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Federal Highway Administration > Publications > Public Roads > Vol. 59· No. 4 > A New Face for FHWA in a New Era

Spring 1996
Vol. 59· No. 4

A New Face for FHWA in a New Era

by David Smith

Creating New Opportunities

With a work force of only about 3,500 individuals nationwide, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) administers a $20 billion program to ensure that the United States has the highest quality and safest highway system in the world.

In an effort to ensure that FHWA efficiently meets its operational requirements and maintains a highly effective and motivated work force, the agency has been working to restructure the organization in accordance with: (1) the Department of Transportation (DOT) Strategic Plan, (2) the recommendations resulting from the National Performance Review (NPR), (3) the need to change the organizational structure of FHWA to meet changing mission requirements and the forthcoming DOT-wide reorganization, (4) the goal to expand the diversity of the FHWA work force, and (5) the goal to strengthen the reputation of the FHWA as a model employer.

Part of this effort - and a significant aspect of achieving success - is the broadening and diversification of the FHWA work force, particularly in senior management positions. FHWA has an outstanding record of affirmative action in hiring and promoting employees at all levels. From FHWA's African American administrator and female deputy administrator through the first and second tiers of career executives, FHWA has significantly increased the number of minorities and women in leadership positions in just a few years.

In less than three years, the face of FHWA leadership has changed dramatically. The new faces - or veteran faces in new positions - include Executive Director Tony Kane, three of the six associate administrators, seven of the nine regional administrators, and 21 of the 52 division administrators.

FHWA Division Administrators.

ROW 1: Joe Wilkerson, Bob Ruby, Jane Garvey, Rodney Slater, Tony Kane, Bob Hollis, Bill Richardson

ROW 2: Fred Hempel, George Osborne, Dwight Horne, John Gilbert, Art Hill, Jim Skinner, Larry Dreihaup, Abe Wong, Jack Coe, Mike Cook, Art Fendrick, Bert Willard

ROW 3: Dave Geiger, Paul Toussaint, Tony Sussman, Paul Lariviere, Susan Binder, Don Hammer, George Ostensen, Al Steger, Phyllis Young, Gerry Reihsen, Hank Honeywell, Ron Carmichael

ROW 4: John Price, Kathy Laffey, Dennis Merida, Reuben Thomas, Hal Brown, Nick Graf, George Jensen, Bill Jones, Jim Erickson, Bob Clour, Manny Marks, Nelson Castellanos

ROW 5: Gordon Hoxie, Bob Prost, Don Kamnikar, Denny Cook, Frank Mayer, Mike Ritchie, Don West, Roberto Fonseca, Gene Fong, Dave Bender, Jim St. John, Fred Behrens

Among the changing faces of FHWA are the first four female division administrators (Susan Binder in Maryland, Kathy Laffey in New Hampshire, Phyllis Young in Mississippi, and Jan Brown in Montana), the first female regional administrator (Julie Cirillo in Region 9), the first Hispanic regional administrator (Ed Wueste in Region 6), and the first African American regional administrator (Art Hamilton in Region 7).

During the same period, the number of African American, Asian American, and Hispanic division administrators increased, and FHWA has increased representation of minorities and women in Senior Executive Service (SES) positions from 20 percent to 31 percent.

Despite these notable achievements, diversity within FHWA is not just a matter of race and gender. Diversity includes expanding opportunities for exceptionally talented people with different skills and abilities, including non-engineers and people who have followed a nontraditional career pattern. The future FHWA will have an increasing need for facilitator-managers with an outcome-oriented focus - critical thinkers who can work with multiple public- and private-sector partners in transportation planning and decision-making.

Safety experts, financial managers, and transportation specialists have been selected to fill four division administrator positions and one regional administrator vacancy. All these appointments are firsts of their kind for FHWA.

Qualified men and women from many professional and ethnic backgrounds serve throughout the agency and are crucial to the achievement of FHWA's goal to be a visionary and vigilant federal agency in the 21st century.

Secretary of Transportation Federico Peña recently selected the entire FHWA Unit Managers Team as the 1995 recipient of the Secretary's Diversity Award.

FHWA Regional Delegates

ROW 1: Henry Rentz, Dave Gendell, Leon Larson, Ed Wueste, Jane Garvey, Rodney Slater, Tony Kane, Vince Schimmoller, Dale Wilken, Art Hamilton, Julie Cirillo, Leon Witman

ROW 2: Dan Reagan, King Gee, Gary Hamby, Ken Perret, Don Steinke, Gary Larsen, David Densmore, Jim Hall, Larry Smith

ROW 3: Jerry Amato, Susan Petty, Lucy Johnson, Doug Sawin, Dave Martin, Bill Herster, Alan Brown, Nick Walsh, Curnis King

Restructuring for Efficiency and Diversity

Great strides have been made to restructure FHWA as a flatter, more efficient organization. At headquarters alone, some 60 branch-level units are in the process of being eliminated. In the field, many technical and supervisory positions are being restructured and combined, reducing the numbers of senior-level and/or supervisory positions. The elimination of these levels of management has already resulted in streamlined communications and increased flexibility. For example, all stand-alone deputy regional administrator positions have been restructured, and division administrators no longer report through the deputy at region headquarters.

Procedural changes in several management areas have been made to decentralize and delegate authority to the lowest practical level.

The agency has expanded the use of flexible organizational structures - from matrix and cross-cutting teams to self-managed teams - as a way to strengthen employee participation and customer focus and to support progress toward NPR goals of reducing supervision and streamlining the organization. Many FHWA organizations are total quality management (TQM) oriented and use teams, such as quality action teams, to improve processes and meet customer needs. The Federal Lands Highway Program has been a leader in TQM and is an approved pilot organization under the Government Performance and Results Act. The Office of Contracts and Procurement has reorganized into functional teams and eliminated branches. The Wisconsin Division is currently using teams with the goal of achieving self-managed teams. Organizational effectiveness teams provide analytical and advisory services to the unit managers, assisting them in restructuring and downsizing their organizations. In addition, several offices within the agency are using self-managed teams.

FHWA unit managers have developed a flexible system for identifying positions that could be restructured to attract a pool of candidates who are diverse in skills and abilities, as well as in race and gender.

The restructuring of vacancies created by the buyouts have allowed managers to tap into the extensive pool of employees at the GS-13 and GS-14 levels and to make changes in the top-level management of the agency. Of the 28 SES appointments made in the past two years at FHWA, six were minority and four were female candidates. Eight were not engineers, including five in positions that were previously engineer-only slots. Only 12 were white, male engineers.

Also, of 48 selections for field positions, some 20 of those selected were minority and/or female. To ensure continued diverse strength at the GS-13 and GS-14 levels, 56 percent of the 34 selections made in fiscal year (FY) 1995 by FHWA managers for positions at the GS-12 level and below were minority and/or women candidates.

Overall in FY 1995, 49 percent of all professional promotions within FHWA were women and/or minorities, as were 47 percent of all professional hires agency-wide. Non-engineers accounted for 54 percent of professional promotions and 65 percent of professional hires.

FHWA is also committed to ensuring that opportunities are made available to all parties to participate in the federal-aid highway program. In December 1994, FHWA established a Civil Rights Task Force, and the task force's recommendations regarding civil rights, staffing, and technical assistance are now being implemented. In another important area of equal opportunity focus, value of federal-aid contracts and subcontracts awarded to Disadvantaged Business Enterprises rose by more than $2 billion in both fiscal years 1993 and 1994.

Becoming a Model Employer

Women's Transportation Seminar award winners.Within the last two years, FHWA has made significant progress toward the goal of becoming a "model employer." Several employee-oriented programs have been emphasized or implemented in the past three years. Programs permitting or providing flextime, a compressed work schedule, telecommuting, transit benefits, and health and wellness activities allow employees to balance their work responsibilities and personal needs.

In addition, FHWA implemented several professional development programs to motivate employees to make optimum use of their skills and talents and to increase their contributions to the organization. A program for clerical, secretarial, and office management staff started in FY 1995 to provide career development opportunities for these employees. Rotational assignments and courses, such as "Managing Personnel Growth," encourage employees to explore career interests and match them to agency goals and objectives.

Making Great Strides for Women

Under the direction of Administrator Rodney Slater, Deputy Administrator Jane Garvey, and Executive Director Tony Kane, FHWA has significantly increased the number of women in leadership positions and has actively supported the Women's Transportation Seminar (WTS). FHWA employees are encouraged to actively participate in WTS and to serve on committees and boards. Several senior managers in FHWA have been speakers or moderators at WTS events in recent years. FHWA's Lucy Garliauskas is the national president-elect and will take office in May.

Citing FHWA's progress in promoting career development and training for women, the Washington, D.C., chapter of WTS selected FHWA as Washington's Employer of the Year for 1995 and nominated FHWA as national Employer of the Year. The national award winner will be selected soon, and the award will be presented in May.

Women in FHWA leadership positions are contributing mightily to critical nationwide programs and are providing the prescient direction needed by a vibrant, visionary FHWA. Associate Administrator for Policy Gloria Jeff was actively involved in efforts that led to the congressional approval of the National Highway System.

Garvey has taken the lead in many initiatives, including the announcement in 1994 of the FHWA Innovative Finance Program Test and Evaluation Project to maximize the investment of federal dollars. In 1995, she was recognized by the National Council for Public/Private Partnerships for her distinguished leadership in this area. She has also played a leading role on transportation department-wide task forces to reach out to state and local governments and metropolitan planning organizations. She leads efforts to implement initiatives and recommendations that emerge from FHWA's many partnership groups.

Madeleine Bloom, director of the Office of Policy Development, was awarded SES meritorious executive rank by President Clinton in 1994.

Susan Lauffer and Christine Johnson have provided active direction and hands-on leadership in the extremely important program area of Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS). Johnson heads the ITS Joint Program Office, which was established in May 1994.

Environmental responsibility is another critical area of FHWA involvement with other national, state, and local agencies and with private sector organizations. In this area too, women of FHWA have taken leadership roles. Laffey has been a leader in the FHWA effort to ensure air quality standards, beginning with publication of the Transportation Conformity Rule in 1993. From 1991 to 1994, Cynthia Burbank headed the Environmental Analysis Division with responsibility for implementing the transportation provisions of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments, and currently, she has a significant role in the National Highway System Policy Task Force and efforts to support reauthorization of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act. Garvey has also played a senior-level leadership role to maximize Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement(CMAQ).

On April 21, 1995, the 25th celebration of Earth Day, Garvey presented the first-ever FHWA Environmental Excellence Awards to eight exemplary activities of state and local governments and private sector enterprises.

FHWA also has made tremendous strides in its efforts to enhance opportunities for women in skilled highway construction trades through efforts such as the Women in Highway Construction initiative. FHWA has provided training and technical assistance to states and contractors on hiring and retaining women in skilled highway construction positions, and these efforts have begun to pay measurable dividends.

For example, the state of North Carolina increased female On-the-Job Training (OJT) Program trainees by 26 percent and female OJT graduates by 38 percent. At the forefront of a trend, which is encouraged by FHWA, North Carolina is the first state to train contract foremen and superintendents in strategies to recruit and retain women in the highway construction field.

Providing Education and Career Training for the Future

1994 Career Training Programs Class

1994 Career Traing Programs Class

November 1995

BACK ROW (Left to Right): Roger Harding, David Snyder, Ross Blanchard, Michael Kulbacki, Chris Lawson, Gary Jensen, Peter Lee, Jason Cowin, Maranda Hahn, Gary Piotrowicz

FRONT ROW: Thong Nguyen, Thanh Luu, Eva Sniezek, Steve Saxton, Serin Park, Elizabeth Healy, Wendy Gasteiger, Jean Sexton, Eddie Betancourt, Courtney Nguyen, José Quiñones

NOT PICTURED:

Jorge Martinez

FHWA administrators and unit managers realize that the agency's effort to acquire people with the necessary skills and capabilities to ensure future success must begin with today's students. Consequently, they have devoted significant attention and financial resources to promoting transportation careers among America's diverse youth, and very gratifying results have been achieved.

High school students discuss transporation career options.Under partnership agreements with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), FHWA has developed recruiting and career information programs, faculty internships, and research projects. During the Clinton Administration, FHWA has awarded nearly $16.2 million to these institutions and an additional $500,000 to Hispanic-serving institutions.

Since 1993, FHWA has awarded more than $5.3 million to HBCUs for research and technology contracts, some of which involve the most sophisticated highway technologies. Three historically black institutions are participating in four ITS operational tests for a total of $225,000. FHWA has also awarded more than $1.3 million in fellowships to HBCUs under the Dwight David Eisenhower Transportation Fellowship Program.

Because FHWA is concerned with recruiting and training the next generation of transportation professionals, the agency maintains active outreach programs with the Transportation and Civil Engineering Careers Program and other youth-oriented educational and work-related programs. FHWA takes pride in the success of efforts such as the Cardozo High School (Washington, D.C.) Transportation and Technology Academy (TransTech) and the South Carolina State University/DOT Summer Youth Institute. The Cardozo TransTech program, a partnership of the school and FHWA, provides educational opportunities for the students with emphasis on identifying careers in transportation, training, job placement, and continued education after high school graduation.

In 1993, the Urban Youth Corps (UYC) was established by DOT to expose young people to public service and to improve public works and transportation projects in urban areas. The pilot UYC project was in Baltimore. To date, 14 states and the District of Columbia have initiated UYC projects. FHWA also operates the National Highway Institute, which offers hundreds of top-flight transportation training courses to the FHWA work force and to people from state and local government, the private sector, and other countries.

All of these educational and training efforts are intended to ensure a steady intake of interested, talented, and diverse employees for the future of the agency. This is also true of the DOT Summer Internship Program and the Dwight David Eisenhower Transportation Fellowship Program, which provides funding and transportation research work assignments at FHWA for graduate students.

Measuring Accomplishments

Very marked organizational and cultural changes are taking place throughout FHWA. The agency seeks to provide the leadership necessary in the post-interstate transportation era by broadening the agency's professional, ethnic, and gender base. These changes are seen clearly in the senior management team, where the representation of minorities and women has been dramatically increased. Also, the statistics provided throughout this article show that these accomplishments are substantial and measurable.

There are many other demonstrations of diversity within FHWA. Career training programs now include non-engineering technical transportation specialties such as environmental planning and traffic management. Communication has been enhanced between management and employees with disabilities through the hiring of a full-time sign language interpreter to work with deaf personnel.

FHWA's achievements in creating a diversified work force reflect the agency's ability to look beyond the immediate impact of activities to the broader, long-range implications. It was in light of these accomplishments in diversity participation that Slater recommended the FHWA Management Team for the DOT SecretaryĆ¢s Award for Diversity in 1995.

David Smith, Ph.D., is a freelance technical writer under contract to Public Roads. He is also president of AMANUENSIS Inc., a creative writing agency specializing in advertising and marketing copy for technology providers, in Vienna, Va. He has more than 12 years of advertising agency experience, including 10 years as a vice president and account manager for one of the largest agencies in the Washington, D.C., area. He is a graduate of Cambridge University and the University of Kent at Canterbury, England, with degrees in international relations and diplomatic history.

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