President Donald Trump has the unenviable task of making more than 4,000 political appointments, about 1,100 of which require navigating the excruciating obstacle course of Senate confirmation. And he is behind. At last count, Trump had nominated only 42 of the Senate confirmed positions, with just 18 approved and three who have withdrawn from consideration.
When confronted recently with this track record, the president characteristically went on the attack, arguing that many of these jobs are unnecessary and declaring that he does not plan to fill them. “I look at some of those jobs and it’s people over people. I say, ‘What do all these people do?’”
It’s a good question.
There are indeed too many political positions in the U.S. federal government, with layer upon layer of appointees in the chain of command—a situation that creates bottlenecks, causes delays and makes it difficult for critical information to reach the ultimate decision-makers. There are deputy assistant secretaries, principal deputy assistant secretaries, assistant secretaries, undersecretaries, deputy undersecretaries and what could be described as free radicals—the special assistants, special counsels, senior counsels, senior advisors, deputy chiefs of staff and special advisors to the chiefs of staff—who clog the system.
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