The Foreign Service Journal - June 2017
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Having held top-level positions in both the federal govern-

ment and private industry, what do you think are the salient

differences in themanagement skills needed in the two sectors?

Once you reach a decision in the private sector, that’s the end

of the process. In the government, by contrast, once you reach a

decision, that’s the beginning of the process. At that point, you

need to convince a plethora of people that your decision is right

before it can be implemented. The government moves much

more by consensus than the private sector does.

Second, in the private sector, you have much more of a free

hand in personnel decisions. If I wanted to hire or fire somebody,

I could do it. Here in the government that becomes much more


Third, people are very much driven by the profit motive in the

private sector: everything has a standard criterion. In govern-

ment, there is no single criterion; it’s an exercise in judgment. A

single standard is an advantage in the sense that everything is

clear; it’s a disadvantage in that it’s a rather narrowmotivation.

In government, people tend to be motivated by broader issues.

Indeed, that’s one of the advantages of serving in government.

However, both sectors are challenging in their own way.

As your term in the Reagan administration approaches its

end, how would youmost like to be remembered as secretary

of defense?

I haven’t tried to attain any single dramatic achievement; that

isn’t particularly my style. But there are a number of things we’ve

tried to do that I hope could be followed up on. We’ve tried to set

very clear priorities even in a period of declining budgets. We’ve

sought to emphasize quality: quality of people, quality of training,

quality of the weapons systems, and quality of the procurement


These priorities have been reflected in the budget with

emphasis on people, readiness, sustainability, and on producing

weapons systems at efficient rates. We have started an initiative in

the procurement area which I hope will catch on.

I think we’ve managed to strengthen our alliances not just dur-

ing my period, but over the period of my predecessor, and we now

have very strong alliances with a number of countries.




JUNE 2017