Academic journal article The Public Manager

The Expanded Role of Federal Executive Boards: Federal Executive Boards Now Play a Pivotal Role in Emergency Planning, Response, and Recovery

Academic journal article The Public Manager

The Expanded Role of Federal Executive Boards: Federal Executive Boards Now Play a Pivotal Role in Emergency Planning, Response, and Recovery

Article excerpt

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy established federal executive boards (FEBs) by presidential directive to achieve better interagency coordination and communication among federal departments and activities outside of Washington, DC. In 1982, the Executive Office of the President transferred authority for the FEB functions to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), which today oversees the FEB program.

The need for effective coordination among federal organizations' field activities was clear then and is even more important in today's environment. About 88 percent of the 1.5 million federal employees work outside of the national capital area, and regional and local offices of federal departments and agencies administer many federal programs. Regional and local federal officials are the federal government's principal representatives to the vast majority of our nation's citizens.

The boards function as

* forums for the exchange of information between Washington and the field about programs, management methods, and administrative issues;

* coordinators of local approaches to national programs as approved by the OPM director;

* communicators from Washington to the field of management initiatives and other concerns for the improvement of coordination; and

* conveyors to the national level of problems that cannot be resolved locally.

Today, FEBs are located in twenty-eight areas with significant federal populations (Table 1).Each FEB comprises the highest ranking local officials from federal agencies in the FEB area. Board leadership and structure consists of elected officers (chair and vice chair), councils, and committees specific to FEB programs. An FEB staff, usually of one or two people, manages the daily operations of the board.

A host department or agency provides administrative funding for each FEB, and the local member agencies normally furnish project funding. The FEBs draw their general operating instructions from the responsibilities outlined in Title 5 U.S. Code Section 960.

In 2007, the FEB network was restructured to meet the changing needs of the federal workforce, and two new lines of business were unveiled: human capital readiness and emergency preparedness, employee safety and security. This article focuses on the FEBs' role in emergency planning, response, and recovery.

Emergency Preparedness, Employee Safety and Security

In May 2007, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a report, The Federal Workforce: Additional Steps Needed to Take Advantage of Federal Executive Boards' Ability to Contribute to Emergency Operations. Among other things, it highlighted the network's efforts in emergency planning, response, and recovery over the years and recommended ways to expand its role, particularly relative to a pandemic influenza outbreak.

In September 2007, the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Government Management, the District of Columbia and the Federal Workforce, chaired by Senator Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), hosted a hearing to further explore these recommendations and learn more about the network's efforts. I testified at this hearing, alongside my counterparts from Minnesota and Cleveland, as well as representatives from GAO, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and OPM.

Also in 2007,with help from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), FEBs nationwide were granted access to the Law Enforcement On-Line ( and United States Public and Private Partnership ( communications systems. The Dallas-Fort Worth FEB and the Dallas FBI office spearheaded this effort, seeing the mutual benefit of expanding what was an interagency communication pilot program nationwide. FEBs now have the ability to communicate individually or collectively using a consistent tool.


The U.S. government is the nation's largest employer and among the top five employers in many metropolitan areas across the country. …

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