Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

Eye Opener: Making political 'burrowing' harder

By Ed O'Keefe

Eye Opener

Happy Monday! It may soon get much harder for political appointees to "burrow" into their agencies at any time -- not just during presidential election years.

Currently agencies must only seek permission from the Office of Personnel Management to move a political appointee into a career job during a presidential election year. But starting Jan. 1, OPM will have to approve every transfer of a current or recent political appointee into a career position. The order came in a memo issued late last week by OPM Director John Berry.

By burrowing, political officials earn civil service job protections that make it difficult for managers to remove them. The practice may also deprive an incoming presidential administration of a chance to name its preferred candidates to top jobs.

But in his memo, Berry said "I believe we must hold ourselves and the government to a higher standard, one that honors and supports the president’s strong commitment to a government that is transparent and open. OPM’s responsibility to uphold the merit system is not limited to presidential election years nor to competitive service appointments."

"While political appointees may not be excluded from consideration for federal jobs because of their political affiliation, they must not be given preference or special advantages," Berry said. Agency requests will be reviewed by OPM's career senior executives in order to avoid any suggestion of political influence by Berry or other appointees.

A 2008 Congressional Research report (pdf) confirmed that "burrowing" normally occurs during a presidential transition. Forty-seven Clinton administration appointees stayed put, while the Bush administration approved at least 20 such personnel moves in 2008.

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Partnership for Public Service Founder Dies: Samuel J. Heyman, 70, died unexpectedly of unknown causes on Saturday. He established the Partnership in 2001 in an effort to promote public service. Partnership CEO Max Stier called Heyman "a bold and visionary philanthropist who saw that a path to great social change was to invest in the capacity of our nation’s government. He conceived of an organization that would restore prestige to government service and inspire a new generation into its ranks. Mr. Heyman never shrank from a challenge, and the Partnership benefited tremendously from his bold leadership as Chairman, his vision and his support." President George W. Bush awarded Heyman the Presidential Citizens Medal in 2008.

Cabinet and Staff News: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to attend 20th anniversary of fall of the Berlin Wall. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. says Guantanamo Bay reviews still under way. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and National Security Adviser James L. Jones putting the final touches on Obama's Afghan war strategy. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar helps break ground on the Flight 93 Memorial. VA Assistant Secretary Tammy Duckworth recalls Obama's visits to Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey worried about the fate of Muslim U.S. soldiers. Some personnel moves announced Friday by the Obama administration. NEA Chief Rocco Landesman sees how the arts play in Peoria.

Deer fatally injured at National Zoo: It jumped into a lion enclosure at the National Zoo as visitors looked on.

TSA screening more than just carry-on bags: The agency has stationed specially trained behavior-detection officers at 161 U.S. airports. The officers may be positioned anywhere, from the parking garage to the gate, trying to spot passengers who show an unusual level of nervousness or stress.

Military hopes 'resiliency campus' will bolster recovery: Commanders at Ft. Hood have been experimenting for a year with unconventional ways of bolstering combatants' mental health, using everything from aromatherapy to video games to yoga.

U.S. readies plan to ID departing visitors: The plan would collect fingerprints at airport security checkpoints, departure gates or terminal kiosks, allowing the government to track when roughly 35 million foreign visitors a year leave the country and who might be overstaying their visas.

Smithsonian working on its youth appeal: Director Wayne Clough said coming from a university environment got him used to working with younger people, and gave him great ideas on how to attract a new generation to visit the museums.

Former Defense acquisition chief warns against 'global war on contractors': The phrase has been used in reference to the Defense Department's plan to convert more than 3,000 contractor positions to federal jobs.

Senate passes bill to provide funding for Federal Executive Boards: The boards play a critical role in helping agencies ensure that they don't duplicate each others' efforts during emergencies, as they did during the collapse of a major commuter bridge in Minnesota in 2007.

Follow The Federal Eye on Twitter | Submit your news tips here

By Ed O'Keefe  | November 9, 2009; 5:55 AM ET
Categories:  Eye Opener, Revolving Door  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Friday Personnel Moves
Next: Obama signs order on veterans employment

Comments

The simple solution is to prohibit Schedule C's from applying for civil service jobs while the president that was in office is still in office. Mr. Berry is wrong. This is not discriminatory based on political affiliation, I know Dems who held political appointment during the Bush years and Republican who held positions during Democratic admins. It is more like a non-compete clause in a normal work contract. If you work for a company then you can not take a job with a competitor for so long after you leave. Even if you agree with Mr. Berry, I would say that simply allowing them to apply is special treatment, they have received special access and experience because of their appointments they should not be able to use that restricted access experience to compete against others, those of other political affiliation, who have not had access to those experience. It is like denying blacks access to grad schools but then claiming that your hiring is not discriminatory because you interview anyone with a grad degree. No one who gets a political appointment complain about a temporary ban on conversion can anymore than they can complain that rules banning them from holding stocks in areas they regulate is discriminatory based on political affiliation.

Posted by: crete | November 9, 2009 7:14 AM | Report abuse

How is "seeking permission from OPM" different from "OPM ... approv[ing]"?

Posted by: olita_the_otter | November 9, 2009 10:20 AM | Report abuse

"Burrowing" is one of the major diseases of Federal Civil Service. Aggressive campaign fund-raisers are awarded with lucrative appointments in various agencies, despite their lack of experience and appropriate skill sets. The secret is to keep them occupied with out-of-town events (speeches, dedications, good-will tours) so they will miss the meetings where important decisions are made by experienced career civil servants.

Posted by: doncoleman1 | November 10, 2009 10:31 AM | Report abuse

I'll bet you a cup of coffee that there is a strong correlation between those political appointees who have "burrowed" into a federal agency and the problems of that agency. Putting an inexperienced person in a federal management role is not unlike the "square peg in a round hole."

Posted by: doncoleman1 | November 10, 2009 10:38 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company