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Report

Looking for the Future Leaders of Government? Don’t Count on Presidential Management Interns

Judith Labiner

Over a quarter century ago, President Carter established the Presidential Management Intern program “to attract to federal service men and women of exceptional management potential” (Executive Order 12008). Under President Reagan, the emphasis of the program was tweaked to attracting those “who have a clear interest in, and commitment to, a career in the analysis and management of public policies and programs” (Executive Order 12364).

Key to both the original and updated objectives of the program is this potential for, interest in, and commitment to management. The program recruits candidates directly from graduate programs. Neither management experience nor demonstrated skill are eligibility criteria. The logical goal of recruiting people with promise and dedication is to develop their raw potential so in the future they can successfully assume leadership roles in government.

At no time in the last quarter century has this goal been more critical than now. Human capital management was designated a high-risk area by the General Accounting Office (GAO) in 2001. Two years later, the GAO noted progress but argued that “it remains clear that today?s federal human capital strategies are not appropriately constituted to meet current and emerging challenges or to drive the needed transformation across the federal government” (GAO, January 2003). The GAO report emphasized continued challenges in leadership, human capital planning, and acquiring, developing and retaining talent. The coming retirement boom will leave government further weakened, unless effective succession strategies are in place.

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