Gene Dodaro, comptroller general of the United States:

The federal workforce faces challenges from budget reductions to increased scrutiny of government operations. But that should not restrict the federal employee’s view of tomorrow.

Such times as these can be an opportunity to rethink how government does business and explore ways to better serve the American people. As a career civil servant, I know the difference that dedicated federal employees make on behalf of our country. But at this critical juncture, public servants need to take individual responsibility for redoubling their efforts to find or create innovative approaches around today’s problems and creative strategies that ensure more efficient and effective government services.

They will need to re-ask some basic questions to work smarter: Are their work units properly shaped and sized? Do they have the right people in the right jobs? Have they planned for changing resource levels? There is no standard, governmentwide answer to these questions. Instead, individual agencies must tailor solutions to their needs. In some cases, this will entail new technologies or employment strategies to gain efficiencies.

Progress in several areas can help agencies. Key among them is strategic human capital management. This issue is so critical that it is on the Government Accountability Office’s high-risk list.

Strong succession plans are also urgently needed as government faces an impending wave of retirements and increased competition in hiring and retaining skilled workers. Some agencies already have critical skill shortages that could hamper their ability to carry out their missions.

Compounding these challenges are the government’s fiscal pressures and the long-term outlook. As the baby boomers retire, entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare will face huge expenses. The need to wring every dollar out of the federal budget and ensure that taxpayers are getting their money’s worth has never been greater. The reality is that lean budgets are likely for some time to come.

Difficult policy choices lie ahead. If our federal workforce is to remain effective and relevant, innovation, optimism, determination and strategic thinking must be part of that process.