Saturday, April 16, 2011

Political Appointees Versus Careerists

The chief flack at USDA is leaving to join Rahm Emanuel in Chicago.  She's been charged with discrimination according to this post.

At DHS there was tension between the careerists in charge of FOIA requests and the political appointees.

Without any knowledge of the particulars I'd suggest the following could be true:
  • the political appointees are young.  Except at the highest levels, political staff appointees tend to be whippersnappers on the way up, looking to make their mark.  They've attached themselves to the bigwigs (i.e. Secretary and below), or rather they've successfully networked with the bigwigs. 
  • the political appointees are inexperienced.  Likely they don't arrive with an extensive background in the rules of FOIA, or the agency or department.  Likely they don't arrive with a lot of experience managing people. 
  • the political appointees are attuned to the expectations of the Secretary and the President.  That's their reference group; that's who they want to impress.
  • the career employees are old.  The political appointees are dealing with the top of the career hierarchy, which usually means people who've risen within the ranks, meaning they're older.
  • the career employees know the rules and the agency.
  • the career employees have seen political appointees come and go, so they're likely to be skeptical of  them and their new ideas. By the same token, they're less impressed with the Secretary and the President than the appointees.
All in all, a formula for conflict.


Anonymous said...

You summed up one of the biggest problems facing our government very well. But at the same time, the tension does have the benefit of allowing for new ideas and preventing the complete dictatorship of the old-timer career bureaucrats, while not allowing the world to get turned upside down with every new President/Secretary.

Bill Harshaw said...

Yes, I agree, there are benefits to the turnover in appointees and the tension between the two. At least, if the two groups are mature enough to realize what's going on and treat each with some respect. (Although that's hard for any self-respecting geezer faced with someone young enough to be her daughter.)