Beth McGrath spent more than 25 years working within the federal government before taking on her current role leading Deloitte Global’s Government and Public Services industry and Deloitte Global’s Defense, Security and Justice sector.
She was vice chair of the Federal Suitability and Security Clearance Performance Accountability Council and served as the deputy director for Systems Integration, Defense Finance and Accounting Service. McGrath was also confirmed by the Senate as the deputy chief management officer for the Defense Department.
All this made a consulting role with Deloitte a natural fit.
“Our focus is on driving impact for government, and I’m all about trying to make government better,” she said.
As a longtime advocate for the needs of the defense community, McGrath said she saw an opportunity at Deloitte to pursue that same passion from a new direction.
“It’s a service business, a people business,” she said. “We have the deep government experience, and we can combine that with the best private-sector thinking. That marriage of commercial-meets-government can drive some really powerful outcomes in national security and defense strategy.”
Across government and the public sector, McGrath said, technology modernization is among the biggest challenges — and opportunities — of the day.
“How do you enable a more digital government? How do you take the data that exists in government and use it in a way that it can help to inform policy and make government better?” she asks. Tools like artificial intelligence and machine learning can help, “but government needs to actually use them in productive ways: to make better decisions, to be more predictive.”
Organizations like Deloitte can help move the needle on modernization, in part by delivering big-picture guidance.
“We can help governments to identify the challenges and to develop a strategy or a roadmap to achieve meaningful outcomes,” McGrath said. “We can also bring ideas around innovative acquisition strategies, things like the Other Transactional Authority. And we have experience in implementation, ensuring these things can be delivered as promised.”
McGrath also focuses on culture change, helping agencies to adopt a mindset in support of modernization. She said the COVID-19 pandemic actually gave a major boost to this effort.
“There were organizations that were thinking about process automation, but were hesitant to move forward, and then all of a sudden it became: We have to have this tomorrow,” she said. “The necessities of the pandemic actually helped agencies to pivot toward a new and different way of doing things.”
Even as the government contracting community works to support improved processes, McGrath said, there are steps agencies themselves could take to drive more effective engagements with their contractors.
“The contractor community can really be an extension of the government. To do that, contractors need to understand the challenges the government is facing,” she said. “But there’s a mistaken sense in government that you can’t share with industry, they’re not allowed to share, because of the procurement integrity laws and regulations that exist.”
In fact, there’s plenty of room within the rules for government to be more forthcoming about its needs.
“Agencies can bring the community together, not for only an industry day in advance of a solicitation, but also to give people a better understanding of what the environment is and what the challenges are,” she said. “Then the contractors would be better prepared to respond.”
In terms of specific technology trends, McGrath said governments are looking at the usual suspects — cloud, AI, process automation and especially a shift to the zero trust security framework.
“They’re working to understand what the whole zero trust environment is, where the perimeters are, how that aligns with the overall cyber strategy,” she said. Deloitte can offer guidance there, along with support around supply chain resiliency, another key concern for governments.
McGrath said that technology can also play a role in addressing ongoing concerns about the talent pipeline as agencies struggle to recruit and retain key players.
“Automation can help to manage the talent situation,” she said. “For example, people are using video-based interviews to accelerate the process. They’re also leveraging automated tools that can look at data to assess skills and even character and conduct. These tools can serve as an accelerator.”
McGrath’s own business challenges likewise have to do with personnel supply concerns. Like others across the GovCon space, she’s always working hard to find and retain the best people. To do that, she said, she and others need to create meaningful work opportunities.
“People today want differentiation, they want variety. They want to learn, and they want to feel like they are contributing,” she said. “Retention isn’t just about ‘work-life balance’ anymore. It’s about making the work experience meaningful, creating work that supports wellbeing and also delivers a sense of excitement.”
For McGrath herself, that excitement comes with knowing she is working in support of the greater good.
“I come from a military family, my father was in the Navy and I’m a total public servant at heart,” she said. “Over time, I’ve become more and more passionate about the role government plays, and I always want to be a contributor to that, to help make it better.”