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The First Year of Nominations

After one year in office, the current administration has nominated for and filled through confirmation fewer key appointed management positions than either of its two predecessors. The delays are occurring both in the executive branch and in the Senate, where nominees must be confirmed. President Trump is taking a longer time to nominate individuals to key posts and the Senate is taking much longer to provide its advice and consent. These two speed bumps have led to an executive branch run in many cases by non-confirmed, temporary officials.

This update to the BPC Management Excellence Tracker is the third and final one. As we had seen at the 100- and 200-day marks, the current administration lags recent ones. We find that at the one-year mark of this administration, about 57 percent of key management positions are filled by confirmed incumbents. By this point, President Obama had 74 percent of these key positions filled and President George W. Bush had filled more than 80 percent—and he was up to over 90 percent within 10 days of his first anniversary in office.

The BPC Management Tracker follows those Senate-confirmable positions responsible for the management of large numbers of employees or budgets. We are long past the highest-profile confirmation battles that played out over cabinet-level nominations. The positions we track are key to managing staff and budgets and making the government function. Without confirmed individuals in these positions, agencies will not be functioning at highest effectiveness. The list of positions—available on BPC’s website—consists of deputy secretaries, under secretaries for management, and chief financial officers among others.

By this point in their administrations, President Bush and President Obama also had more of their preferred nominees confirmed.  As of today, Congress has confirmed 28 of President Trump’s nominees and he has held over one appointee in a key management position, compared to 37 and 34 for President Obama and President Bush, respectively. The previous two administrations were quicker to submit nominees. For all nominations made at the one-year mark, President Trump is averaging 137 days after Inauguration Day compared to 97 for President Obama and 123 for President Bush. Certainly, the sooner nominations are made, the sooner they can be considered and acted on in the Senate.Where do we stand one year into this administration compared to recent history? At this point, both President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama had nominated (or held over from the previous administration) individuals for more 94 percent and 84 percent, respectively, of the tracked positions. President Trump has made nominations or held over individuals for 74 percent of the tracked positions, not including nominations that were subsequently withdrawn before Congress took action and for which no subsequent nomination was made.

While this administration has been slower to nominate candidates to these essential slots, its nominees have also experienced greater challenges moving through the Senate confirmation process. Congress is conducting hearings for nominees, on average, in 36 days after receiving a nomination from the White House. This marks a sharp uptick in the time between the Senate receiving a nomination and progressing to a hearing. It took 23 days during President Obama’s first year and 27 days during President Bush’s first year. And the time between nomination and final vote is even more significantly lengthened compared to the previous two administrations. President Trump’s nominees take about a four-week longer average period of time from nomination to confirmation for an average of 69 days compared to just 38 days for President Obama’s nominees and 43 days for President George W. Bush’s nominees.

BPC sought to track these key positions because we understand that government works best when qualified people formally fill the rolls assigned to them. Agency deputy secretaries play valuable day-to-day roles in managing thousands or hundreds of thousands of civil servants. The largest agencies have budgets that run into the many billions of dollars, and some of them still have no chief financial officer. The system for getting the right people into key positions has been breaking down for several cycles. For it to work, new presidents must be prepared to fill key roles and Congress needs to outline a revamped, expedited process to make it a reality.


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