The blogsophere is abuzz with worry about how long the Obama administration is taking to fill appointee positions. Shouldn’t we be worried, the bloggers ask, if cabinet heads are “home alone” at the top of their agency?

Some of the appointed positions remain empty because of the high organizational hurdles to finding and clearing nominees quickly. Others remain empty because, as Conor Clarke put it, “Prospective candidates [for appointed positions are Treasury] are avoiding the Treasury like drug-addled teenagers avoid their parents.” ┬áIn other cases, Obama officials want to fill only the top two levels of an agency with outside appointees and use careerists for other posts, according to an administration source.

But are department secretaries like Treasury’s Timothy Geithner really “home alone” or “lonely at the top” without a cadre of appointees? What about the experienced careerists who are advising them now? Consider whether these careerists might be better advisors that some or even many appointees. Perhaps the Obama administration will realize that the dichotomy between administrative competence or control through appointees is a false one.


1917. “Walter Camp exercise school. Cabinet officials exercising with other government officials.” (from

Building the Library of Congress, 1894

Building the Library of Congress, 1894

In the Washington Post, the administration takes steps to insulate the use of science:

When President Obama lifts restrictions on funding for human embryonic stem cell research Monday, he will also issue a presidential memorandum aimed at insulating scientific decisions across the federal government from political influence, officials said today.

“The president believes that it’s particularly important to sign this memorandum so that we can put science and technology back at the heart of pursuing a broad range of national goals,” said Melody Barnes, director of Obama’s Domestic Policy Council.

Abraham Lincoln, candidate for U.S. president. Aug. 13, 1860 – Springfield, IL

Government Office Workers, 1939

Government Office Workers, 1939

The New York Times business columnist Joe Nocera , who recently wrote a smart and understandable account of the AIG fiasco, was on the Daily Show Wednesday night. The idea that AIG was in the business of “regulatory capital” sort of sums it all up. It’s a remarkable story.

Pennsylvania Avenue at 7th Street, NW – Johnstown Flood, 1889

From GovExec:

President Barack Obama on Wednesday said he would nominate Craig Fugate, an experienced first responder who now leads Florida’s division of emergency management, to lead the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

A career firefighter in a state known for natural disasters, Fugate has served as Florida’s state coordinating officer in 23 declared state emergencies, 11 of which were presidentially declared disasters. “Craig has what it takes to help us improve our preparedness, response and recovery efforts, and I can think of no one better to lead FEMA,” Obama said.

Karen Cobuluis, a spokeswoman for the National Emergency Management Association, said the organization “is very happy that someone of Craig’s experience has been nominated to lead FEMA.”

Fugate, who has been a member of the board of directors at NEMA for several years and chairs the response and recovery committee there, is well-known in the emergency management community, she said.

Chief Justice Warren E. Burger administering the oath of office to Jimmy Carter on the east portico of U.S. Capitol, January 20, 1977. Photograph from Architect of the Capitol, AOC no. 43173. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.