ROBERT A. KNISELY
“[Robert Knisely] has consistently been called upon for high-pressure, short-deadline special efforts in a wide variety of federal programs. President Ford’s Clemency Board, the energy crisis, and Vice President Gore’s National Performance Review represent only a partial summary of his ubiquitous presence when a new issue is being faced and a volunteer executive to manage it is needed.”
Reflections on Mobility: Case Studies of Six Federal Executives (May 2000)
The IBM Center for the Business of Government
Robert Knisely has unequalled breadth of experience across the Executive Branch of the Federal government. During his thirty year career (including twenty years as a senior executive), he held positions in seven cabinet departments, a regulatory commission, and three independent agencies, as well as two Presidential initiatives and the 1973 energy crisis. He has served on both sides of Presidential Transition Teams. He ran an interagency Federal program to fund the development of integrated municipal information systems at HUD. He created the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (one of the fifteen national statistical agencies) and he created a departmental program evaluation office at Commerce. He ran an agency-wide reduction in force at ACTION, and oversaw a 41% reduction in grants processing time at the National Endowment for the Arts. As Deputy Assistant Secretary for Budget and Programs at US DOT, he oversaw the development of three annual budget submissions. He participated in the creation and operation of Vice President Al Gore’s National Performance Review from Day One. After leaving government he taught at St. Albans School for five years and spent one year in a dot.com startup. He continues his involvement with governance as a judge and site visitor for the Ash Institute’s Innovations in American Government program at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. He was sought out by Lester Salamon to teach a section of Salamon’s graduate course, The Tools of Government, at the Institute for Policy Studies at Johns Hopkins University in the spring of 2011.
- JD (Juris Doctor), 1972 Georgetown University
- USMC, Parris Island, 1962
- BA, Biology, 1962 Harvard University
- Graduate, 1958 The Choate School
Member, Presidential Rank Review Board, 2014, 2015, 2016, & 2017 (Office of Personnel Management)
Who’s Who in America; first listed in 1984 (updated 2013)
SES Distinguished Presidential Rank Award in 1997 ($20,000 award)
DOT Departmental Gold Medal (team recipient) in 1997
Global Information Infrastructure Awards, 1998 & 1999 (judge, government category)
Computerworld Honors Program, 2002 & 2004 (judge, government & non-profit category)
Innovations in American Government Program, Ash Institute, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, 2003, 2006, 2008 — 2017 (judge and team leader)
Harvard Policy Group, Leadership for a Networked World, Kennedy School of Government (member)
Institute for Policy Studies, Johns Hopkins University
Lecturer (2011 & 2012)
• Sought out by Lester Salamon, Ph.D., to teach the second section of his course, “The Tools of Government,” based on his book of the same name. Lectured, led discussions, reviewed and graded quizzes and papers, and advised 25 students from around the world. The course is required for Johns Hopkins’ Masters in Public Policy degree.
St. Albans School of Public Service
Instructor & Development Team member (2001 to 2007)
• Helped develop residential summer program to introduce rising high school seniors from around America to the issues, people, processes, and locations in Washington that define “public service” in all government branches, in the media, and in advocacy groups. First class held in summer of 2002. See www.schoolofpublicservice.org.
Civitas Interactive Media, Inc.
Vice President for Product Development (2000 to 2001)
• Developed product prototypes, business plans and proposals, and business opportunities in a start-up company using re-purposed public data to support commercial and private decision-making.
Department of Education
Director, Analysis Service, Student Financial Assistance, 1999 to 2000 (retired)
• Managed all performance measurement (customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction, unit cost, project tracking) for first Congressionally-mandated performance based organization (PBO).
• Oversaw development of regulations and interpretations of Higher Education Act (as amended) affecting student financial assistance, including annual negotiations with higher education community.
• As Excepted Service appointee, received full 25% bonus for FY1999.
Department of Transportation
Deputy Director (& Interim Director), Bureau of Transportation Statistics, 1992 to 1999
• Created new DOT Operating Administration, in response to the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991. Hired staff, set priorities, developed a local area network, spent budget of $90m over 6 years. Created an organizational culture focused on customer focus and on-time product delivery. Wrote and defended FY94 – FY99 budgets within DOT, at OMB, and before the Congress. Increased staff from 0 in FY93 to 45 in FY98.
• Doubled budget: BTS was reauthorized in TEA-21 at $186m for FY98 – FY03.
• Created first BTS CD for distribution in January, 1993. Oversaw creation of 45 major publications (including 26 CDs and 1 video), an active Internet site (http://www.bts.gov), and distribution of almost 100,000 products (about half CDs) between January, 1993 and October, 1995.
• Member, DOT GPRA Strategic Planning Team (only department with passing score).
National Performance Review, The White House
Deputy Director for Regulatory Review (detail), December 1994 – June 1995)
• Directed the Regulatory Policy Review, credited w/$16B in savings to industry. Worked with White House officials from the National Economic Council, the Domestic Policy Council, the Office of Environmental Policy, the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Council of Economic Advisors, the Office of the Vice President, OMB officials (both OIRA and budget), and Cabinet departmental leadership (both political and career) to prepare and present proposed regulatory reform initiatives.
• Following the meetings, wrote, edited, and coordinated (as required) brief reports on the approved reform initiatives for public dissemination. Worked with agencies and departments to develop and begin execution of detailed, time-phased, researched, work plans.
• Worked with OMB/OIRA, NPR, and agency staffs to coordinate responses to the President’s request for page-by-page reviews of all federal regulations. Produced summaries of pages reduced, regulations proposed for removal, etc., for presentation at the White House Conference on Small Business, and later publication.
• Continued duties as Deputy Director, Bureau of Transportation Statistics while at White House.
National Performance Review, The White House
Deputy Director for Resources (detail), March – October, 1993
• One of three civil servants chosen to direct the National Performance Review (NPR). Served as member of senior management team. Responsible for initial staffing for short-term task force of 250+ and for proposing budget savings beyond those from the agency and systems teams. Provided input into Program Design, Regulations, and the State and Local Government reports. Created Customer Service Team. Served on White House NPR Implementation Team in October 1993. Also contributed to the design of the Corporation for National and Community Service (“AMERICORPS”) and served on the task force that developed the Administration’s Executive Order on regulatory reform.
• Recognized on national TV on September 7, 1993, during presentation of NPR report, From Red Tape to Results.
• Continued duties as Acting Director, Bureau of Transportation Statistics while at White House.
Department of Transportation
Office of the Secretary
Director, Office of Drug Enforcement & Program Compliance (1991 – 1992)
• Attended weekly Top Secret meetings held by the National Security Council/Office of National Drug Control Policy. Shepherded regulations for post-accident testing, drug data collection, and the alcohol testing rule (Hollings/Danforth Act).
• Developed Automated Drug Information Center (ADIC), an IT system that disseminated drug testing information via voice, fax, and modem. ADIC was developed and installed in seven months for less than $500k. On several occasions, weekly traffic included 6500 calls, 17700 pages faxed out, and 92 hours of modem operation. ADIC was accessed at 800-CAL-DRUG via 32 phone lines.
• Also worked within the Interagency Committee on the Homeless to develop a grant program for homeless people in transit facilities. Obtained funding from HHS, HUD, DOT, Labor, and USDA, wrote the Request for Proposals, designed and ran the proposal review process, and awarded three-year grants to New York City, Baltimore, and San Francisco.
Department of Transportation
Office of the Secretary
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Budget & Programs (1989 – 1991)
• Participated in the development and review of the FY 1991, 1992, and 1993 DOT budgets (about $35B each). Created seven Special Analyses (Data, R&D, etc.) for FY 1992 budget. Signed off on 2000 controlled documents per year.
• Created department-wide “Listening Sessions” for employees.
• Initiated the first department-wide R&D project review at DOT.
• Saved $250m by withdrawing DOT from the National Emergency Telecommunications System.
Transportation Team Member (November, 1988 – February, 1989)
• Recruited by Rob Quartel to serve on Presidential Transition Team; reviewed and prepared transition materials, met with transition officials, transportation interests, and others to assure that incoming political appointees were briefed on organizational and policy issues, and could hit the ground running. Chosen by Secretary-Designate Samuel K. Skinner to be member of DOT senior staff.
Systems Research and Applications Corporation
Senior Member, 1984 – 1989
• Senior Member in the Corporate Development Group. SRA provides systems analysis, engineering, and development services to government and corporate clients. SRA was listed in the Inc. Magazine list of 500 fastest growing, privately held corporations in America for four years (1984-87).
• SRA Manager for the Army Computer-aided Acquisition and Logistics Support Program proposal. A-CALS is an IT system linking 56 Army acquisition, logistics support, and training sites, supporting all phases of the weapon system life cycle with an Integrated Weapon System Data Base. SRA was GE’s primary subcontractor for this multi-year, multi-phase procurement ($500M over 10-15 years). Participant in Strategic Defense Initiative CALS review and planning study for SDIO.
National Endowment for the Arts
Deputy Chairman for Management, 1982 – 1984
• Directed senior team of managers in systems analysis, studies, and redesign of agency’s grant processing system, resulting in 41% reduction in grants processing time compared with previous year.
• Initiated systems analyses, detailed design, and drafting of Request for Proposals (RFP) for automation of the grants processing system, an early enterprise information system.
• Created a management analysis capability (from scratch), a master calendar, an MIS development plan, cost center controls, grant and obligation tracking systems, and team analysis of the grants management, budget, and finance systems.
• Directed a staff of 100: budget, finance, grants management, ADP, personnel, audit, & contracts.
The ACTION Agency
Executive Assistant to the Director, 1981 – 1982
• In 10 months, directed a reduction in force of 247 employees and the transfer to the Peace Corps of about 300 Joint Support Staff. Acting Personnel Director for 5 months.
Consumer Product Safety Commission
Deputy Executive Director, 1979 – 1981
• Directed systems analysis and design, and implemented automated systems for monitoring personnel actions, contracting activity, and utilization of staff time by project. Redesigned agency management structure and reporting systems to increase project manager control over staff and dollar resources. Negotiated with OMB and Congressional committees.
Department of Energy
Director, Office of Planning and Budgeting Systems, 1977 – 1978
• Implemented and redesigned the new Department’s Planning, Programming, and Budgeting System (PPBS) during the development of the unified Department’s first budget cycle. Directed the FY 1980 budget development cycle for the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation. Designed the Department’s first multi-year planning system.
Department of Commerce
Director, Departmental Office of Program Evaluation, 1975 – 1977.
• Created and staffed new departmental program evaluation office with ten professionals to perform short and long range studies. After the office had been in existence for one year, OMB recommended doubling the professional staff (for FY 1978).
• In 1976, built & operated Management-By-Objectives system for Secretary Elliot Richardson.
Presidential Clemency Board, The White House
Deputy General Counsel & Staff Director, 1974 – 1975.
• Instrumental in the design, creation, operation, and phase-out of a Presidential agency with a staff of 605 detailees (of whom 450 were attorneys), in less than one year. The staff presented 16,000 applications individually to Board panels. In charge of negotiations for resources with the Civil Service Commission, GSA, and OMB.
Federal Energy Administration
Senior Attorney/Advisor, 1973 – 1974.
• Detailed to OMB Energy Task Force at OMB’s request; later joined Office of the General Counsel at the Federal Energy Administration. Edited all and wrote sections of the regulations implementing the Mandatory Petroleum Allocation Act of 1973; worked on other issues ranging from contingency plans for gasoline rationing to the protection of agricultural production.
Department of Housing and Urban Development
Director, Community Management Systems Division & Chairman, USAC Project, 1972 – 1973.
• Directed large research and development program (FY 1974: $5.5m) to increase the flow, capture, and use of information for municipal management using mainframe computer technology.
• Headed U.S. Delegation to the UN-sponsored First World Conference on Informatics in Government, held in Florence, Italy in October of 1972. Testified before the Congress on the federal use and development of advanced information technology.
• Convinced departments and agencies sponsoring the USAC Project to double their financial support. Program was sponsored by HUD, HEW, OMB, Defense (Civil Preparedness), Justice/LEAA, Transportation, Labor, Commerce, NSF, & OEO, with Assistant Secretary-level representation.
Department of Health, Education, and Welfare
Chief, Evaluation and Urban Systems Branch, Center for Community Planning, 1969 – 1972.
• Branch Chief in the Center for Community Planning, Office of the Secretary, working with the HEW agencies and the Model Cities Program at HUD to make HEW more responsive to urban needs.
• Represented HEW on the Urban Information Systems Inter-Agency Committee (USAC Project).
Office of Economic Opportunity
Staff member, National Community Action Program Monitoring Office, 1967 – 1969.
• Evaluated Community Action Agencies in West Virginia, Texas, Chicago, & Louisiana.
Center for Naval Analyses
NAVWAG Systems Analyst, 1965 – 1967.
• Participated in the USS New Jersey Recommissioning Study and a large computer simulation of amphibious warfare. Wrote an assessment of the potential uses of hovercraft in amphibious operations. Programmed IBM 7094 and CDC 3400 computers in Fortran IV and Simscript II.
Operations Research Analyst, Weapons Systems Analysis Office, 1964 – 1965.
• Assisted in studies of computer simulated amphibious warfare, carrier aircraft accident analysis, and the use of pyrotechnics by the Navy.
Sample Papers and Publications
Knisely, Robert A. “The Marriage Contract” Res Ipse Loquitur, GULC (1971); 31 – 37
Federal Information Systems and Plans — Federal Use and Development of Advanced Information Technology: Hearings before the Subcommittee on Government Operations, 93rd Cong. 221 – 239 (1973) (statement of Robert A. Knisely)
Knisely, Robert. “Toward a Science of Program Design,” Prepared for delivery at the annual joint conference of the Operations Research Society of America and The Institute of Management Science (ORSA/TIMS), Atlanta, Georgia, November, 1977 <www.government-reform.info/?p=5>.
Knisely, Robert. “Law School and the Design of Government,” Written in anticipation of a meeting at the Georgetown University Law Center, Washington, DC, 1985 <www.government-reform.info/?p=6>.
Knisely, Robert, Eoyang, Carson, et al. Rethinking Program Design, Published in the series Reports on the Systems of Government, as part of the National Performance Review, The White House, Washington, DC, 1993 <http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/npr/library/reports/pd.html>.
Knisely, Robert, and Koskinen, Larry. Extending Digital Dividends: Public Goods and Services that Work for All, Prepared for the Federal Architecture and Infrastructure Committee of the Chief Information Officer Council and the Government Services Administration’s Office of Governmentwide Policy and published by the Government Printing Office, Washington, DC, 2002 <http://www.xml.gov/documents/completed/gsa/digitaldividends.htm>.
Knisely, Robert. “Designing Government by Design,” Prepared for a workshop on the design of government sponsored by the Doing What Works project at the Center for American Progress, Washington, DC, August, 2010 <http://www.government-reform.info/?p=123>.
Knisely, Robert. Government Reform website. Materials from 1977 – 2011: http://www.government-reform.info.
For another perspective on my Federal career, here’s Transportation’s write-up for my Distinguished Rank Award:
Mr. Robert A. Knisely is recommended for the Presidential Rank of Distinguished Executive for his sustained leadership, direction, and innovation in the Department of Transportation, other Federal departments, and as Deputy Director of Vice President Gore’s National Performance Review.
During a Federal career that began as a GS-5 and a Management Intern in the U.S. Navy in 1964, and led to a supergrade status (SES equivalent) only nine years later, Mr. Knisely has distinguished himself in White House Office service to two Presidents and in a number of agencies and cabinet departments. He has always sought out opportunities to make significant change in government, often through designing and building new offices and functions.
In October, 1992, Mr. Knisely was asked to create a new national statistical agency, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) at Transportation, serving as its Acting Director until the confirmation of Dr. T. R. Lakshmanan in June of 1994. Through his leadership, the new agency has created and distributed over 100,000 copies of its publications, including over 44,000 CD-ROMs, in the 34 months since January, 1993. Secretary Peña has recognized the potential of the new Bureau by raising its personnel ceiling from 12 in FY94 to 48 in FY96.
In March, 1993, Mr. Knisely was one of three senior civil servants who met with Vice President Gore to discuss creating the National Performance Review. He was immediately appointed a Deputy Director of the NPR. Mr. Knisely created the Customer Service team at NPR that has been responsible for the development of Customer Service Standards across the Federal government. Along with general management duties, he was a member of the editorial team for the “Report of the National Performance Review — Creating a Government that Works Better and Costs Less.” On September 7th Vice President Gore mentioned Mr. Knisely on national television as he presented the NPR report to President Clinton. During this time he continued his duties as Acting Director of BTS; none of the other senior managers of the NPR retained any responsibilities at their home agencies.
In December, 1994, Mr. Knisely was asked by Vice President Gore to return to the National Performance Review as Deputy Director for Regulatory Reform. In that capacity he has worked with the leadership and staff of the Domestic Policy Counsel, the National Economic Counsel, the Office of Management and Budget, and such agencies as OSHA, FDA, EPA, and SBA. A total of six formal reports have been published to date, as listed in “Common Sense Government,” the second annual report of the NPR. The Regulatory Reform reports were a highlight of the White House Conference on Small Business, held in June, 1995.
In 1974 Mr. Knisely, as Deputy General Counsel and Staff Director, Presidential Clemency Board, was instrumental in the design, creation, operation, and phase-out of a White House office with a staff of 605 detailees (of whom 450 were attorneys), in less than one year. The staff attorneys presented over 16,000 applications individually to Board panels.
In 1982, as Executive Assistant to the Director, ACTION, Mr. Knisely directed a reduction in force (RIF) of 247 employees and the transfer to the Peace Corps of about 300 Joint Support Staff employees in ten months time. Together, the RIF and the transfer almost halved the personnel in the agency. The RIF was implemented without challenge.
During the summer of 1993 Mr. Knisely was asked to develop potential budget cuts as one key facet of the NPR’s work. He and one intern sought out all of the aggregations of proposed budget cuts and tax expenditure reductions that had been published during the previous five years. They produced a bibliography of well over 100 items. Their second project was to review the materials collected, producing a single page description of those proposed cuts that met certain NPR criteria. They produced enough proposed cuts to fill two 3″ three ring binders, variously totaling close to a trillion dollars. In the course of this cost-saving exercise, Mr. Knisely reviewed all 1100 pages of the Budget Appendix for FY 1992.
The Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors has used the products of these efforts in developing proposed budget cuts during the FY 1996 budget discussions. The work was summarized in a cover article in the New Republic on May 29, 1995. [www.tidrick.com/The-Budget-Inferno.pdf]
Mr. Knisely was responsible for staffing the National Performance Review, including hiring and firing (seeking out detailees, interviewing them, and on a number of occasions returning them to their home agencies). The NPR staff is generally recognized as among the most innovative, most productive group of 250 civil servants ever assembled. Among his first acts at the NPR, Mr. Knisely tapped into the Presidential Management Intern (PMI) “network” ultimately recruiting over 30 PMIs to the effort. In one case he assigned a PMI to head up the review of a major federal agency, overseeing her efforts as she got underway.
Under his direction, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics has been recognized in Transportation as unequaled in productivity, within the Department. BTS has fewer than 25 employees, of whom several joined the agency during calendar year 1995. He hired and assigned a Presidential Management Intern (at the time a GS-9) to design and direct a $1m project to develop a CD-ROM and an Internet node to bring “best practices” and other data sources to America’s Metropolitan Planning Organizations.
PERSONAL INITIATIVE & INNOVATION
Mr. Knisely volunteered to go to the National Energy Emergency Planning Group at the beginning of the Oil Crisis of 1973. While a member of one of many teams drafting regulations for the Mandatory Petroleum Allocation Act of 1973, he proposed to senior management a single point of review and coordination of the draft regulations. The regulations were to control the distribution of all petroleum products in America during the crisis. His recommendation was accepted, and he and one other staffer spent the next three days defining regulations. Their work was credited with being the determining factor in meeting the Congressionally mandated deadline.
Mr. Knisely remained involved in the implementation of the regulations; although he had only graduated from (night) law school in June of 1972, he was asked to lateral (as a GS-15!) into an Attorney/Advisor position in the Office of the General Counsel in the new Federal Energy Administration.
Mr. Knisely also sought out and volunteered for the positions with President Ford’s Clemency Board, Vice President Gore’s National Performance Review, and the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.
QUALITY, EFFICIENCY, & TIMELINESS
While Deputy Chairman for Management at the National Endowment for the Arts, in 1982, Mr. Knisely directed a team of senior managers in a system analysis and redesign of agency’s grant processing system, resulting in a 41% reduction in grants processing time compared with the previous year; he was also responsible for systems analysis, studies, design, and drafting of Requests for Proposals (RFP) for automation of the grants processing system.
While Deputy Executive Director of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (1979), Mr. Knisely directed systems analysis, design, and implementation of automated systems for monitoring personnel actions, contracting activity, and utilization of staff time by project. He also redesigned agency management structure and reporting systems to increase project manager control over staff and dollar resources.
At the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Mr. Knisely has set standards for responsiveness to customers; for example, a customer order received on one day must be filled and mailed on the next. These standards have been set in response to the Customer Service initiative from the National Performance Review (an effort he established while at the NPR).
While the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Budget at Transportation (1989), Mr. Knisely represented the Department at the Interagency Council for the Homeless. During this time and on his own initiative, he created an interagency program for treating homelessness at transit facilities. He first obtained a total $1.75m from the Department of HHS, HUD, DOT, Labor, and Agriculture; he then wrote the Request for Proposals, and chaired the panel that awarded three year grants to New York City, Baltimore, and San Francisco.
While at HUD in 1972, Mr. Knisely directed an R&D effort aimed at creating integrated municipal information systems in six cities nationwide. This effort (the USAC program) was sponsored by the ten Federal agencies: the Department of (then) HEW, HUD, Labor, Justice, Transportation, Defense, and Commerce, and also OMB, OEO, and NSF. During his tenure as program director he got the agencies to double their funding, to $5m/year.
While on the Community Action Program monitoring staff (1968), Mr. Knisely several times led racially mixed teams of Federal evaluators on site visits to Community Action Agencies across America. On one occasion, on a visit to Ferriday, Louisiana, his team generated activity by the local Ku Klux Klan. He became especially sensitive to issues of diversity and affirmative action as a result of this experience.
While at the National Endowment for the Arts, he was successful in promoting a minority female employee to the position of ADP manager, and was later successful in getting the same employee hired as DOT’s Director of Information Resource Management.
While staffing up the National Performance Review, Mr. Knisely was constantly in search of minority and female detailees to provide the diversity appropriate to a White House task force of this magnitude and significance.
At the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, he directed that a contract for ADP and support services be let to a disadvantaged business. That contract will obligate at least $1.9m in FY94 and FY95.