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Obstacle Course

The Report of the Twentieth Century Fund Task Force on the Presidential Appointment Process

By Task Force on the Presidential Appointment Process

By the beginning of the 1990s, the average confirmation time for a presidential appointee had lengthened from two months to eight and a half months, while the average period such an appointee actually served in office dropped to just over two years. At the same time, the appointment process has become more contentious and is marked by increasing incivility. These trends are both a symptom and cause of the nation’s distrust of and alienation from the political system.

In response to these changes, the Twentieth Century Fund gathered a group of distinguished and knowledgeable Americans to consider possible reforms in the process of selection, clearance, and Senate confirmation of presidential appointees. Co-chaired by two former U.S. Senators, John Culver of Iowa and Charles McC. Mathias of Maryland, this bipartisan Task Force made a number of recommendations, including a reduction in the number of appointments, doing more to help individual nominees navigate the political and media obstacles in their paths, standardizing the current overwhelming paperwork that appointees face, and making reasonable changes in financial disclosure and post-government appointment rules.

The Task Force Report is accompanied by two background papers: “The Presidential Appointment Process: Historical Development, Contemporary Operations, Current Issues,” by G. Calvin MacKenzie, Distinguished Professor of American Government at Colby College; and “The Confirmation Wars: How Politicians, Interest Groups, and the Press Shape the Presidential Appointment Process,” by Robert Shogan, national political correspondent for the Los Angeles Times.

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