Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton blasted the government vetting and clearance process Monday, blaming it for long delays in announcing nominees for key positions in the State Department.
She also criticized the procedure’s intrusiveness for discouraging highly qualified candidates from accepting senior posts.
“The clearance and vetting process is a nightmare, and it takes far longer than any of us would want to see. It is frustrating beyond words,” Mrs. Clinton said. “I mean, it is ridiculous. Some very good people just didn’t want to be vetted.”
The secretary spoke at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), where she was asked why an administrator has not been named nearly six months into the new administration.
“Let me say, it’s not for lack of trying,” she said. “I pushed very hard last week when I knew I was coming here to get permission from the White House to be able to tell you that help is on the way and someone will be nominated shortly.”
Administration officials said last week that a nominee would be announced soon. The most likely person is Paul Farmer, a Harvard University professor and physician who is well-known for his aid work in Haiti.
“I was unable,” Mrs. Clinton said. “The message came back: ‘We are not ready.’ ”
Although much of the work on vetting and clearance is done by the FBI, the White House ethics office has been stricter under President Obama than in some previous administrations. White House officials declined comment on the issue.
Mrs. Clinton derided some of the questions applicants are required to answer, searching for each place where each applicant has lived since age 18 and every foreign national he or she knows. She also said that most candidates have to hire lawyers and accountants to help them through the process, and some lack the means to afford such an expense.
Several candidates for high-level positions have declined job offers because of what they consider an overly intrusive vetting process. Among them is Robert J. Einhorn, who was expected to become undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, State Department officials said earlier this year.
Mrs. Clinton chose instead former Rep. Ellen Tauscher, California Democrat. Mr. Einhorn became a special adviser to Mrs. Clinton for nonproliferation and arms control, a position that does not require Senate confirmation.