October 9th, 2015

Problems in Managing the Federal Government

file under Uncategorized - Fred Malek @ 4:29 pm
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Recently a friend of mine emailed me a 1970 memo I wrote for then Office of Management and Budget Director George P. Shultz.  At the time I was serving as Deputy Under Secretary of Health Education andWelfare and was all of 33 years old. A couple of years later I was named Deputy Director of OMB and had a chance to put some of my thoughts into action, aided by a great team I assembled including Paul O’Neil, Frank Zarb, John Sawhill, and Colin Powell.

Our goal was to put the “M” into OMB and to accomplish this we set out to introduce business practices into the federal government, especially those related to management and new ways to increase efficiency in the federal bureaucracy.

In the memo I outlined priorities for the new OMB, and as a result I came up with what I saw as the major problems in managing the federal government, and offered some initial recommendations.

I’ve written about this topic quite a bit over the years.  I published a book (Washington’s Hidden Tragedy: The Failure to Make Government Work). It discussed the many failures of managing the government and offered solutions.  I also touched on this issue in a column for the Daily Caller last year, but it’s worth revisiting, as so much of this is still relevant today.

You can read the memo in it’s entirety here, but I’ve outlined some of the major points below.

Lack of Management Expertise in Top Positions

There’s really no question that people in key management positions in the federal government – department officials, agency heads, and program chiefs – often have little to no training or background in management.  Unlike the private sector, government positions are often filled with people who posses a high degree of technical expertise, but have yet to prove themselves as effective managers.

Separation of Management from Policy Development

This occurs all too often when policy is developed without consideration as to how it will be implemented (think rollout of healthcare.gov).  Having a management strategy in place from the beginning is important to avoid serious mistakes further down the road.

Neglect of Less Visible Tasks

Top officials tend to focus on high profile problems especially during the launch of new initiatives and programs.    Everyone wants to look good for political leadership, which places an emphasis on focusing on the hottest political topics at the time.  Once attention shifts to a new program or the political mood changes, important management priorities are often neglected.

General Inability to Gauge Results

One of the biggest observations I’ve made over the years is the fact that it’s much more difficult to hold people accountable in government positions, because there is really no reliable metric to grade effectiveness.  Simply put, it’s difficult to know whether someone is doing a good job in government or not.


Bureaucracies often spring up as the result of individual pieces of legislation creating a vast system of walled off government programs that serve similar purposes.  This can lead to massive redundancies and waste in government.  For example, in his 2014 report to Congress, GAO Comptroller Gene Dodaro explained that “it’s impossible to account for how much money is wasted through duplication, in part because the government doesn’t keep track of which programs each agency is responsible for.”

Poor Working Relationships with State and Local Governments

The tension between state and federal governments has increased significantly during the current administration.  As Chairman of the Finance Committee at the Republican Governors Association, I regularly hear complaints from our members about overreach and interference from the Federal government.

We face many of the same challenges today that we did in 1970, and there’s no clear cut way to solve all of them.  However, since my experience in government and the publication of my book, I’ve been fortunate to hold CEO positions in the private sector as President of Marriott Hotels and of Northwest Airlines. This has given me a good sense of what works, and what doesn’t work when it comes to management.  And most importantly, leadership starts at the top, and one of the places to start may be to change the management coming out of the oval office.



September 26th, 2015

Statement on House Speaker John A. Boehner’s Retirement

file under Uncategorized - Fred Malek @ 9:42 am
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Speaker John Boehner always considered himself a regular guy who was given the chance to do a big job.  Throughout his 25-year House career and reign as Speaker, he certainly rose to the occasion.  His legacy leaves behind a strong record of conservative accomplishments and lifetime achievements.

I always thought that Speaker Boehner did everything he could to give us the best chance to stand up to President Obama and advance a conservative agenda, and he proved time and time again his ability to strike a deal and work out the differences in his own party.

There are certainly big shoes to fill but I am confident that the bench is plenty deep for a new leader to emerge at the helm of the House of Representative.  Kevin McCarthy has proven to be a more than capable Majority Leader and would make an impressive choice for the job as someone who could lead the Republican Party and House.

As John moves on to the next chapter in his life, I wish him and his family the best of luck and success in whatever comes next.  Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

July 28th, 2015

10 Years of Baseball in Washington

file under Uncategorized - Fred Malek @ 8:38 am
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President Ronald Reagan in 1985 called on Baseball Commissioner Peter Ueberroth to restore “a tradition which has long been absent from the city—the presidential privilege of throwing out the first ball.”  It took another 20 years before baseball would make its way back to DC, but today, the proud tradition of our great national pastime in our Nation’s Capitol lives on.

This year marks the 10th Anniversary of bringing baseball back to Washington.  To coincide with the anniversary, the Newseum will honor the Nationals with an exhibit starting this week.  This is a great time to celebrate how far the team has come in such a short time, but it’s also a time to look back on the progress we’ve made here in DC and the wider community.

There was a time not too long ago when crime and poor city management were rife in the District.  There were many areas in the city that needed to be cleaned up, and Congress had to intervene and oversee the city’s financials.

Baseball was in a similar state of panic.  In the mid 90’s, baseball was still reeling from the devastating strike that produced the longest work stoppage in the game’s history.  The World Series was canceled, fans stopped showing up to ballparks, and team revenues tanked.

Major League Baseball decided to step in and save one of its most financially distressed teams, The Expos, whose hometown of Montreal is better known for hockey.

Business and city leaders in Washington saw an opportunity.  Mayor Tony Williams commissioned a study that showed clear evidence that Washington could support a Major League team.  The Mayor asked me to lead a potential owner group that would partner with the city, setting off what became one of the most rewarding experiences of my career.

Along with business and city leaders, we setup the Washington Baseball Club with the goal of moving the Expos to Washington.  To do that we needed to select a great site, convince the DC city government to help build a world class stadium, and ultimately convince MLB to move the team to DC.

We had a great group of partners including Jeff Zients, Steve Porter, Paul Wolff, Frank Raines, Jim Kimsey, Colin Powell, Vernon Jordan and David Bradley and a fantastic executive director, Winston Lord.  We worked diligently for two years and finally succeeded.

When news came that DC was getting the team, we had tears in our eyes with pride that we had helped our great city achieve its goal of providing a Major League team for the many baseball fans in our city.

While we came in second to the strong and capable Lerner Family in a lengthy but fair process to purchase the team, we are grateful of the role we all played.  The hard work to bring baseball back to our nation’s capital has been an overwhelming success, and we can thank the Lerners for the way they have built the team up over the years.

In 2005, President George W. Bush took to the mound at RFK Stadium in Washington, DC to throw out the first ball, restoring the tradition of baseball in our nation’s capital.

Today, the Nationals are sitting at the top of the NL East, and young stars like Bryce Harper and pitching ace Max Sherzer are dazzling the District and baseball fans across the country.  And South West DC seems to be building up as fast as the team’s fan base has.

The Nationals are a reminder for all of us who grew up around the game watching our heroes take to the field.  Today, kids in our city have the same opportunity to grow up around a team and immerse themselves in this wonderful sport and learn its lessons of hard work, discipline and team spirit.

Nationals’ fans will have the opportunity this summer to relive some of the greatest moments in our team’s history when the Newseum opens its doors this week to showcase 10 years of baseball in DC.  Those old Expos and Senators would be proud; our Nationals are building proudly on their heritage and offering their fans bright prospects for the future. That’s exactly what a great home team should do for its fans.

July 20th, 2015

Statement on the Retirement of Abe Foxman

file under Uncategorized - Fred Malek @ 10:35 am
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Abe Foxman has dedicated his entire life’s work to combating prejudice, extremism and intolerance across the nation and throughout the world. For three decades at the helm of the Anti Defamation League he has lead the charge excoriating anti-Semitism, hate crimes and all forms of bigotry, gaining him the respect of popes, presidents and people of all faiths.

We should honor Mr. Foxman’s commendable service as he retires from his post today, but remember there is still much more work to be done. Prejudice is still all too common even in our advanced society, and we must continue to combat hatred with ideals of equality and civility.

Last year I was honored to receive the Anti Defamation League’s Achievement award, and truly proud and humbled to have that award presented to me by my good friend Abe Foxman. Thank you for your lifetime of service, Abe, and I wish you the best of luck as you move on to the next chapter in your life.

June 30th, 2015

Reacting to the Supreme Court’s Decision

file under Uncategorized - Fred Malek @ 3:20 pm
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Our government functions within a system of checks and balances.  By design, each branch of government is regularly at odds with the others to prevent the abuse of power.  There are certainly instances when this structure produces outcomes that elicit polarizing responses from different groups of people.  The Court’s decision last week to expand the definition of marriage is case and point.

We live in a country that encourages dissent and freedom of speech.  But if the Republican Party is serious about winning national elections, we must respect decisions handed down by the High Court and work within the confines of our Constitution and reality to promote a governing agenda for the American people.

Abolishing the Supreme Court, as some have suggested, is not only unconstitutional, but to me, deeply concerning.  Furthermore, pursuing a constitutional amendment to overturn the Court’s decision would be a gross waste of resources and would almost certainly crash and burn.  This brash rhetoric is not only bad for our Party but also bad for the country.

Republicans running for President would be wise to keep their eye on the prize: winning the general election and laying out a vision for the country that focuses on jobs, the economy and expanding access to the American Dream.

The American people are paying close attention to how our candidates respond to this.  I’ll be paying close attention as well.

May 23rd, 2015

Honoring Those Who Paid the Ultimate Sacrifice

file under Uncategorized - Fred Malek @ 9:40 am
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Memorial Day is a time for Americans from all stripes and backgrounds to come together and honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for freedom and the defense of democracy. Parades will be held in honor of the fallen, and families will pack up and head to the beach, meet with friends at backyard BBQ’s, and unwind for the unofficial kickoff of summer.

As a Vietnam veteran, I knew many brave young men who paid with their lives to protect our freedom. Many more men and women have done so over the years protecting our way of life and the virtues we hold dear, including some of my West Point classmates. I’m truly moved and proud of my country when witnessing the patriotism and appreciation for these heroes.

Washington may seem as divided as ever, but this weekend we should all put our differences aside and remember that we live in the greatest country on earth and remember the men and women who fight bravely everyday to ensure that holds true.

I hope everyone has a wonderful Memorial Day. God bless America and God bless our troops.

April 21st, 2015

American Action Forum Turns 5

file under Uncategorized - Fred Malek @ 11:33 am
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Today marks the 5th anniversary of the American Action Forum, a group that I founded to inject forward thinking ideas into the public debate. By focusing on the issues that share common ground across the political spectrum, The Forum has become a leading voice for promoting innovative, free market solutions to create a smaller, smarter government.

The Forum’s data driven, nimble approach cuts through the rhetoric of Washington, proving that it’s not always the loudest voices that win the day, but rather those with the facts and the best ideas who come out on top. From providing cutting edge research on tax and economic policies, to analyzing crippling government regulations, the Forum keeps Members of Congress and influencers informed at real time of the most important issues in the public policy arena.

I have many people to thank for making this organization a success. Doug Holtz-Eakin, one of the most trusted economists and policy leaders on both sides of the aisle, has grown the team from a staff of two that started out in a small rented office, to a team of 30.  All of the incredibly bright people who have led the charge to bring this organization into the center of the public policy debate deserve credit for how far we’ve come in such a short time.

Success is never final, however, and I’m looking forward to continuing to make the American Action Forum a leading voice for sensible policy solutions to our nation’s most pressing problems.

Check out this great video on AAF’s anniversary here.

February 20th, 2015

Republican Governors Association is all About our Future Leaders

file under RGA - Fred Malek @ 8:45 am
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In only five years Republicans have gone from occupying 23 governor’s mansions to 31, including pickups in deep blue Massachusetts, Illinois, and Maryland.  This is due in large part to the hard work and leadership of the Republican Governors Association.

The RGA is critically important to electing Republican Governors, and it plays an instrumental role in advancing conservative policies at the state level, but it’s much more than that.  From my experience the most important thing about the RGA is what it does to foster the future leaders of our party.  All you have to do is take a look at the qualified bench of current and former state executives that are likely to contend for the White House in 2016.

As a forum for ideas and constructive conversation, the RGA provides its members with a platform to elevate state and regional issues to the national level.  These conversations are especially important for our newest members to develop blueprints for managing the top priorities in their home states.  Connecting our most experienced members with our newest members also inserts fresh ideas into the mix while also building on proven results.

Our Republican Governors are at the forefront of the most pressing policy issues of today.  Whether it’s preparing for and managing the threat of a global pandemic or pushing back against the EPA’s unprecedented power grab, RGA members are leading on our biggest issues.

The RGA will host its quarterly meeting in Washington, DC today, a great time to catch up with our members and meet those who have joined our ranks following victories in the last election cycle.  I’m looking forward to a productive meeting today and to hearing what this group has to say.

January 14th, 2015

Fox and Friends: Fred Malek Discusses Prospects of Mitt Romney White House Run in 2016

file under Uncategorized - Fred Malek @ 1:18 pm
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On Fox and Friends this morning I discussed the prospects of another Mitt Romney run at the White House in 2016.  While the former Massachusetts Governor and Presidential nominee hasn’t made up his mind yet, one thing’s for sure: this cycle is shaping up to include one of the most impressive slates of conservative candidates bidding for the White House I’ve seen in memory.

Republicans are going to have a constructive conversation over the next year as the eventual nominee emerges.  A number of current and former governors are expected to enter the race in the coming months, all of whom have a proven track record of accomplishments in their home states.

While much talk in recent weeks has focused on how much money it will take to win the nomination, the winning candidate is going to be the one who combines the most compelling vision for the country with the proven leadership to make this vision a reality.

I’m looking forward to hearing what this group has to say as they lay out their plans for the country.

Check out my interview with Brian Kilmeade here.


December 15th, 2014

Anti Defamation League Achievement Award

file under Awards - Fred Malek @ 5:00 pm
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The Anti Defamation League for over 100 years has led the charge to deter and counter hate crimes, anti-Semitism, and all forms of bigotry. During the course of its existence, ADL has vigorously defended democratic ideals and fought for the protection of civil rights. This profound commitment to human dignity makes it an honor for me to accept the Anti Defamation League’s Achievement Award this evening.

I’m looking forward to sharing this evening with close friends and family as the ADL honors me with this prestigious award. I would like to thank the ADL and everyone involved in tonight’s event for this tremendous honor. I am forever grateful and I look forward to continuing to work alongside ADL to combat prejudice, extremism and intolerance across the nation and throughout the world.

For those of you who are attending tonight’s dinner, you will hear me speak in greater detail about the importance of ADL’s mission. For those of you who follow my blog, I’ve included a copy of my prepared remarks below. Additional information about ADL and its fine work can also be found at www.adl.org.

Remarks of Fred Malek
Anti-Defamation League Award Dinner
Washington, DC
December 15, 2014

Thank you to my friends of 4 decades, Abe Foxman, and to my wonderful family and friends for being with us tonight. I am truly honored to have so many turn out for me, and of course for the ADL. Many nice things have been said about me tonight, and my heartfelt appreciation to Abe, Andrea, Ben, Bobbie, Norm, and Norm and special thanks to David Friedman and his regional team for all they did to make this evening successful. But in my mind, all of you here tonight deserved to be honored. More than a career or body of work, what truly matters in the long run is that we treat all with dignity and respect, that we are true to our word, and loyal to family and friends.   We will be remembered much more for that than any career accomplishment.   I believe that all in this room exemplify these values, and I believe any one of you would be a worthy honoree.

Tonight, I’d like to use my time to personally thank and honor the ADL for its mission, its work, and its vision.

One hundred and one years ago, when the ADL was started with two desks in a small Chicago law office, it was impossible to imagine the number of lives that would soon be sacrificed to the worst forms of hatred and prejudice.

World War I had not yet started, and hardly anyone used the word, “Holocaust.” We did not speak of civil rights, and in that year, 1913, when women asked for the right to vote, they were spat upon and beaten. How far we have come, and yet how far we still have to go.

Last May, the ADL released a ground breaking study, which found that over one-quarter of the world’s adults have anti-Semitic attitudes. That translates into more than one billion people. And that is a tragedy for all of us in the 21st century.

Seventy years after Auschwitz, it is heartbreaking, particularly for those of my generation, who can recall the atrocities of World War II, to hear anyone in Europe, or in any part of the world, chanting anti-semitic slogans. Such statements are inexcusable and indefensible. It is vitally important that the ADL continue to document and call to account those who would speak or act upon these horrible thoughts and words. “Never again” must always mean, never again.

But in its mission, the ADL reminds us that hate and bigotry are not confined simply to anti-Semitism. From its beginnings, the ADL believed that fighting against one form of prejudice required fighting against all forms of prejudice.

It is my sincere hope, and I believe the hope of everyone in this room, that in another hundred years, the need for the ADL will be greatly diminished. But until we become a color-blind, class-blind, and faith-blind society and nation, until we can truly become “a world without hate,” the ADL’s mission and message will remain essential to protecting our most basic freedoms.

All my adult life, I’ve used as my personal and ethical code the motto of my alma matter, West Point. It is three simple words that have a most profound meaning: “Duty, honor, country.” There is no greater honor that can be shown to our country than defending the ideals of democracy, protecting civil rights, and ending bigotry, and no greater duty for all of us. I am honored to be in your company. Thank you again.