Center Blog

Every secretary needs their deputy…


February 15, 2017

Ananda Bhatia, Fellow, Partnership for Public Service



While the Senate is focused on confirming the Cabinet secretaries nominated by President Trump, the administration must quickly begin to fill deputy secretary positions along with other members of departmental leadership teams.

Deputy secretaries frequently are designated as chief operating officers and are responsible for improving the management and performance of their departments along with having a say in development and implementation of policy.

During the past year, the Center for Presidential Transition has produced position descriptions for top appointees appointees within federal departments and agencies. We interviewed several deputy secretaries and found a common set of competencies and requirements for these critical positions:

Common Competencies

  • Demonstrated ability to resolve conflicts within a large organization
  • Comfortable leading and managing in ambiguity, as deputy secretaries often have very vague or undefined statutory responsibilities and authorities
  • Ability to establish positive relationships with coworkers and external stakeholders
  • Ability to forge strong congressional relationships preferred

Common Requirements

  • Proven ability leading and managing a large and complex enterprise
  • Previous experience with federal government enterprise operations
  • Understanding of core services, programs and initiatives delivered by the agency’s key departments
  • Experience dealing with high-profile stakeholders
  • Experience leading through unexpected crisis situations preferred
  • Familiarity with the federal budget process preferred

President Trump and his team will need effective deputy secretaries to manage day-to-day operations and carry out their policies. Looking for these key competencies and requirements can ensure that they find the right candidates.


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