Wednesday, April 10, 2019

What's the matter with having so many "Acting" officials in the Trump administration?

ABC News explains:

By the end of the week, 10 major leadership positions in the Trump administration -- including some of the most critical in the government -- are expected to be filled by individuals serving in an acting capacity. . . .

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has been his temporary status for almost four months, since James Mattis left at the end of December.

Besides Shanahan, the "acting" senior leadership includes soon-to-be Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan, Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, Acting Budget Director Russell Vought, Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Acting U.N. Ambassador Jonathan Cohen, Acting FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor, Acting ICE Director Ronald Vitiello, a soon-to-be acting administrator of the Small Business Administration, and a soon-to-be acting commissioner of the Customs and Border Patrol. . . .

The president himself has expressed a preference for the "flexibility" that comes from having non-permanent leadership.

“I sort of like Acting. It gives me more flexibility . . .” the president said in January. . . .

Max Stier, the CEO Partnership for Public Service[,] . . . Stier warns of a widespread “substitute teacher effect” across the administration whereby the “acting” leaders “don’t get the respect in the classroom and also don’t personally view themselves as responsible in the long run.” . . .

“There’s also this trend of taking people out of their jobs to fill top jobs and then not filling the deputy gaps, so it’s a game of musical chairs,” he said in an interview with ABC News. . . .

John Cohen, . . . a former acting in Department of Homeland Security, spoke from personal experience in having served as an acting leader for a time during the Obama administration.

“As the acting person, and I speak from experience, you’re very much aware that you are temporary and your replacement can come at a moment's notice, so there’s this sense of discomfort about trying to bring organizational change,” said Cohen, who recalled learning that a permanent leader had been named to the job he had been filling in an acting capacity through a White House press release.

In addition to being unable to execute on a long-term vision, Cohen said, acting leaders can be more beholden to the political whims of the presidents they serve than Senate-confirmed leaders.

"This makes them potentially vulnerable to political pressure and when the acting official is serving in a cabinet level role it makes them more likely to yield to the demands of the president," Cohen said.