and the private sector to obtain the depth and level of necessary expertise. In a survey, 23 percent of HHS staff themselves believed that their work units were not “able to recruit people with the right skills” (HHS, 2007).


A separate Presidential Management Fellows program, intended for individuals with recent graduate degrees, is operational and provides HHS with about 50 Fellows annually. The similar Emerging Leaders Program (ELP) also recruits among graduate students.


Promoting leadership and management skills could be accomplished through training opportunities offered through the HHS University or the expansion of internal programs, such as the Department’s Senior Executive Service Candidate Program.

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