Managing the Multi-Sector Workforce through Public Management Collaboration: New Federal Sourcing Arrangements Will Clarify Roles, Assure the Right Level of Service, and Engage outside Service Providers Only When in the Best Interest of the Public

Article excerpt

Over the past 12 months, the federal government has experienced a significant expansion. Stimulus funding is now funneling to new and augmented programs. The government has assumed an unprecedented role in the automotive and banking industries. Most recently, the Obama Administration has established a substantive, new direction for managing the multi-sector workforce, which includes the mix of public, private, and volunteer personnel who execute public missions. Taken together, these developments suggest the start of a new era for the federal government.


Economic challenges have clearly increased the role of government in the short term. This growth, however, has developed within a broader context of the federal government's increased reliance on external service delivery networks. Time will tell the extent to which the recent expansion of the federal workforce is sustainable.

One thing is clear: a careful review will soon be underway to optimize the workforce composition providing this expanding scope of government services. As federal managers seek to execute their missions through managing the multi-sector workforce, the need for cross-functional collaboration is more important than ever.

Optimizing the multi-sector workforce relies on the collaboration of program managers, human capital, acquisition, and business and finance professionals (see Figure 1). Additional stakeholders and functional areas, including senior leadership, performance management, information technology, and related logistics, also support the optimal management of this workforce. This collaboration is critical to effective and efficient engagement of the most appropriate service sectors.


Government organizations' reliance on a range of service sectors to deliver on their mission presents a number of important considerations. In his 2002 book,

The Tools of Government, Lester Soloman noted that challenges can arise from services delivered from third-party providers.

He acknowledged an evolving paradigm shift in the structures or 'tools' governments employ to deliver public services: " ... not simply the delegation of clearly defined ministerial duties to closely regulated agents of the state. That is a long-standing feature of government operations stretching back for generations. What is distinctive about many of the new tools of public action is that they involve the sharing with third-party actors of a far more basic governmental function: the exercise of discretion over the use of public authority and the spending of public funds."


In 2005 the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) initiated a study that defined the multi-sector workforce as "a mixture of several distinct types of personnel working to carry out [a federal] agency's programs." The NAPA study also noted that this situation presents certain challenges.

The term multi-sector workforce recognizes "that federal, state, and local civil servants (whether full or Part-time, temporary or permanent); uniformed personnel; and contractor personnel often work on different elements of program implementation, sometimes in * the same workspace, but under substantially different governing laws; different systems for compensation, appointment, discipline and termination; and different ethical standards." n

The Services Acquisition Reform Act (SARA) of 2003 created a panel to investigate government-wide acquisition practices, including issues created by the blended workforce. The panel reported its findings in 2007 and found that in some cases contractors were solely responsible for mission-critical functions that were traditionally performed by government employees, such as acquisition program management and procurement, policy analysis, and quality assurance.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) agreed with the panel's findings and commented: "We found that there is a need for placing greater attention on the type of functions and activities that could be contracted out and those that should not, reviewing the current independence and conflict-of-interest rules relating to contractors, and identifying the factors that prompt the government to use contractors in circum-stances where the proper choice might be the use of government employees or military personnel. …