Appointments

Summaries from Appointments Analyses

Slowest performance in 40 years. See descriptions below for details of comparisons.

ProcessPace 11-15-17

This figure tracks processing times in the White House and the Senate for nominees by President Trump and the weighted average for the three previous administrations (weighted for President Obama). Processing times for the Trump administration nominees and the average presidential nominee have steadily converged in patterns but the current Senate takes far more time than on previous administrations and it has begun a steady climb earlier than for previous administrations. The figure shows the 30-day moving average on Senate processing. The current Senate processing time for Trump administration nominees currently exceeds previous processing presidencies (87 days vs 75 days, respectively). Beginning in late May, the Senate processing times for Trump administration nominees had begun to track the increasingly longer times common to previous administrations, but at a far higher pace. WHTP has reported on this pattern in its report, “The Longer You Wait, the Longer it Takes,” which identifies this common pattern associated with the demands on Senate capacity for processing confirmations.The current Senate’s processing times suggest that they might be trending back towards the average delay on processing common to previous administrations.

On the other hand, beginning in June, the Trump White House has done a decidedly better job at shortening the time from an announcement of a nominee to moving that nominee to the Senate for confirmation. Previous administrations averaged around 28 days while the Trump team currently averages 15 days.

The STAND UP: Special Analysis of Critical Positions

The most distressing delays with respect to the Trump administration come when analyzing positions critical to standing up the American government. These positions involve three types: national security, management, and economic policy-making. The following figure summarizes completion of the standup for the average previous administration and Trump administration. The average administration has stood up twice as many critical positions as the Trump team.

StandUpRates 11-15-17

Standard WHTP Analysis on Appointments

Last Updated: 11/16/2017 @ 0:30 EST
Describing Pace of PAS Nominations
Tracking 980 PAS Positions
Describing Pace of Stand Up
Tracking 213 Critical Leadership PAS Positions
To assess the pace of appointments in the Trump administration, WHTP models the past performance of the previous three administrations. This modeling builds a projection of what the Trump administration’s efforts should look like. Then, WHTP’s pace tracker compares the Trump appointments against that projection. To assess the pace of Stand Up, WHTP identifies the parallel critical leadership positions in the three previous administrations and builds a comparison with the pace of Stand Up for the current administration. Note also, that since some PAS positions have “fixed terms” (e.g., Director FBI) some appointments will already have an incumbent in office when a new president comes in.
As a new addition, WHTP now projects nominations and confirmations out to the end of the congressional session recess, including comparisons with presidents back to President Reagan’s performance.

ProjectedNoms 11-15-17

President Trump’s appointments continue to lag previous administrations, now by eleven weeks. This is the slowest performance in four decades on nominations, confirmations, and critical leadership stand up.
Pace of Nominations & Confirmations
Tracking 980 PAS positions
Pace of Stand Up
Tracking 213 Critical PAS positions
Nominations: -21.3%
Confirmations: -22.0%
Stand Up: -45.3%

Commentary:

Even with the Senate Speeding Up Confirmations, Administration Nominations Predecessors by Twelve Weeks.
Slowest performance in 40 years.

Commentary:

On Critical Leadership, President Trump Lags
Well Behind the Average Administration
The figure above summarizes both expectations based on predecessors’ performances (in green), the performance of the Trump administration (in red), projections out to the August recess, and the performance of each those previous administrations. The current administration continues to slip farther behind the last five administrations.
While the weighted average from the previous three administrations (solid green line) continued its steep climb last week (now 398 nominations over the 980 positions), the Trump Administration has produced 313 nomination for those same 980 PAS positions.
The continued slow performance of the Senate presents the same confusing picture from a month ago. The Republican Senate has confirmed 240 of the 313 nominations rather than its average pace for previous administrations which equaled 309 over 398.
See the figure above. At this point since the inauguration, the average administration would have filled about 63% of those critical leadership positions in the government (green bar) necessary to lead the government. And though President Trump and the Senate majority have far fewer positions to stand up than previous administrations, they still have only completed around 34% of the total necessary to stand up the government (red bar in figure).

The Trump administrations now has gotten confirmed 73 of these time sensitive positions. That number represents a bit more than half of the expectation (140) based on previous administrations and  made the Trump administration the slowest stand up of the critical leadership in the past forty years.

Additionally WHTP reports the overall standup by categories of critical positions as noted in the figure below and on our home page.

Nominations: -21.3%
Confirmations: -22.0%
Stand Up: -45.3%

StandUpRates for Three 11-06-17Headline: President Obama’s Full Stand Up Clearly Outpaced President Trump’s

Special Commentary

On the “Full Stand UP” Comparison: President Obama Continues to Outpace President Trump’s Performance on Critical Leadership

The previous president with the most similar demands for nominations and similar legal requirements, President Obama, continued to outpace securing critical leadership than has President Trump. On the most critical leadership positions and by this time, President Obama had filled 164 of the 213 used to compare the two administrations. Of those 164, 12 came from positions in which an incumbent was filling out a fixed term appointment (like the FBI Director). President Trump has filled 92 critical leadership positions. Of those, 14  were already in place on inauguration day, serving out a fixed term (e.g., FBI Director Comey).
By the beginning of November, the Obama administration had taken the lead on 91 of these critical leadership positions, while President Trump had taken the lead on 17 positions. The two had come to the same point on another 78 positions common to both administrations.
Last Updated: 11/07/2017 @ 8:30 EST

For questions or commentary, contact: Terry Sullivan, WHTP, at sullivan@ibiblio.org or 919-593-2124


Appointments Pace Trackers – Description

The White House Transition Project documents the pace at which a new administration fills out the American executive branch through its appointments power. WHTP tracks the pace of appointments in four ways.

PAS Positions. First, we track 980 presidential appointments requiring Senate confirmation (known as “PAS” positions). These appointments include top administration positions in all the cabinet agencies (e.g., the Deputy Secretary for Commerce), the top positions in the independent regulatory agencies (e.g., member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve), and the top positions in the myriad of government boards and commissions (e.g., member of the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board). WHTP tracks the most important ambassadorships (e.g., Israel, UK, NATO, Russia, China) but we do not track all ambassadors, US Marshals, or most federal attorneys, though all these also require Senate confirmation. Also, note, the largest group of PAS positions are uniformed military officers. We don’t track them either.

Pace of Institutional Vetting. Second, WHTP follows the vetting processes both in the Executive and the Senate, detailing how long each takes to move a nomination along. In the Executive, we track from the White House announcement of an “intent to nominate” and then compare that to when the Executive forwards the nominee’s packet to the Senate. This period typically involves the ethics and security screening processes. WHTP uses the same distinctions common to the study of appointments: the administration may make an “announcement to nominate” but that is not the nomination. People become nominees when the administration forwards their credentials to the Senate. Once at the Senate, are nominees, we measure the time from receiving the nominee’s credentials to either a nominee’s current status (where no decision has occurred yet) or to a Senate decision.

Standing UP the Critical Leadership. Third, WHTP identifies and tracks positions critical to national policy-making leadership. Based on recommendations from the National Commission to Reform the Federal Appointments Process, WHTP has identified 213 “time sensitive,” leadership positions. These positions include all the leadership in government agencies (i.e., Secretary, Deputy Secretary), especially national security (e.g., Director FBI, Assistant Treasury Secretary for Terrorist Financing), economic management (e.g., Deputy US Trade Representative), critical management positions (e.g., General Counsel, Department of Veterans Affairs), or key to the management agenda (e.g., Deputy Director of OMB). Successfully filling out this second group of positions, we argue, “stands up” the American executive.

In these three analyses, we take the same approach. We compile data from the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations to build a model. The model generates a set of expectations about “average” performance on nominations, minus withdrawals, confirmations, those already in place, and the stand up — the critical leadership positions. The model weights slightly more the performance of the Obama administration because the conditions in the most recent administration (numbers of appointments, the requirements of new administrative units, new laws, etc) more closely resemble those for President Trump. Then we compare what to expect from our model with the performance of the current administration. These comparisons generate “pace” measures that tells us whether the current administration exceeds or lags behind expectations based on the previous administrations.

The Full Stand UP Comparison. Fourth, WHTP considers a special comparison between President Trump’s performance and that of his immediate predecessor, President Obama. For these two presidents, WHTP uses the same 213 positions, excluding some 15 positions that President Obama had to fill that disappeared before President Trump came to office. And this comparison will include not just the president’s nominations but also those critical positions already filled by someone in an unexpired, fixed term appointment. As an example, on inauguration day 2009, President Obama already had a Director FBI then serving the middle of a 10 year fixed term appointment. Equally so, President Trump arrived with and today still has a Director FBI (Director Comey). We call this special detailed comparison, the “Full Stand UP” comparison.