Recruiting Political Appointees

Memo #1 of Administrative Leadership

Summary: In order for the President to be able to fully implement his or her policy priorities and lead the nation, it is crucial to have the top levels of executive branch leadership in place. In recent administrations, delays have significantly slowed political appointments. For instance, in the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations, about 50% of the top 75 national security appointments remained vacant on May 1. To alleviate this problem, we recommend that Presidents establish priorities on positions to be filled quickly, especially those related national security. To do this, more resources should be allocated to the Office of Presidential Personnel, and the OPP should work closely with the Senate and vetting agencies to share information about nominees to expedite clearance processes. A reduction in the total number of political appointees would facilitate the political appointments process and improve the leadership of the executive branch.

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Recommended Actions

For newly elected Presidents:

1. Early planning is essential for an effective appointments process. Personnel planning should begin several months before the election so that it is ready to go immediately after the election.

2. The President elect should designate the head of transition personnel planning to be the first director of the Office of Presidential Personnel. Top members of the personnel recruitment team should commit to stay in their jobs at least a year rather than taking other positions with the new administration.

3. New Presidents should set priorities for nominations to top national security posts in DOD, DHS, State, Treasury and other positions in the areas of Presidential policy priorities.

For incumbent Presidents:

1. The OPP should deliver background material to Senate staff of the appropriate committee as soon as the President nominates the person.

2. Pursuant to the Working Group Report created by S. 679, a common on-line form for background information should be developed so that a nominee has to enter the information only once and the required information can be made separately available to the OPP, FBI, the Office of Government ethics, and the appropriate Senate committee.

3. The Office of Presidential Personnel should be increased in size so that the resources are available to move quickly at the beginning of a new administration. Likewise, the FBI, OGE, and Senate should increase their staffs so that the vetting process and keep up with nominations.

4. A separate confirmation unit should be established in the White House with members of the OPP, the counsel’s office, and the Office of Congressional Liaison to assist nominees and shepherd them through the confirmation process.

5. A reduction of the total number of political appointees would alleviate most of the problems noted in this report.

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