Safety Enterprise Board chair Deborah Lee James, on serving to Pentagon see ‘forest for the bushes’


WASHINGTON — Flat safety budgets may be looming. The military’s focus is shifting away from the Middle East to China and Russia. And funds on each factor from modernization to AI to the nuclear enterprise are coming due.

With that combination of high-stakes missions and financial pressures on the horizon, the Pentagon has certainly not been in higher need of the Safety Enterprise Board’s suggestion, new chairwoman Deborah Lee James acknowledged.

“Sometimes inside the authorities, you probably can’t see the forest for the bushes, and in addition you don’t know what you don’t know,” acknowledged James, who served as President Barack Obama’s Air Stress secretary from 2013 to 2017 and beforehand was a excessive authorities at SAIC. “So bringing in exterior advisers is often a helpful new perspective.”

The board is made up of executives from the personal sector — some, though not all, with military experience — who advise excessive Safety Division leaders on strategies to help the division be taught some lessons from how enterprise operates, much like how one can cut back costs or make it run additional simply.

Since 2002, the board has produced about 80 evaluations on issues ranging from a check out the military’s retirement program that helped consequence within the creation of the blended retirement system to a recommendation to eradicate the DoD’s office of the chief administration officer.

If DoD doesn’t maintain with innovation and keep eager to take prudent risks, James acknowledged, it might fall behind its rivals and lose its profit. She hopes the board would possibly assist.

James was sworn in to information the board Sept. 14, becoming its first female chair in its virtually two-decade historic previous. With the 17 of us nominated to be members, along with seven women and 9 of us of color, James believes will in all probability be primarily essentially the most numerous board up to now — and he or she plans to utilize that to her profit.

James spoke with Safety Info Oct. 15. The interview has been edited for space and readability.

How do the members of the Safety Enterprise Board analysis factors and uncover strategies to counsel they increased perform?

We are going to in all probability be doing analysis and looking into completely completely different points significantly at [Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks’] request. Analysis will fall into three major buckets.

One bucket is what I’ll title transformations. This may very well be ideas and areas that may really switch the needle in some important method. One different bucket or matter area is enterprise processes principally. There’s clearly the battle fighters, after which there could also be all people else who’s supporting the battle fighters, and there are alternative routes of organizing these. After which the third area is experience. So there we’ve now our civilian personnel, our military personnel, usually there’s mismatches in experience. There’s numerous issues centered on experience.

Correct out of the chute, one analysis that Congress requested the Safety Enterprise Board to do is the mentor-protégé program. Is this method working because it’s meant, is it delivering outcomes or not, and the way in which must we modify it?

The mentor-protégé program is a program whereby large firms — assume your Lockheed [Martin]s, assume your SAICs — are given financial incentives to work with small, disadvantaged corporations. The idea is to help mentor them in certain strategies, and to help in giving them a raise so that they’re typically thriving corporations going forward.


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