10.19.2016 1

Obama’s plan to make the administrative state permanent


By Nathan Mehrens

President Obama’s cronies are being placed into permanent staff positions in the federal government and the Administration is not even bothering to follow its own personnel rules which govern the process.

This is the unmistakable conclusion after reading a recent report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The report shows that the Obama Administration has been converting Obama’s political appointees into career positions without prior approval from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).

The OPM director in November of 2009 made a big show of the new policy requiring prior approval for these conversions, stating: “I believe we must hold ourselves and the government to a higher standard, one that honors and supports the President’s strong commitment to a Government that is transparent and open.   OPM’s responsibility to uphold the merit system is not limited to Presidential election years nor to competitive service appointments.  That is why I am instituting a change in OPM policy with respect to hiring political appointees for civil service jobs.

“Beginning January 1, 2010, agencies must seek prior approval from OPM before they can appoint a current or recent political appointee to a competitive or non-political excepted service position at any level under the provisions of title 5, United States Code.  OPM will review these proposed appointments to ensure they comply with merit system principles and applicable civil service laws.  I have delegated decision-making authority over these matters to career Senior Executives at OPM to avoid any hint of political influence.”

Apparently some agencies didn’t see the need to bother with this and processed the conversions without OPM approval.

The GAO reviewed 30 agencies and found that 28 had converted political positions to career positions for 69 individuals. Of those 69 conversions, 17 had been accomplished without the required approval from OPM.

In some cases the agencies have been forced to relist the job notice and start the hiring process for those positions all over again. Others were approved after the fact.

One is left to wonder what the agencies were trying to hide by sneaking through the conversions without the required approval.

From previous Freedom of Information Act work at Americans for Limited Government Foundation we know that at least in some instances the personnel who received the career conversions have background items that give one pause to say the least. One such person was Dr. Alan D. Thornhill who was converted to the “First-Ever” Chief Environmental Officer at the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. Thornhill doesn’t like companies that produce food because more food means more people and people are a problem for the planet. Thornhill has stated, “more food (more plants or larger plants) just means more people will be born as a result of the more food and there will be more mouths to feed in the future.” You see, we are the problem, “what we need is to deal with the agent of the disease: humans.”

If any of the 17 political appointees who obtained career positions without the necessary approval are anything like Thornhill, it makes sense why the agency would desire to make the conversions with as little scrutiny as possible.

These conversions, also known as “burrowing in” present a problem for the next conservative president. The Obama political appointees who now have permanent career positions are not likely to be supportive of any conservative policies. Many of them are now in the Senior Executive Service. There is some latitude that an administration has regarding employees in this category. The next conservative president should take a hard look at those who have burrowed in and ensure that they are not allowed to sabotage the reform efforts that are sorely needed after two terms of Obama’s team.

Nathan Mehrens is President of Americans for Limited Government Foundation.

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