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Analysis of Appointments Pace at 300 Days

11/16/2017 — Deadline Arrives under Federal Vacancies Act (FVA)

Though complicated, the Federal Vacancies Act facilitates presidential transitions at their beginnings by affording the new president some breathing room in managing the government. But it complicates presidential transitions when the administration doesn’t take advantage of that breathing room but instead incorporates “acting agency heads” into its governing strategy. See the attached CRS study to help understand FVA: FVA Explained (CRS)

Headlines at 300 Days

  • Overall, President Trump’s performance continues to trail previous administrations by exactly three months. Despite special Senate efforts to confirm large numbers of nominees, President Trump has the fewest nominations and fewest confirmations in 40 years.
  • Even with significant recent improvements, Senate pace on vetting confirmations continues to take much longer, than for the past three administrations: current Senate averaging 87 days (down from 113) as opposed to the average of around 75.
  • On critical leadership positions, President Trump lags far behind President Obama’s pace.

Summary Numbers on Administration Pace

  • Covers 980 appointed positions and 213 critical leadership positions requiring Senate confirmation and comparing them to expectations based on the previous three transitions.
Nominations: -21%
Trump nominations begins to pick up while previous administrations long ago reached a kind of takeoff. The Trump administration continues to have the fewest nominations in 40 years. See Figure below.
Confirmations: -22%
Despite efforts by Senate Republicans, and despite the much smaller numbers of nominees, the administration’s confirmations continue trail other administrations. It’s the slowest performance on confirmations in 40 years.
Critical Leadership Positions — the “Stand Up”: -45%
Current performance continues to lag far behind previous administrations on the most critical government positions. The slowest stand up in 40 years.
Breakdown of the “Stand Up” by Type of Responsibility
Type of Responsibility
National Security Management Economic Policy
President 71 101 41
Obama 58 76 30
Trump 36 36 20

Last Updated: 11/16/2017 @ 0:30 EST

ProjectedNoms 11-15-17

See our Appointments page for more detailed information and projects out to the end of the first year.

The White House Transition Project documents the pace at which a new administration fills out the American executive branch through its appointments power. WHTP measures the pace of appointments in four ways. First, we track 980 presidential appointments requiring Senate confirmation (known as “PAS” positions). For these appointments, we track the pace of nominations and the pace of confirmations, measuring both against a projected historical average based on the three previous administrations. Second, on these 980 PAS positions, WHTP measures the differences between the vetting process in the White House and the process in the Senate to assess the contributions of each to the overall process. For the White House, we clock the time from an announcement that the president intends to nominate someone to the day that persons credentials show up at the Senate. This measures how long the Executive vetting takes. Then WHTP times the Senate from the moment it reports receiving credentials to the day the Senate makes a decision (confirm, deny, or return). Third, WHTP identifies and tracks a core of 213 leadership positions critical to the functions of government. These positions include those concerned with national security, managing the economy, managing the executive agencies, and carrying through on key agenda items.  We believe that successfully filling out this second group of positions effectively “stands up” the American executive. Fourth, WHTP assesses the pace of fully standing up the critical leadership positions, including both presidential nominations and those already in place on inauguration day, using a direct comparison with President Obama’s performance.

WHTP reports both these results every 10 days. See our Appointments page for more detailed information.

MoodyBanner_ScaledFor the 2017 cycle, the White House Transition Project and our partners at Rice University’s Baker Institute and the National Archives have presented a series of conferences covering a range of issues associated with presidential transitions, including a conference focused on handling a confrontation in the South China Sea that resembles the actual conflict that is ongoing in this part of the world.

DocBanner_12-18-16The White House Transition Project in coordination with our partners in the Moody Series on Presidential Leadership presents relevant content to professional and academic audiences. At our October 2016 event at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library we produced a live discussion panel simulation similar to the events that transpired in the South China Sea only weeks before. See how our expert panel managed the crisis scenario.