Shortly after the election, I heard several pronouncements extolling Obama’s transition as the smoothest in American history among other accolades, all of which were hyperbolic works of extreme aggrandizement. Never mind the several appointees that had tax problems and other issues, but that’s neither here nor there. What’s interesting is that seven months in, the New York Times tells us that Obama has only filled 43% of his appointments that require Senate confirmation.
To be fair, no President has a full staff up and running right away, and as the article mentions, Obama has a more intact national security staff than Bush had at this stage. But some of the vacancies are more than a bit troubling. No chief has been installed at these important positions:
- head of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
- head of the Customs and Border Protection agency
- head of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)
- head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF)
- intelligence chief at the Department of Homeland Security
- top civilian in charge of military readiness at the Pentagon
- head of the Agency for International Development
The Obama administration is coming up with numbers a bit differently, counting low-ranking service positions and officials not needing confirmation to say it’s on track with past administrations. And to be truthful, it’s not like the desks are sitting empty at these positions, it’s just that there’s some person serving as a bureaucratic placeholder that is probably just treading water rather than forming an agenda for the agency.
A lot of the delay has come from increased vetting – which, again, stems from the first round of appointees like Tim Geithner, Tom Daschle, and Bill Richardson with embarassing tax or legal problems. But in any event, the heads of major organizations like the TSA, ATF, and the Border Patrol should have been in place a long time ago.
Oh, and there are two more vacancies that have yet to be filled as well, and are quite ironic in their vacancies (Heads-up from Karl at Patterico’s). For all the emphasis on running health care responsibly, via the New York Times, the President has yet to appoint someone to lead the agency that runs Medicare and Medicaid. Now that’s change you can believe in.