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May 03, 2013

Politics and Slow Vetting Process Keep Government Understaffed

Posted in: Uncategorized

The partisan gridlock in Washington combined with a slow moving vetting process has led to many of the key posts in the Obama Administration remaining vacant. Even as the administration asks for more power to police the internet and meddle in other country’s affairs abroad it lacks the staff to meet current responsibilities.

As the White House races this week to plug holes in the cabinet, the lights remain off in essential offices across the administration. The vacancies, attributed to partisan politics and lengthy White House vetting, are slowing policy making in a capital already known for inaction, and embarrassing a president who has had more than five months since his re-election to fill many of the jobs…

One of the worst backlogs is at the State Department, where nearly a quarter of the most senior posts are not filled, including those in charge of embassy security and counterterrorism.

The Treasury Department is searching for a new No. 2, the Department of Homeland Security is missing its top two cybersecurity officials and about 30 percent of the top jobs at the Commerce Department are still vacant, including that of chief economist.

And given the poor quality of those making it through the vetting process one is forced to wonder what these vetters are doing besides trading favors to advance their careers.

The vetting process varies in the Obama White House, but it typically begins with a brief conversation with a lawyer from the White House counsel’s office on basic questions: drug use, taxes, criminal convictions. Next are financial disclosure forms seeking information about transactions as far back as a decade: home purchases, investments, income, employment. That is followed by questions from the Office of Government Ethics, which scours the answers for inconsistencies.

In the security check that follows, potential nominees are asked to disclose all travel and meetings with foreign governments during the past 10 years or more. That is followed by a request for everything the nominee has ever written — papers, speeches, articles — and the official questions from members of Congress.

Yet Jack Lew and Penny Pritzker both had tax issues and that is putting aside Turbo Timmy Geithner. So is it a slow moving vetting process that still gets it wrong or do the the other candidates being vetted have even worse tax problems? In any case one would hope the vetting process was moving slow from extreme thoroughness not incompetence.

Add on sequester furloughs to the partisan gridlock and slowmo vetting and we might soon have de facto government small enough to drown in a bathtub.


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