Artificial intelligence has more potential to improve how government works than any other recent technological innovation. However, adopting AI comes with challenges that can include bias, security, transparency, employee knowledge or federal acquisition and budget processes.

It’s vital for federal agencies to build the public’s trust in AI as the government’s use of the technology increases. In “More Than Meets AI Part II: Building Trust, Managing Risk,” the Partnership for Public Service and the IBM Center for The Business of Government offer insights for federal agencies to help them incorporate AI into their organization’s operations responsibly and transparently.

This white paper is the second in a series, following the February 2019 release of “More Than Meets AI: Assessing the Impact of Artificial Intelligence on the Work of Government.

Read more and download the new report

Noelle Camp (Bush, ’19) and Shannon Abbott (Bush, ’18) presented at the Institute of Nuclear Materials Management 60th Annual Meeting in Palm Desert, California, in July.

Noelle presented “Preliminary Results from a Comparative Analysis of Counterintelligence and Insider Threat in Nuclear Facilities.” Shannon presented “Defining Metrics for Measuring the Insider Threat.”

Read more

Editor’s note: The following article about Maxwell’s three new Robertson Fellows first appeared on the school’s website.

The Maxwell School is pleased to welcome three new Robertson Fellows within the 2019 – 2020 cohort of incoming public administration and international affairs graduate students. All three are pursuing dual degrees — a Master of Public Administration (MPA) and a Master of Arts in International Relations (MAIR) — to further their careers in international peace, security and development, with a commitment to work for the Federal Government for at least three of their first five years after graduation.

The Robertson Foundation for Government’s mission is to inspire the best and brightest U.S. graduate students to pursue long-term federal government careers in foreign policy, national security, and international affairs. Maxwell is one of five schools nationwide to which the foundation has provided grants to fund the education of exceptional students focusing on public service careers. Those grants cover full tuition for two years of study, plus a living stipend, health insurance, and assistance in finding a summer internship. At Maxwell, recipients typically pursue a two-year joint or dual degree.

Josephine (Josie) Glenn graduated magna cum laude from Sewanee University in 2015 with a bachelor of arts in political science. Her professional and academic experience has been grounded in advocacy and public service, both domestically and abroad. In her local community she has volunteered at a crisis clinic and a domestic violence shelter. While working abroad, her work has been focused on public health and human rights. She worked at a domestic NGO in Uganda to build programs focused on the de-stigmatization of HIV/AIDS, as well as to teach and provide public health information. She also served as a public health volunteer with Peace Corps Burkina Faso. During her college study abroad, she focused on human rights including democracy building in Nepal, the refugee crisis in Jordan, and indigenous rights with the Mapuche tribe in Chile. Since graduating she has worked as an Institutional Review Board member at the Department of Social and Health Services in Washington State, and as legal support staff at the Attorney General’s Office in San Francisco. While at the Maxwell School, Josie hopes to continue to develop her skills in advocacy and public service, and build a career focused on the protection of human rights.

Annastasia Hirt received a bachelor of arts in international affairs from the George Washington University Elliott School in 2014 and has worked for nonprofit organizations furthering women’s economic and political empowerment and global health, as well as the U.S. government in the House of Representatives and the Department of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. Annastasia served as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer teaching English in western Rwanda, where she led community and national projects focused on youth empowerment, gender equity, education, and financial literacy. Most recently, Annastasia worked in local government as the outreach & information liaison for the Salt Lake City Department of Public Services. She hopes to work in foreign service with USAID after graduation.

Holly Ratcliffe earned a BA in international affairs at the George Washington University’s Elliott School in 2015. She focused on Middle Eastern affairs and Arabic, and studied abroad in both Amman, Jordan, and Muscat, Oman.  Before coming to Maxwell, Holly worked at Meridian International Center in Washington, D.C., where she helped coordinate the Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP). While in this role, she administered large initiatives such as the Global Threat Cooperation and the 2018 International Women of Courage Awards (IWOC). Prior to joining Meridian, Holly lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where she worked with the nonprofits Creativity for Peace and the Santa Fe Council on International Relations. In addition to pursuing an MPA/MAIR at Maxwell, she is working toward a Certificate of Advanced Study in International Security Studies, with plans to pursue a career in international security, focusing on countering violent extremism at the grassroots level.

Ratcliffe’s fellowship is co-funded by University Professor Sean O’Keefe ’78 MPA (also Howard G. and S. Louise Phanstiel Chair in Strategic Management and Leadership) and his wife Laura. This is the fourth Robertson Fellow they have generously funded.

These Fellows join three second-year Robertson Fellows, also all pursuing an MPA/IR.

Roger Gildersleeve is studying the relationship between China’s environmental policies, foreign policy, and national security. After completing his degree, he expects to enter the foreign service with the U.S. Department of State.

Erica Stuke is working toward a career in international security and conflict management, with a focus on illicit financing of terrorism and the use of development as a tool for counterterrorism. She hopes to do this work at the U.S. State or Treasury Departments.

Charlotte Volpe plans to take advantage of South Asian regional emphases at Maxwell, with the goal of focusing on that region as a foreign service officer with the U.S. Department of State or other internationally focused agency. Volpe’s fellowship is co-funded by Joseph A. Strasser ’53 BA (History)/’58 MPA.

A fourth 2018-19 Strasser/Robertson Fellow, Allison Haugen, completed her MPA before being accepted into the U.S. Department of State Foreign Service Institute. She looks forward to receiving her assignment upon completion.

Congratulations to Robert Cabana and the Kennedy Space Center Senior Management Team on winning the 2019 Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals People’s Choice Award!

As the country celebrates the historic 50th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing, it’s fitting that we should honor this team for the work they’ve done. By transforming the historic Kennedy Space Center into a globally distinguished, multiuser launch site for government and commercial space exploration, Cabana and his team have helped preserve our nation’s leadership in this important field.

The Robertson Foundation for Government is a proud supporter of the Sammies.

Learn more about the winner

Alice Rivlin’s death on May 14 may have gone unnoticed in some circles amid news of Trump tariffs, the banning of facial-recognition technology in San Francisco, and reports of financial irregularities at the National Rifle Association. Even the next day’s New York Times obituary page did not carry her death as its lead story, as comedian Tim Conway had died on the same day.

But for those of us who knew and admired Rivlin, her 60-year career as an economist, careful analyst, governmental institution builder and public leader is something to pause and reflect on, and give tribute to. In fact, many people who may not know her name or may not have noted her passing have benefited and will continue to benefit from her lifetime of serving the public.

Rivlin had already had a distinguished career as a think-tank and government analyst when she was selected in 1975 as the first head of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). While this was a decision that Congress did not come to easily — some members were vehemently opposed to selecting a woman for the job — it turned out to be an inspired choice. Today CBO has as good a reputation as any analytical organization in the world, and it has become the model for similar institutions in state and local governments in the United States as well as in the governments of other countries.

It was decisions that Rivlin made that created the culture and practices that resulted in the ascendance of CBO as an institution. In the first year, for example, she decided that CBO would not make policy recommendations so as to protect the institution from charges of partisanship. That culture has been reinforced by subsequent directors and generations of CBO staff. On his first day on the job, the current director, Phillip Swagel, cited a Rivlin memo (still circulated to staff) in which she wrote: “CBO must be, and must be perceived to be, an objective, non-partisan, professional organization in the service of the Congress. … Our work and our publications must always be balanced, thorough and free of any partisan tinge.”

After leaving CBO in 1983, she moved in and out of the Brookings Institution for the next three and a half decades, and occupied two other high-level government positions: director of the White House Office of Management and Budget under President Bill Clinton and vice chair of the Federal Reserve. In those jobs, as in her previous one at CBO, she had vast influence over many programs and policies that had major impacts on state and local governments. But in at least one instance, her impact at that level of government was much more direct: More than any other individual, she was responsible for saving the District of Columbia.

For those unfamiliar with the story, the D.C. government, as a result of economic and political factors and bad management, was running consistent deficits and had lost access to the markets when its bonds fell to junk bond status in the early 1990s. It came dangerously close to being placed in federal receivership, which might have ended its already brief era of congressionally granted limited home rule.

Instead, Congress and the Clinton administration created the District of Columbia Financial Responsibility and Management Assistance Authority, more commonly known as the “financial control board.” The board restored D.C.’s access to the financial markets, the most significant government departments were placed under its control, and the city was given a timetable for becoming fiscally solvent.

Rivlin was already an expert on the D.C. budget, having headed a commission that issued a 1990 report that diagnosed the District’s financial problems and suggested some solutions. This, coupled with the fact that she had been OMB director when the financial control board was created, led to her being appointed its second chair in September of 1998. After Anthony Williams, who had been highly regarded as D.C.’s chief financial officer, was elected mayor in November of that year, Rivlin voluntarily relinquished (three years early) control of the agencies that the board had been running, but continued to advise Williams for the remainder of her term as chair. By 2001, the city had attained five consecutive balanced budgets, had regained its own access to the capital markets, and the financial control board was dissolved.

Rivlin had no obligation to serve on the board or champion the cause of D.C. But she was a resident of the city and cared deeply about its prospects. Williams put it best, telling a reporter after her death: “I can’t think of another person who combined at a top level both the national interest and local D.C. Can you? … She deeply, deeply believed that everything she was doing was to make government work better for the people. She was a great lady.”

At her memorial service last month, her long-time friend Donna Shalala, currently a member of Congress from Florida and secretary of health and human services in the Clinton administration, reminded attendees that Alice Rivlin was, first and foremost, a patriot. In this era when partisan bickering is the norm, objective analysis is under attack and public service is being systematically devalued, it seems fitting that we give tribute to someone whose entire life embodied hard-headed thinking and a commitment to good government. We may not see her like again.

Read the commentary piece on Governing’s website

Besides being billionaires and spending much of their fortunes to promote pet causes, the leftist financier George Soros and the right-wing Koch brothers have little in common. They could be seen as polar opposites. Soros is an old-fashioned New Deal liberal. The Koch brothers are fire-breathing right-wingers who dream of cutting taxes and dismantling government. Now they have found something to agree on: the United States must end its “forever war” and adopt an entirely new foreign policy.

In one of the most remarkable partnerships in modern American political history, Soros and Charles Koch, the more active of the two brothers, are joining to finance a new foreign-policy think tank in Washington. It will promote an approach to the world based on diplomacy and restraint rather than threats, sanctions, and bombing. This is a radical notion in Washington, where every major think tank promotes some variant of neocon militarism or liberal interventionism. Soros and Koch are uniting to revive the fading vision of a peaceable United States. The street cred they bring from both ends of the political spectrum — along with the money they are providing — will make this new think tank an off-pitch voice for statesmanship amid a Washington chorus that promotes brinksmanship.

Read the opinion piece in The Boston Globe

The Opportunity Project (TOP), a program hosted by the U.S. Census Bureau at the U.S. Department of Commerce, has for several years served as a catalyst in adapting agile techniques to solve complex agency mission problems, through a process that brings together agencies, industry, and citizens.  TOP works with Federal government agencies to identify significant challenges, and then facilitates partnerships among agency leaders, industry and non-profit innovators, and citizen users to collaborate as teams in developing innovative approaches to address those challenges.

TOP represents a unique, cross-agency program that provides a model for how agencies can work with private sector partners to develop practical approaches to complex problems in an agile, iterative fashion.

In Agile Problem Solving in Government: A Case Study of The Opportunity Project, a new report from the IBM Center for The Business of Government, authors Joel Gurin and Katarina Rebello from the Center for Open Data Enterprise outline the key elements and critical success factors involved in TOP. Drawing insights from several TOP case studies, the authors provide lessons for other agencies, and indeed for governments at all levels, on how agile problem solving can enable public-private collaboration that helps address some of their most significant mission-focused issues.

This report summarizes recent TOP initiatives, discusses examples that show the impact and challenges of this approach, and makes recommendations for similar work across agencies in the future.  The Project’s website highlights tools and summarizes previous sprints. The authors demonstrate that this approach, detailed further at, is a case study for how open government data can lead to rapid development of applications that benefit citizens.