By Michelle Austein
December 02, 2008
President-elect Barack Obama will appoint thousands of people to important government positions in his administration, but more than 2.6 million employees of the federal government will continue in the jobs they now hold.
Each president appoints thousands of political officials, including such high-profile posts as Cabinet secretaries, federal judges and ambassadors. These and many other high-level appointments are subject to confirmation by the Senate.
But not all presidential appointments are at a high level. Hundreds of young political appointees will be serving in entry-level roles in the Obama administration.
According to 209-page The United States Government Policy and Supporting Positions, published by the Government Printing Office, there are some 8,000 jobs that could be available in the next administration. The book, nicknamed the "Plum Book," is printed every four years and designed to serve as a guide to those interested in learning about political positions.
The Plum Book was created at the request of President Dwight Eisenhower, who when taking office in 1953 wanted a list of all political positions. Today's book lists each political job in the Bush administration, as well as the name of the person occupying the job and his or her salary. Some positions pay as much as $200,000, but most posts pay significantly less. Some jobs, like part-time advisory positions, pay just a few hundred dollars a year.
Even though there are 8,000 political jobs listed in the current book, Obama will not be appointing 8,000 people personally. Rather, many of those positions allow Cabinet secretaries and other officials to hire their own personal staffs. For example, the next secretary of state might want to select his or her own assistants. Additionally, the Obama transition team will be reviewing the list of jobs carefully and could decide to eliminate or add positions.
Political experts say about 3,000 of the jobs will be awarded by Obama and his transition team to those who helped with the campaign or are well-known for their work in specific fields appropriate to the positions.
A transition to a new administration
does bring some new people to Washington, but the change has
little impact on the employment of more than 2.6 million federal
government workers. These workers, who are hired and serve at
U.S. government offices around the world, continue in their nonpolitical
positions. Most earn what is considered middle-class salaries
by U.S. standards.
Many of these civilian employees have served at high levels through several presidential administrations. Because it might take some time for Obama's new political appointees to begin their jobs, agencies have been identifying some of these career civil servants to serve temporarily in political appointees' roles so that no important job is vacant.
STRINGENT JOB APPLICATION PROCESS
Those who want to be appointed to the Obama administration might have to undergo one of the most stringent job application processes in history. The process also will be competitive - five days after the transition team posted a jobs link on its Web site, Change.gov, about 144,000 applications already had been received.
Those under consideration for high-ranking positions must answer a seven-page questionnaire with 63 questions about their personal and professional lives. Applicants will have to provide significant details about their jobs and those of their spouses, their financial status and personal associations.
In what may be an indicator of changing times in an era of new technologies, applicants are expected to let the transition team know about their "Internet presence." This includes information about their e-mails, Facebook pages or blog posts that could be deemed offensive.
One reason for the stringent application process is the Obama team's pledge to reform Washington. Throughout his campaign, Obama promised to limit the role lobbyists and special interests play in influencing policy.
"President-elect Obama made a commitment to change the way Washington does business, and the vetting process exemplifies that," Obama transition spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter told the New York Times.
As part of that commitment, Obama's team implemented rules designed to severely limit the role lobbyists can play in the transition. Anyone hoping to work on the transition cannot have lobbied in the policy field to which they are assigned within the past 12 months or be involved currently with any lobbying work. Those assisting with the transition also are prohibited from lobbying the Obama administration for the next 12 months on matters on which they work during the transition.
The president himself has some limits on his selections. For example, it is unlikely an Obama relative will be working in the federal government. Federal law prohibits a public official from appointing, employing or promoting a relative in an agency "in which he is serving or over which he exercises jurisdiction or control."
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