President Donald Trump should be looking for help.
Nearly 100 days after taking office, hundreds of federal executive jobs remain unfilled. The Washington Post and the Partnership for Public Service keep a running list — of 554 key positions in government requiring Senate confirmation, 473 had no announced nominee as of April 15.
The positions includes dozens of ambassadors, assistant secretaries, counselors and others. The president hasn’t named a permanent administrator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, even as tornado season approaches. He hasn’t picked an administrator for the Drug Enforcement Agency, either.
Ten important jobs at the Department of Veterans Affairs are empty, with no nominees on the way. The Federal Election Commission? There’s a seat available. Office of Personnel Management? No permanent director.
Never miss a local story.
There are explanations for some of this. Presidents always need a little time to ramp up nominations, particularly in a White House as unfamiliar with government as Trump’s. The George W. Bush administration was a little slow, too, as was the Clinton White House.
This president has said he wants to leave some of those jobs permanently vacant — although he hasn’t really said which ones.
It’s also possible the home state senators who are responsible for vetting some applicants have been slow in sending names to the administration. The jobs are considered patronage plums, and the fight for the positions can be fierce. That isn’t Trump’s fault.
Excuses aside, though, the White House needs to pick up the pace, and not just with jobs in Washington.
As of this writing, not one of the top executive branch jobs in the Kansas City area has been filled. Not the regional administrator of the Department of Health and Human Services. Not the head of the General Services Administration. Not the regional FEMA director. Not the Small Business Administration position. Not the Environmental Protection Agency director.
Each not only works in Kansas City, but also is responsible for federal programs in several Midwestern states — usually Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Iowa.
And crucially, the western district of Missouri lacks a permanent U.S. attorney — after the Trump administration fired sitting U.S. attorneys in March.
The delay is unacceptable. The U.S. attorney has enormous authority to pursue cases, to emphasize investigation of certain types of crime and to run a highly important office. The failure to nominate a permanent U.S. attorney here, or anywhere, makes it likely the offices will remain unfilled for much of this year.
The White House should move quickly on the other jobs, too. The offices have acting directors and administrators, of course, so work hasn’t slowed to a standstill. Tens of thousands of career federal employees continue to work diligently to perform the tasks the American people expect.
But voters also want leadership that reflects their votes. The lack of local appointments means critical decisions may remain unaddressed for months.
“Appointees bring the policy perspective of the administration,” former regional GSA director Jason Klumb said last year before packing his bags at the end of the Barack Obama administration.
Hiring political appointees is tough but important work. Perhaps next weekend the president could skip a round of golf and spend a few hours looking at resumes.
Select unfilled federal jobs in Kansas City:
Director, Regional office General Services Administration
Administrator, Regional office Environmental Protection Agency
Administrator, Regional office Health and Human Services
Director, Regional office Federal Emergency Management Agency
Director, Regional office Small Business Administration
Select unfilled federal jobs in Washington
Ambassadors to Canada, Germany, France, Holy See, Ireland, Korea, others
Director, U.S. Census Bureau
Secretary of the Navy
Director, National Institutes of Health
Director, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
Director, U.S. Marshalls Service
Administrator, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service