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Foreign Policy Analysis
Hundreds of top government jobs under Trump are unfilled. So who’s running things?

Hundreds of top government jobs under Trump are unfilled. So who’s running things?

JUDY WOODRUFF: The announced departure of
FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe opens up yet another high-level government post under
President Trump. In his case, it’s being filled by the number
three ranking person at the FBI. But, as our own Lisa Desjardins reports, there
are still quite a few other posts in the Trump administration that remain empty one year
in. LISA DESJARDINS: Let’s start big. The federal government now has close to two
million civilian workers nationwide. Now let’s focus on the biggest bosses. There are a few hundred key positions appointed
by the president and approved by the Senate. These are the people who run our government
day to day. And one year into the Trump presidency, many
of those posts are still empty. Let’s take 630 key jobs, all of them filled
by presidential nomination and tracked by the Partnership for Public Service. Of those 630 top jobs, about 240 of them right
now have no nominee. Another 140 of those jobs have nominees, but
they’re still be confirmed. Upshot? More than half of key positions right now
are unfilled. What are these jobs exactly? The top jobs, agency heads and the second-
and third-highest ranking rungs underneath. What do they do exactly? A lot. Things like keeping roads safe. The National Highway Transportation Safety
Administration does not have an administrator, its top job, right now, nor anyone to head
its legal, financial or enforcement divisions. That reportedly has frozen several new safety
standards. Something else affected? The opioid crisis. The White House Drug Control Office, meant
to work on the issue, has no director, and has seen several other appointees leave. And there is a long list of other vacancies,
top spots at the Pentagon and at the State Department, at the Agriculture Department,
the offices overseeing national food safety. And at the Energy Department, several key
nuclear oversight jobs are unfilled. That’s just to name a few. So who’s running things? A change in federal law that went into effect
just last year allows a temporary acting replacement in these jobs, but only for 300 days. That’s to give presidents time to make nominations. But Mr. Trump hasn’t made nominations for
hundreds of these jobs, and the 300-day clock has run out. That’s creating an unprecedented situation. Those acting in these jobs do not technical
have the legal authority to do them anymore. One other reason for vacancies, more workers
are leaving. The Washington Post reported more than 70,000
federal workers quit or retired in the first six months of the Trump administration. That is a 42 percent increase over the same
period for President Obama. But, overall, President Trump may not see
any of this as a problem. DONALD TRUMP, President of the United States:
We don’t need all the people that they want. You know, don’t forget, I’m a businessperson. I tell my people, when you don’t need to fill
slots, don’t fill them. LISA DESJARDINS: The president wants to shrink
government. And that includes at the top. Mr. Trump has fewer slots filled or nominated
than any president in 25 years. What we don’t know is whether this will make
government impressively more efficient or dangerously less functional. For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m Lisa Desjardins. JUDY WOODRUFF: Thank you, Lisa.

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