Nobody said this job was going to be easy. In fact, when the long and brutal campaign ended the work had only began for the new administration. Now they must govern and put their stamp on Washington by placing their people in key positions.
While most of his choices for cabinet position have been filled, more than 4,000 political appointees, many of whom hold important leadership and policymaking positions, need to be filled by the new administration. Finding qualified people to fill these jobs is an enormous undertaking, but it is critically important to making the federal government work.
There are four basic types of appointments including presidential appointments with Senate confirmation. They cover 1,212 senior leaders, including the Cabinet secretaries and their deputies and the heads of most independent agencies such as FERC. These positions first require a Senate hearing in addition to background checks and other vetting. There are also presidential appointees without Senate confirmation including non-career Senior Executive Service appointees who serve in key positions just below the top presidential appointees and Schedule C appointees who serve in a confidential or policy role.
And there are hundreds of ambassadors, U.S. Attorneys, and U.S. Marshals that require Senate confirmation.
As the Obama administration came to a close, dozens of crucial jobs in his administration where either totally empty or run by an acting deputy. As senior aides have bolted for higher paying gigs, their jobs have remained empty. More than a quarter of the administration’s most senior jobs, more than 100 overall, were missing permanent occupants. It’s not unusual for a president to have numerous open slots in the last year of his second term, as longtime officials leave for their next jobs, and it becomes harder to recruit qualified leaders for short-term work.
President Obama did rush to fill nearly 100 federal government vacancies during a frenzy of appointments in his final few weeks in office. Since the New Year, Obama named 72 people to federal job openings and nominated another 17 for positions requiring Senate confirmation. On the last week of his term, Obama announced appointments for 27 officials to government positions and named two to jobs requiring Senate confirmation. The wave of announcements includes several White House officials, who will serve well after Obama leaves office.
So we need to be patient with the new administration. Help wanted signs in administrations are common at the beginning — and end — of each. In any case, the federal government will somehow continue to run.