Former Presidential Appointees Issue Open Letter to President Bush and the 108th Congress

More than two hundred former presidential appointees — Democrats and Republicans — including sixteen former Cabinet members, have signed an open letter to President Bush and the 108th Congress, requesting immediate reform to solve the problems with the current presidential appointments process.

The bipartisan group of signatories represents presidential administrations from Nixon to Clinton, and includes former Cabinet secretaries, chiefs of staff, and general counsels.

"President Bush and the incoming Congress have a unique opportunity to work together to reform the cumbersome presidential appointments process," said Paul C. Light, senior adviser to The Presidential Appointee Initiative. "With the open letter, former appointees are asking the president and Congress to take immediate, bipartisan action to improve the process for the sake of future presidential appointees."

With Congressional approval yesterday of the creation of a Department of Homeland Security, Light emphasizes the pressing need to improve the appointments process. "The new Department of Homeland Security will add up to an additional twenty-eight presidentially appointed positions to the total number of appointees, up to fourteen of which will require Senate confirmation," Light said. "Reforming the process will only make it easier to get these individuals in place."

The open letter requests specific improvements, including:

  • Providing all nominees awaiting clearance and confirmation with twice-monthly status reports,
  • Providing nominees with privacy and the right of "discovery" with respect to allegations concerning personal character which may be raised in the course of Senate hearings,
  • Providing all nominees with both a formal orientation to the federal government and an additional orientation to their respective agency or department,
  • Providing each nominee with adequate guidance through the appointments process,
  • Receiving assurance of an up-or-down vote within 45 days,
  • Removing the burden of post-employment conflict-of-interest regulations

"With the release of the open letter, these former appointees are not only signaling their desire to reform the process," said Light, "but also their realization that, without the considerable efforts of President Bush and the 108th Congress, reform is impossible."

The Presidential Appointee Initiative was established by the Brookings Institution in 1999 with funding from The Pew Charitable Trusts. The Initiative is working to encourage talented citizens to seek and accept presidential appointments and to build support for reforms that will simplify and expedite future appointments. To learn more about The Presidential Appointee Initiative, please visit www.appointee.brookings.org. To request an interview with Paul C. Light, senior adviser to The Presidential Appointee Initiative, please call Gina Russo at 202-797-6405 or contact her via email at: grusso@brookings.edu