Summaries from Appointments Analyses at Day 200

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

Special Analysis on Pace of Confirmations

ProcessPace 08-07-17
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 slightly for President Obama). Processing times for the Trump administration nominees and the average presidential nominee have steadily converged so that currently the Senate takes about the same time for processing nominees that it has in the past three presidencies (about 59 days). Beginning in late May, the Senate processing times for Trump administration nominees have begun to track the increasingly longer times common to previous administrations. 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 confirmations.

The Trump White House has done a decidedly better job in the past month at shortening the time from an announcement of a nominee to moving that nominee to the Senate for confirmation.

Special Analysis of Critical Positions

The positions critical to standing up the American government involve three types of positions: national security, management, and economic policy-making. The following figure summarizes completion of the standup for the Obama and Trump administrations.

StandUpRates 08-07-17

Standard WHTP Analysis on Appointments at 200 Days

Last Updated: 8/08/2017 @ 0:30 AM EST
Describing Pace of PAS Nominations
Tracking 970 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 August recess, including comparisons with presidents back to President Reagan’s performance.


President Trump’s appointments continue to lag previous administrations, now by eight weeks. This is the slowest performance in four decades on nominations, confirmations, and critical leadership stand up.
Pace of Nominations & Confirmations
Tracking 970 PAS positions
Pace of Stand Up
Tracking 213 Critical PAS positions
Nominations: -36.9%
Confirmations: -47.0%
Stand Up: -40.9%


President Trump Nominations and Senate Confirmations Remain Mired, Lag Predecessors by ten weeks.
Slowest performance in 40 years.


On Critical Leadership, President Trump Lags
Well Behind
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 319 nominations over the 970 positions), the Trump Administration has produced 201 nomination for those same 970 PAS positions. Its early performance (solid red line) has seemingly gotten out of the doldrums and along with the typical administration has begun to take off, making progressively more nominations each week.
The continued slow performance of the Senate presents the same confusing picture from a month ago. The Republican Senate has confirmed a little more than a quarter the president’s nominees (leaving a backlog of 130 of 201 nominations) which has now dropped below expectations based on previous administration’s pending nominations (a backlog of 245 of 318 nominations).
At this point since the inauguration, the average administration would have filled about 51% of those critical leadership positions in the government (green bar in figure above) 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 31% of the total necessary to stand up the government (red bar in figure).

The Trump administrations now has nominated 111 to these time sensitive positions. That number comes very close to the expectation (121) based on previous administrations, while the Senate majority has confirmed around a third of the Trump administration’s nominees (67) in the typical experience, previous Senates would have confirmed nearly double that number (114).
While the pace of nominations to these critical positions has crept up to the average, confirmations made the Trump administration the slowest stand up of the critical leadership in the past forty years.

Nominations: -36.9%
Confirmations: -47.0%
Stand Up: -40.9%

Headline: President Obama Clearly Outpaced President Trump’s Stand Up

Special Commentary

On the “Full Stand UP,” President Obama Clearly Outpaced 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 111 of the 213 used to compare the two administrations. Of those 111, 14 came from positions in which an incumbent was filling out a fixed term appointment (like the FBI Director). President Trump has filled 51 critical leadership positions 17  were already in place on inauguration day, serving out a fixed term (e.g., FBI Director Comey). To sample some of the positions that, by now, President Obama and the Senate had filled which currently remain completely empty:
Deputy Defense Secretary
Defense UnderSecretary for Intelligence
Assistant AG for the National Security Division
Deputy Secretary of State
Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs
Chair, Council of Economic Advisors
By the end of the first few days of July, the Obama administration had taken the lead on 84 critical leadership positions, while President Trump is farther along on 15 positions. The two are at the same stage in another 43 positions common to both administrations.
Last Updated: 7/12/2017 @ 0:30 AM EST

For questions or commentary, contact: Terry Sullivan, WHTP, at 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 970 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 221 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.