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Wise and Experienced? The Prune Book's For You!

By Ed O'Keefe

President-elect Obama has not formally announced any cabinet or sub-cabinet appointments, but if he's looking for suggestions on which jobs to fill first, he should consult the Prune Book.

As first noted by The Eye's colleague Joe Davidson, the book-turned-fantastic-online-resource will eventually list approximately 130 of the "toughest management and policymaking" positions it believes a president must fill first. The book's name is a play off the Plum Book, suggesting that the jobs listed are for "wiser and older" plums who mature and become prunes.

Prune Book
If you're seeking a slightly more high-level Federal job, check out the Prune Book (Image courtesy of The Council for Excellence in Government)

CEG consults with a steering committee comprised of veterans of White House personnel staff, search firm executives and others with executive branch experience to pick the jobs listed in the book. (The book is now only accessible through an incredibly easy-to-navigate Web site and will update as positions and officeholders change.) Some of the picks might surprise the average citizen, but make sense once you take a closer look.

For example, the Prune Book listings for the National Security Council only includes the job of deputy director position. It's more important than the top director's job, according to CEG, because it is most responsible for the management function of the National Security Council especially in creating "a productive working relationship between competing interests at State and the Pentagon." Such turf wars are inevitable as the new administration takes over in January.

At the Justice Department, the Prune Book suggests the most important picks are for assistant attorneys general for the antitrust and civil rights divisions.

"With the economy in a nosedive, the Obama administration will have to calibrate its antitrust approach to protect consumers while leaving businesses room to return to profitability," the book says of the antitrust pick. "The deep downturn has triggered calls for tougher regulation, but not shook the belief that competition and growth go hand in hand."

Critics of the civil rights division "have raised concerns over politicized hiring practices and a decline in attention to such traditional civil rights issues as voting rights," the book states. "When former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales came under fire for politicized firings of U.S. attorneys, the Civil Rights Division also faced allegations of using political affiliation against career DOJ attorneys and job applicants."

The book also smartly lists key contacts and colleagues for the person that inevitably fills the positions. For example, the CIA director will interface with his or her deputies, as well as colleagues at the Coast Guard, FBI and State Department. The commissioner of food and drugs will interact with the administrators at EPA, OHSA and chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, among many others.

Finally -- and perhaps most importantly in the opening months -- the Prune Book lists the committee before which the various nominees will have to appear.

So go ahead and explore the Prune Book for yourself. Pick a department or agency and see if you think you're qualified. The Eye will refer back to the Prune Book early and often throughout the transition, appointment process and Congressional confirmation hearings.

By Ed O'Keefe  | November 19, 2008; 1:00 PM ET
Categories:  Revolving Door  
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