Posts Tagged ‘White House Transition Project’

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.


Update: The White House Transition Project

August 20, 2009

I had lunch yesterday with Martha Kumar, who helps run the White House Transition Project,  and she encouraged a visit to their website to see their “Six Month Review” of the Obama Administration’s transition.  You should visit also!

They’ve got a running tally of the status of presidential appointments as of the six-month point (55 percent identified or confirmed, of the top 542 positions).  They note the delay in confirmations tends to be on the White House side – not the Senate side — of the appointment process.

They have also drafted some essays on specific topics:  a review of Rahm Emanuel’s effectiveness on the job so far (a positive assessment), a review of Jim Jones’s role as national security advisor (still evolving), and a piece on presidential travel (Obama has earned lots of miles!).  Additional essays in production include a piece on the organization of the White House, and the interaction between the President and the press.

First 100 Days: Terry Sullivan

February 13, 2009

Dr. Terry Sullivan, in his study, “Presidential Work During the First One Hundred Days,” analyzes the work schedules of Presidents Dwight Eisenhower through George H. W. Bush during their first 100 days in office. With 50,000 observations of 20,000 events over nearly four decades, the report takes on two tasks: describing the president’s workday and drawing conclusions about commitment, engagement, isolation, organizational choices, and effectiveness.


In an interview with Government Executive’s Michelle Williams, he says “it’s an easy standard to hold every president against, to compare every president to.”  In this vein, several media outlets are monitoring “the first 100 days.”  These include:  BBC’s Obama Diary, CNN’s First 100 Days, and Huffington Post’s Obama’s First 100 Days. 


Dr. Sullivan’s data, which took a number of years to compile from a variety of official records, shows that presidents experienced a 30 percent increase in their workdays since Eisenhower.    His look at details, such as the amount of time on the phone, in one-on-one meetings, in groups, events, or on travel, showed interesting patterns between presidents during their first 100 days and, in some cases, dispelled some historical myths.  For example, Reagan, not Nixon, was the most isolated.  Sullivan also found that president’s with greater hierarchy in their operations had not only more productive work days but also had increased ranges of engagement with outsiders.


It will be interesting to see how future scholars rate the more recent presidents.  They’ll have to add a new time-tracking category for President Obama – time spent on email and his Blackberry!

Think Tanks and Other Players – Transition 2008 (Part II)

April 8, 2008

This blog continues the inventory started last week of what different groups are doing in preparation for the Presidential Transition and the next Administration. . . . I’ll provide updates periodically.


October 20, 2008 Update:  NOTE:  This blog entry has been among the most popular of all the entries in 2008.  As a result, in conjunctions with Federal Computer Week, these entries are now posted on a wiki site and are regularly updated.  Visit that site and bookmark it!


Think Tank Players (continued)


Brookings Institution.  Brookings provided an update.  In addition to the Patterson revision of his White House Staff book, it says it will sponsor several other book endeavors: “The Presidential Appointee’s Handbook,” by Ed DeSeve; “What Do We Do Now? A Handbook for the President-Elect,” by Stephan Hess, “”Difficult Transition:  Foreign Policy Troubles at the Outset of Presidential Power,” by Kurt Campbell and James Steinberg, and “Restoring the Balance:  A Middle East Strategy for the Next President,” by Martin Indyk and Gary Samore.


Center for American Progress.  The Center plans to draft legislative language and related support material for a federal version of Baltimore’s acclaimed “Citi-Stat” performance management process.  It has sponsored research on “data-driven government” systems to support this effort.


Mercatus Center, at George Mason University, plans to develop a primer on how an incoming President should deal with “midnight regulations” prepared by the outgoing Administration.  It is also conducting research on improvement for the Program Assessment Review Tool which is being used to assess program performance by the Office of Management and Budget.


Academic Players


Fels Institute of Government, at the University of Pennsylvania, is sponsoring a website that keeps track of the government management-related campaign statements made by the various candidates.


The White House Transition Project  is being continued in 2008.  Begun as part of the 2000 presidential transition in conjunction with the National Archives and other groups, the Project is directed by Dr. Martha Kumar.  The Project is conducting a series of interviews of key White House officials about the lessons they learned in their roles and advice they have for their successors.  She and her colleagues are also planning to summarize these oral histories in articles and books. 


Midge Smith Center for Evaluation Effectiveness, a part of the Trachtenberg School for Public Policy and Public Administration at George Washington University, is conducting research on the OMB Program Assessment Review Tool with the goal of providing guidance for a new process.


Other Players


Senior Executives Association.  SEA is crafting a report with recommendations to the incoming Administration on managing and improving the senior executive service.  It is also sponsoring a conference on June 10th for its members on “Shifting Gears,” to prepare them for the transition.


Coalition for Effective Change.  CEC is developing an ethics guide for incoming political appointees to help them navigate through existing laws and regulations.  It also co-sponsored the human capital forum held March 12th, with the Partnership for Public Service.


Performance Institute.  The Institute is hosting the Government Performance Coalition website and is sponsoring a series of events.  It sponsored the Government Performance Summit in February and plans to sponsor a series of breakfast dialogue session on human capital, performance, and other management issues.


Deloitte Public Sector Research.  Deloitte Research is conducting a survey of government executives on management challenges facing public executives, based on GAO’s report on 21st century challenges.  It plans to conduct a series of dialogue events to discuss a series of GAO’s policy challenges, such as in education, infrastructure, and healthcare.  In response to the GAO report’s call to fundamentally rethink the federal government’s base of spending and tax programs, it is working jointly with the LBJ School of Public Affairs to develop a “redesign framework” to facilitate the review of the roles and functions of government.   In addition, Deloitte Research is developing two books that it envisions will be helpful to the next Administration, one on innovation strategies and another on the challenges of policy and program execution.


Cisco.  Cisco is planning an initiative to develop insights on what the elements of the presidential management agenda should be for the next President.


CNA Corporation.  CNA is developing an initiative it is calling “performance-driven government.”


Again, if you’ve got additions or revisions, the blog lines are open!