Archive for January 26th, 2009

Holdovers, Acting, and Trickling In

January 26, 2009

In its first week in office, the Obama Administration is experiencing the usual shuffling of government.  Three articles provide the flavor of what’s going on.

 

The Washington Post’s Spencer Hsu, in “Many Bush Officials Held Over at DHS” describes how the transition is being handling in a responsible manner in a critical agency:  Wary of being caught short-handed in case of a domestic crisis, the Obama administration has asked nearly two dozen Bush administration officials in the Department of Homeland Security to stay in their jobs until successors can be named.” Hsu notes correctly that this attempt at continuity is unusual.

 

Government Executive’s Alyssa Rosenberg notes in her blog entry “Acting Positions for Everyone!”  that there is a rapid series of appointments, even replacing acting officials in the Office of Personnel Management and General Services Administration with new acting officials.

 

Another Post article, by Joel Achenbach and Amy Goldstein, “For Political Appointees, a Trickle-In Theory,” describes how new political appointees in agencies are finding their way around.  They follow Sean Smith as he arrives to his new position at the Department of Homeland Security to find his desk, his temporary ID badge, and few colleagues.

 

Achenbach and Goldstein note: “The filling-in of offices along the corridors radiating from the secretary’s sanctum typically takes months, as the Senate’s sense of urgency fades. In recent years, individual senators have more frequently blocked nominations.”

 

“. . . . Slowing everything further is a new culture of intensive vetting. Ethics rules have been tightened, and background checks have become more thorough. A would-be Obama administration official must answer a 63-item questionnaire that asks, among other things, if he or she has ever written an e-mail or penned a diary entry that might embarrass the administration.”

 

But changes are occurring: the TVs in the main lobby of the Labor Department building are now tuned to CNN, they note, after years of Fox News!  And newly sworn-in secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack was given a map of the 8 miles of corridors of his building.  He was the first of 227 political appointees in the department to show up for work.