Only One Senate-Confirmed Appointee at Over Half of Major Federal Agencies
Five months after the election of President Donald Trump, progress filling agencies with his political appointees has been decidedly slow, as highlighted by a recent piece in the Washington Post.
As the Post notes, “In more than half of Trump’s 15 primary executive departments, only one Trump appointee has been confirmed: the secretary who heads the agency.”
The slow progress, combined with the statutory difficulties many career executives face in trying to actively manage within the vacuum of political leadership, has raised concerns about mounting workloads and backlogs, with existing or depleted agencies expected to both do more with less, and to do so without direction from appointees that previous administrations have largely had in place, by this point.
It remains unclear to what extent the vacancies are intentional versus a result of administrative growing pains. In a February interview, the president seemed to indicate that he might be inclined to leave an unspecified number of positions vacant, telling Fox & Friends, “A lot of those jobs, I don’t want to appoint, because they’re unnecessary to have. You know, we have so many people in government, even me. I look at some of the jobs and it’s people over people over people. I say, ‘What do all these people do?’ You don’t need all those jobs.”
He continued, “Many of those jobs I don’t want to fill. I say, isn’t that a good thing? That’s not a bad thing. That’s a good thing. We’re running a very good, efficient government.”
But some experts are less bullish on the prospects of vacancies improving government efficiency.
“It creates a great deal of uncertainty and, ultimately, it diminishes the ability of government to do its job as well as it could,” according to Max Stier, President of the Partnership for Public Service.
Paul Light, a renowned political scientist and professor of public service at NYU, expressed that it may not be an either/or situation, with the vacancies both benefiting the administration and simultaneously crippling the agencies. “It doesn’t hurt Trump to have agencies that cannot move. They can’t regulate. They can’t implement. They’re completely decapitated.”
A graphic put together by the Post shows the extent to which the Trump Administration is lagging behind the historical pace set by previous administrations, noting that President Trump “has taken action on about 160 Senate confirmable positions at the major departments. His three immediate predecessors had all nominated more than 300 by this point.”
Posted in From the Hill