Barack Obama’s political appointees are inept, incapable, and needlessly politicize the basic functions of whole segments of the federal government. That is not the assessment of firebrand conservatives but the result of a recent survey of high-placed career federal employees.
The survey, conducted by the Government Business Council, polled 148 Senior Executive Service members. These federal managers ranked Obama’s political appointees at only 2.0, down from the 2.3 rating enjoyed by the Clinton and Bush administrations. At least 10 percent more managers gave Obama’s appointees a D or F than failed Bush or Clinton’s teams. National Journal reports 20 percent gave such low marks to Clinton/Bush, as opposed to “more than 30 percent” for Obama.
More damning than the dry statistical data are the descriptions of federal employees of Obama’s team. According to one manager the political appointees are far more involved in day-to-day affairs, but “the effectiveness, skill and knowledge has dramatically decreased” since January 2009. Some said Obama’s appointees attempt to “break organizations.” One said the administration’s overseers “have a divide-and-conquer strategy, and there are way too many industry fingers allowed in decision-making.” Another said this led to “politicization of normal agency functions.”
The survey comes on the heels of remarks by Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-MI, who said CIA employees have a strong current of “dissent and dislike,” because of the administration’s decision to have Eric Holder investigate CIA interrogators.
Hoekstra apparently did not touch upon it, but members of The Agency may also resent the fact that its members obtained the information that led authorities to the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden only to have the commander-in-chief sit on the information for months, set a date for a decision, dither an additional 16 hours, hit the golf links as Navy SEALs pulled off the perilous mission, then claim credit for the entire operation on national television – using the address to shill against the enhanced interrogation techniques that made the mission possible in the first place.
Minor things like this tend to grate on employees.
The ranking of career federal employees is usually of little interest to thinking people. The professional bureaucrats, protected by public sector unions, know they are a power unto themselves. They often craft their own policy by waiting out an unfriendly president, perhaps even a two-term president, because they will still be at the cabinet’s controls when the political leadership is long gone. They are particularly hostile to budget-cutters whose frugality threatens their way of life. As they are represented by unions such as the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), they tend to vote Democratic.
This survey is significant, because none of these criteria apply to the Obama administration.
Obama proposed a two-year freeze on federal salaries last November and a general hiring moratorium only after adding more than 27,000 new, full-time, non-seasonal employees to the federal payroll during his first two years in office and extending some benefits to same-sex “partners” of federal workers. He increased federal pay as the private sector tightened its belt, to the point that more than 77,000 federal workers now make more money than the governors of the states where they work. Over the last two years, the number of federally owned limousines has increased 73 percent. Obama can hardly be accused of being insufficiently attentive to growing the public sector.