Over the course of six years during Barack Obama’s presidency, 78 political appointees were “burrowed” into career-level jobs that are safe from political ouster once a new administration takes over, a new Government Accountability Office report finds.
A Government Accountability Office report obtained by The Washington Times on Wednesday shows that seven of Mr. Obama’s political appointees switched to career jobs without obtaining necessary approval from the Office of Personnel Management. Of those, four were later denied the jobs by OPM and three left their posts. […]
The Department of Homeland Security had the highest number of conversions, (nine), followed by the Department of Justice (eight).
Defense had six. Treasury had five. Agriculture, Commerce, Health and Human Services and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. each had four.
Three of the unapproved cases involved people in posts at the Education Department (a program specialist), at the Department of Health and Human Services (a senior adviser) and at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (a legislative adviser), according to a source briefed in advance on GAO’s review. In all three cases, agencies submitted materials on the conversion cases to OPM for post-appointment reviews.
The GAO report found that OPM approved 78 of 99 requests to convert political appointees to career positions from Jan. 1, 2010, through March 17, 2016. OPM denied 21 requests for varying reasons, such as bypassing qualified veterans, and referred nine denied cases to the Office of Special Counsel. (Washington Times)
Sen. Thom Tillis and Rep. Ron Johnson urged Obama to implement a hiring freeze during the last weeks of his administration so federal workers who opposed the incoming Trump administration would not impede its agenda.
“There is no doubt that thousands of dedicated civil servants faithfully serve in positions across the federal government without regard to who occupies the White House,” the Republican lawmakers wrote last year. “However, it would be unfair to those employees, and to the American people, if they are joined by others who may not be willing to properly execute the policies of the new administration.”
They continued: “Not only is ‘burrowing in’ unfair to applicants without an inside connection, it further contributes to the possibility that federal workers may attempt to undermine the policies of the new president,” Tillis and Johnson wrote. “We respectfully encourage you to consider the aforementioned concerns and also consider the implementation of a hiring freeze on all career civil servant positions, except those that involve public health or safety, until the end of your term.”
The practice of burrowing is relatively common for administrations. Between January 2001 and June 2008, for example, 135 of former President George W. Bush's political appointees were burrowed into government jobs, and at least 26 cases were approved in his last year in office.