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Three Lessons on Government Reform and Stakeholder Engagement from Pallas Principal Alexis Ross

April 5, 2023

The Pallas Foundation for National Security Leadership recently hosted a professional development discussion with Alexis Lasselle Ross, a Principal at Pallas Advisors and expert on the U.S. defense industrial base and acquisition system. In addition to her current work with the Army Science Board and CSIS, she has been responsible for the reform of various defense systems at the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission, the Chairman’s Reform Team at the House Armed Services Committee, and as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Strategy and Acquisition Reform. Check out three takeaways from the conversation below.

Pursuing reform often means socializing ideas with the multitude of stakeholders involved and ensuring that those stakeholders’ voices are included in proposed ideas. Policy practitioners can do this by analyzing problems, developing options, and socializing those options with the relevant influencers and decision-makers. To facilitate this process for any given issue, practitioners should know the answer to key questions: who is responsible for this issue? Who owns various parts of the policy-making process? What is the best strategy to engage them? What mechanism can incorporate their feedback into the policy?

The most successful leaders and reformers aren’t necessarily the ones with the strongest technical expertise or data. Rather, they are the people who can effectively communicate their proposals and rationale. Reformers are first and foremost communicators, Ross says, and a key part of this is understanding various stakeholders and their roles, seeing from their perspectives, and speaking to those perspectives.

Leadership’s messaging should be understandable, actionable, and compelling. Leaders and decision-makers are constantly asked to have answers to the nation’s most pressing policy questions. Our best leaders understand how to shape a clear message to these questions, with no jargon or technical language. Why is it important? What’s the impact if we fail to take action? How can it be implemented? An effective leader takes all these questions into account as they communicate both with their team and the world outside of it.

Alexis Lasselle Ross is a Principal at Pallas Advisors and the President of Apex Defense Strategies. Drawing upon more than two decades as an executive in both the public and private sectors, Alexis offers expertise on the Department of Defense’s acquisition system, the U.S. defense industrial base, and the planning and execution of large-scale change within the government. Most recently, Alexis performed strategic planning at a large defense prime. Prior to entering the private sector, Alexis served in a variety of senior positions in both the executive and legislative branches of the U.S. government. She served as the deputy chief of staff to the secretary of defense, the deputy assistant secretary of the army for strategy and acquisition reform, and the acting undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness. Alexis also held positions at the House Armed Services Committee as a professional staff member, at the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission, and as a civil servant advising senior leadership of the Army in the Pentagon. Alexis received a doctorate in public policy from George Mason University, a Master of Science degree in national security and strategic studies from the Naval War College, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in international relations from Bucknell University.


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