- The Washington Times - Monday, January 15, 2001

The leaders of the nation's bureaucracy will lose their jobs in less than one week.
At noon Saturday, when George W. Bush becomes president, their power and positions will be gone in a wink. The resignations of the highest-paid, most influential officials in the government's 14 departments and 91 independent agencies and corporations will automatically take effect.
Some 601 positions for political appointees in the Defense Department will be vacant. There will be 459 such vacancies at the Justice Department, 453 at State, 443 at Energy, 333 at Health and Human Services and 153 at the Labor Department.
Aside from the number of vacancies available at the various agencies, there is no way of determining which one will be most affected. It depends on the new president. Because even as career civil service executives step up temporarily to fill the slots of vanished bosses and colleagues, the new president assumes responsibility for picking new directors, administrators, commissioners, counsels, deputy assistant directors and others throughout the executive branch of government. He may choose to leave some slots empty while creating others.
In any event, recruiting and hiring new executives is a monumental task. Scholars say the process is little understood, even though it is tremendously important. It represents the peaceful overthrow of one government apparatus by another a purge that elsewhere and throughout history has been a cruel and bloody enterprise.
There have been 42 presidents. But in just 22 instances has the new president been from a party that wrested executive control from its competitor, necessitating a huge bureaucratic upheaval.
For weeks, however, the president-elect's transition team has been preparing for the transfer of control.
It has finished proposing, processing and nominating the 14 members of the Cabinet who are key to the new administration. And it has appointed liaison teams to the executive departments: three to the Department of Agriculture, for example, seven to Education, two to State.
The transition officials occupy offices in the agencies and try to learn as much as possible about critical departmental operations and routines while identifying job vacancies the administration must fill quickly. It's expected that some of the "liaisons" will be appointed to jobs within the agencies they are observing.
Now the transition office is turning to the hiring of roughly 6,000 people for jobs at all levels of government. That includes 1,063 nominees who, like the Cabinet nominees, must win Senate confirmation.
"The hiring is crucial, especially for a president like President-elect Bush, who seems comfortable delegating authority. He must be certain that the people he trusts can do what he wants done," says Paul Light, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and an authority on the political appointment process.
Mr. Light notes that presidents typically regard filling jobs as a tough chore. Indeed, in his three-volume history of the Senate, Sen. Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia Democrat, wrote that George Washington considered the appointment process extraordinarily hard.
"He fretted over pressures from unqualified office seekers and turned away relatives who wanted federal jobs," the senator related.
Clay Johnson, Mr. Bush's chief of staff while he was the Texas governor, has been leading the personnel operation. Insiders say he is expected to head the Office of Presidential Personnel when Mr. Bush takes office.
Meanwhile job applications and resumes have been pouring into Mr. Johnson's transition office. One of his press aides reported late last week:
"We already have 42,000 resumes and 125 people working on hiring. We have no idea how long it will take to fill even the top sub-Cabinet jobs. We've made no suppositions and have no announcements. But we're moving faster than warp speed" to deal with the applicants.
To understand the magnitude of their task and how it's accomplished, consider:
There are 1.8 million jobs in the executive branch of U.S. government, which includes the civilians who work for the Department of Defense, but excludes the military and U.S. Postal Service and judiciary employees.
Those nearly 2 million workers constitute the "permanent bureaucracy."
The bureaucracy, says Joe Cowart, "is not so permanent. Some 400,000 'permanent jobs' were eliminated in the past eight years." Mr. Cowart is a spokesman for the Office of Personnel Management.
Mr. Cowart's agency reports there are 3,003 political appointees currently holding office in the executive branch.
That's fewer than half the 7,815 high-ranking civil service jobs "that may be subject to noncompetitive appointment," meaning they can be filled by political appointees. Some 700 of the available appointee positions have gone unfilled for years.
Mr. Cowart explains that the political appointees in the executive branch include those who require Senate confirmation and high-ranking people like assistant secretaries who don't always require Senate confirmation, plus non-career Senior Executive Service employees.
A Senate document titled "Policy and Supporting Positions" and nicknamed "the Plum Book" describes the Senior Executive Service (SES) as "a personnel system covering top-level policy, supervisory, and managerial positions in most federal agencies."
Leaders in government corporations, the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, intelligence agencies, the Foreign Service and certain financial regulatory agencies don't come under the Executive Service system. Nonetheless, those organizations harbor big jobs that the president or his Cabinet members and top aides can fill.
As Mr. Cowart describes senior executives, they are "hands-on managers usually with a policy role in their agency." He continues:
"A senior executive might be anything from a deputy assistant secretary of state for public affairs to a high-ranking aide to the veterans affairs secretary. Senior executives are the backbone of the presidential-appointment system. They're usually specialists real professionals and generally the most talented, most experienced and most numerous of the highly paid appointees."
A president legally can appoint no more than 10 percent of the nation's senior executives, and half of the executive positions are "career reserved." That means that to "ensure impartiality or the public's confidence in the impartiality of government," as a Senate document puts it, those positions cannot be occupied by political appointees.
In practice then, Mr. Bush will be limited to appointing about 700 senior executives.
The president doesn't have to make the appointment decisions personally. He can let his Cabinet members and their personnel aides select people for the various posts. But since 1980, political hiring has been handled almost exclusively by the White House, and the president has personally approved many appointments.
At any rate, below the senior executives come the Schedule C employees. Mr. Cowart calls them "the hod carriers."
"They're the people who do the bidding of senior executives at the policy level," he explains.
James P. Pfiffner, a George Mason University professor and a specialist in government transition, explains: "Besides those 700 senior executive positions and others requiring Senate approval, there are some 2,000 part-time jobs on boards and commissions; then there are about 500 White House jobs and 1,700 Schedule C jobs. And that brings you to the rough total of nearly 6,000."
Many of the slots to be filled are what are known officially as General Schedule, or GS positions that constitute the bulk of the civil service. GS grade levels run from GS-3 up to GS-15, with the executive grades beginning just above the GS-15 level.
Mr. Pfiffner mentions that even positions at the lower GS levels can be significant. "They can include executive secretaries or drivers with special qualifications that senior appointees particularly want hired."
Most hiring for sub-Cabinet jobs occurs after the president-elect is sworn into office. Then the applications, resumes and letters of recommendation from suppliants go to the Office of Presidential Personnel. There, members of the office staff, workers borrowed from various agencies and volunteers plow through the lot, drafting lists of candidates for each vacancy.
In consultation with the relevant Cabinet secretary, the office pares the list to maybe three candidates who are interviewed by personnel office officials and those of the department in which they are seeking jobs. After that, the personnel director sends his recommendations to the president.
When the president has made his choice and the candidate has completed a battery of forms, the candidate's processing continues through the Office of the Counsel to the President. The counsel's office monitors the various FBI and IRS background checks, makes inquiries and generally tries to ensure there is nothing in the candidate's past to embarrass the president or his administration.
The process of recruiting and hiring continues long after the inauguration almost to the end of a president's term.

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