Center for American Progress

Get Executive Agency Officials to Commit to Serve for a Full Presidential Term
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Get Executive Agency Officials to Commit to Serve for a Full Presidential Term

The president should get executive agency officials to commit to serve for a full presidential term. If a four-year commitment is not feasible, the president should obtain a two-year promise.

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The president should get executive agency officials to commit to serve for a full presidential term. If a four-year commitment is not feasible, the president should obtain a two-year promise. (The president could still ask any official serving at his pleasure to step down at any time). Such commitments are not legally binding, but they discourage potential appointees from using government service as a quick stepping stone to more financially lucrative jobs in the private sector.

Both Presidents Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush asked their appointees to stay for a full term. Although the performance of these presidents was mixed—indeed, neither was reelected—both devoted energy to trying to improve the quality and tenure of agency appointees. President Carter created a “talent bank” of individuals to draw from for key positions. President H.W. Bush, the only recent president with significant prior federal agency experience, had firm ideas about improving the performance of the bureaucracy. He actually fired many Republican appointees who were serving at the end of President Ronald Reagan’s administration.

Many questions are asked of potential appointees. President Barack Obama’s vetting form asks government job seekers about tax payments for domestic workers and even embarrassing blog posts. It would be easy—and at least as important—to ask how long such applicants plan to stay in the agency and if they would promise to commit to a two- or four-year stint in government service.

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