Posts Tagged ‘Peter Baker’

Obama Appointees: Not Yet Halfway There

August 24, 2009

“Seven months into his presidency, fewer than half of his top appointees are in place advancing his agenda,” notes Peter Baker in a New York Times story, “Obama’s Team Is Lacking Most of Its Top Players.”

He goes on to say: “Of more than 500 senior policymaking positions requiring Senate confirmation, just 43 percent have been filled. . . . ”  He notes that Obama is trying to fix the financial markets but has no assistant secretary for financial markets.  He is fighting two wars but has no secretary of the Army, and is holding a summit on nuclear nonproliferation but has no assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation.

Dr. Terry Sullivan, executive director of the White House Transition Project, told Baker “If you are running G.M. without half your senior executives in place, are you worried? I’d say your stockholders would be going nuts.”

Baker also describes how there is more progress in putting officials in place than in other recent administrations and how the finger-pointing for the slow pace is “being freely passed around” between the executive and legislative branches.  The White House personnel office offers a higher count of appointees; other sources (such as the Washington Post’s Head Count website) offer lower counts, depending on what positions are included or excluded from the counting.

In a separate story, Chris Dorobek describes how the confirmation of Martha Johnson as administrator of the General Services Administration is being held up in the Senate.  He offers several reasons that are bipartisan in nature:  Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) is mad at GSA for discouraging government conferences in resort locations, like his home state city of Las Vegas, and Senator Kit Bond (R-MO) is blocking action because he wants a federal office building built in Kansas City. . . . meanwhile GSA has no top leader while the agency is facing an historic challenge to effectively manage  a 1,100 percent increase in its spending for the coming year under the Recovery Act.


Bogged Down Appointment Process

March 4, 2009

As predicted months ago in earlier blogs, the appointments process is going slowly (see blog postings from 2007, 2008a, 2008b, 2008c).  The White House says that appointments are faster than previous administrations, though.  According to a Washington Post article, as of this morning, out of about 850 top appointments, 71 appointees have been named, 41 nominated, and 28 confirmed.  For perspective, President Bush had a total of 29 confirmed after his first 100 days in office.


There are some holdups as a result of Senate actions:  two science-related appointees are being held up over an unrelated issue involving Cuba.  But most of the holdups are occurring in the executive-branch vetting process.  According to The Hill, “Obama Tightens Appointments After Gaffes.”   And it has!  The Washington Post article says that only 6 nominations went forward in February because of several nominations that ran into trouble.

As the Washington Post article describes: “People who are offered a job for the roughly 800 executive posts that require Senate confirmation receive an e-mail from the White House a day later congratulating them and instructing them to fill out three long forms: a comprehensive FBI questionnaire; a Form 278 from the Office of Government Ethics; and a list of questions from the relevant Senate committees. . . .

“The nominees are then questioned by a team of committee investigators led by former IRS agents hired by the Senate Finance Committee to perform what some describe as the equivalent of a full-fledged IRS audit before their hearings can be scheduled. . . .

“One nominee was asked about a $13 receipt. Another described the vetting as particularly intense, saying an FBI agent spent weeks conducting an investigation dating back 15 or 20 years, talking to the appointee’s friends, neighbors and people he served with on nonprofit boards. But the nominee understands why the process demands such scrutiny.”

The concern, according to Peter Baker in a New York Times story, “Obama Team Has Billions to Spend, But Few Ready to Do It,” is that policymakers are not yet in place in departments and agencies.  Government Executive writer, Robert Brodsky, says agencies are moving ahead, appointing temporary officials to lead the implementation of the stimulus bill.

The Boston Globe in “Vacancies Abound in Crucial US Posts,” quoted Michael Casserly, executive director of Council of the Great City Schools, a Washington-based coalition of the nation’s largest urban public school systems, as saying: “The fact that the current staff has added responsibilities certainly puts more pressure on them, but they seem to be rising to the occasion,” . . .  “I’m not worried about it at the moment. If the same situation existed in six months, I probably would be worried.”