burrowing  The headlines are abuzz with charges of appointee burrowing, an informal term for  the process of a political appointee applying for and receiving a career position in a  federal agency.

  Appointees often apply for career jobs in the agencies they oversee through a  competitive process, presumably to remain in the agency after a new presidential administration makes new appointments.

Some have questioned the qualifications of appointees who were hired as careerists in the waning days of the Bush administration. Critics questioned whether appointees with no apparent scientific credentials should be hired in top career positions in scientific agencies, with the protections of civil service tenure. Agency officials, however, maintain that scientific credentials are not necessary for all management jobs and that the hiring process is open and competitive.

All applications for career positions are required to follow Office of Personnel Management rules to ensure fair and open civil service hiring.

A recent Mother Jones article reports that:

“There is little data on burrowing trends, but in late 2007, a team of political scientists that included [David] Lewis and the University of Hawaii’s David Nixon conducted a survey of federal executives that asked several questions on the topic. Of the more than 2,000 officials who responded, nearly 2 percent acknowledged that they had converted from political to career jobs.”