Improving the Appointment Process

What Political Appointees Need to Know: Preparing Appointees for Success

By Joseph Gurney, Paul R. Lawrence, and Mark Abramson

We are now nearing Inauguration Day and the arrival of the next generation of political appointees to implement the agenda of the new Administration. This changing of the guard happens every four years.   Over the last seven years, we have examined the experience of new appointees and concluded that better preparation is needed for them to succeed.   We discussed this finding in a recent article, “Needed: A New Approach for Onboarding Political Appointees” (http://www.govexec.com/excellence/promising-practices/2016/12/needed-new-approach-onboarding-political-appointees/133589/?oref=river).

Read more ...

A Guide for New Appointees: How to Spend Your Time Between Nomination and Confirmation

By Joseph Gurney, Paul R. Lawrence, and Mark A. Abramson

The first round of the Trump Administration cabinet nominations is now nearly complete.  In the weeks ahead, subcabinet positions will be announced. 

A nominee faces a difficult period between nomination and confirmation.  In many ways, it is "no man's land" and nominees must proceed carefully.  There is, however, much that can be done between nomination and confirmation.  The effective and proactive use of this period will be crucial to the success of a new appointee in preparing for the responsibilities of his or her new position.   

Read more ...

Developing a New Approach for Onboarding Political Appointees: A Case Study of the Department of State

By Joseph Gurney, Paul R. Lawrence, and Mark Abramson

In our recent article, "Needed: A New Approach for Onboarding Political Appointees," (http://www.govexec.com/excellence/promising-practices/2016/12/needed-new-approach-onboarding-political-appointees/133589/?oref=river), we called for the new administration to revisit how political appointees are prepared for their new positions. We set forth a new approach which would be characterized by decentralized onboarding with each cabinet department assuming responsibility for onboarding their new appointees, an increased number of activities undertaken between the time of nomination and confirmation, and an increase in the number of mechanisms to deliver onboarding.

Read more ...

Needed: A New Approach for Onboarding Political Appointees

By Joseph Gurney, Paul R. Lawrence, and Mark A. Abramson

Change is the new keyword of 2016. A new administration was elected in November on the promise of bringing change to Washington. To make this happen, they need to carefully evaluate how Washington is currently doing business and what they should do differently. 

An immediate first step would be to reevaluate how government has traditionally undertaken the onboarding of its new political appointees. We define strategic onboarding as "the systemic and designed approach over the first year of an appointee's tenure that will prepare him or her for success. The goal of strategic onboarding is to have new appointees become productive in a short amount of time."

Read more ...

Transitions Past...Any Lessons For the Next Administration?

By David Chu

It’s been my privilege to participate in six transitions—symmetrically, three in, three out.  (That’s counting generously, since it includes as one set the “friendly” transition from President Reagan’s administration to President George H.W. Bush’s.)  It’s only a limited sample, and all the data points involve a single cabinet agency.  Moreover, each differs in its specific circumstances.  But looking back, I think some generalizations are possible, especially regarding management challenges.  Whether they are likely to apply going forward I leave to the reader’s speculation.

Read more ...

Transitioning Top Talent

By Hannah Sistare

The successful achievement of any Administration’s objectives depends upon a high-quality senior team heading Cabinet departments and agencies.  Fortunately, recent incoming and outgoing Administrations have shown themselves willing to work together before the Inauguration.

Read more ...

Getting Ready for 2017: An Introduction to the Plum Book

By G. Edward DeSeve and Mark A. Abramson

Get ready for the most popular new website in Washington coming in December 2016. In December, the Government Publishing Office (GPO) will release two versions of the quadrennial United States Policy and Supporting Positions, more popularly known as the “Plum Book.” GPO will release a digital version of the book on their website, and hard copy.

Read more ...

Getting Ready for 2017: Joining the New Administration

By Paul R. Lawrence and Mark A. Abramson

The start of a new Administration is still months away, but planning for 2017 is already underway. The New York Times recently presented an in-depth article on the forthcoming transition, highlighting a recent transition planning meeting held in New York.   Vetting for the the first personnel decision is already underway as both the Washington Post and the New York Times report that the presidential candidates have begun reviewing potential vice presidents.

Read more ...

Managing the Real Bears of the Presidential Transition

By Diane Disney

To smooth the change from this president to the next, Congress has passed a transition planning bill and President Obama has issued an executive order creating a White House Transition Coordinating Council and an Agency Transition Directors Council.  These admirable actions should go far toward sharing knowledge, understanding how to vet candidates, and preparing the newcomers about the scope and strictures of Federal service.  However, as currently structured, none of these really addresses two important fundamentals, one philosophical and the other practical.

Read more ...

Looking Close to Home

As the Obama Administration begins the second year of its second term, the Administration continues to face numerous vacancies throughout government in key positions. As expected, many appointees left government in 2013 after completing four or five years of service. The Senate confirmation process continues to move slowly, even with the recent change in Senate rules to lower barriers for confirmation.

Read more ...

Presidential Appointments and Managing the Executive Branch

In 1937 the Brownlow Committee famously declared: “the President needs help.”

Although FDR’s Committee was referring to the need for White House staff, the President now has plenty of help throughout the executive branch. Since Roosevelt’s Presidency, the Executive Office of the President has gained about 2,000 people, and the number of political appointees has increased to more than 7,000. Setting aside White House staffers and about 3,000 part time Presidential appointments, each new President fills about 3,000 positions with his or her partisans.

Read more ...

Workshop Draws Scholars and Practitioners to Discuss Appointee Politics and Reform

On May 4 and 5, 2012, Indiana University’ s School of Public and Environmental Affairs and Virginia Tech’s Center for Public Administration and Policy and School of Public and International Affairs sponsored a workshop on “Appointee Politics and the Implications for Government Effectiveness.” The workshop drew 52 guests from Capitol Hill, Washington policymaking circles, and universities for two days of discussion and debate at CPAP-Virginia Tech’s old town Alexandria campus.

Read more ...