Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Final Days of the Bush Administration 2

"Top Scientist Rails Against Hirings: Bush Appointees Land Career Jobs Without Technical Backgrounds"
Juliet Eilperin and Carol D. Leonnig, The Washington Post, November 22, 2008.

James McCarthy, President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science
yesterday sharply criticized recent cases of Bush administration political appointees gaining permanent federal jobs with responsibility for making or administering scientific policies, saying the result would be "to leave wreckage behind."

"It's ludicrous to have people who do not have a scientific background, who are not trained and skilled in the ways of science, make decisions that involve resources, that involve facilities in the scientific infrastructure."
The WP cites examples:
Todd Harding -- a 30-year-old political appointee at the Energy Department -- applied for and won a post this month at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. There, he told colleagues in a Nov. 12 e-mail, he will work on "space-based science using satellites for geostationary and meteorological data." Harding earned a bachelor's degree in government from Kentucky's Centre College, where he also chaired the Kentucky Federation of College Republicans.

Also this month, Erik Akers, the congressional relations chief for the Drug Enforcement Administration, gained a permanent post at the agency after being denied a lower-level career appointment late last year.

And in mid-July, Jeffrey T. Salmon, who has a doctorate in world politics and was a speechwriter for Vice President Cheney when he served as defense secretary, had been selected as deputy director for resource management in the Energy Department's Office of Science. In that position, he oversees decisions on its grants and budget......

McCarthy at the AAAS specifically questioned Salmon's and Harding's qualifications........

Akers's career path within the DEA over the past three years has yielded considerable financial benefits. For nine years before joining the DEA, he worked for Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and as the director of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, where in 2005, his last year on the Hill, he made $39,000, legislative records show.

In his political "Schedule C" job at the DEA, Akers had a salary range of $115,00 to $149,000, depending on his step. His new senior executive position pays from $114,000 to $172,200.
Comment: I assume that there are sanctions in the laws establishing the civil service and the senior executive service that can be applied to those who contravene the legitimate processes to appoint unqualified people to career posts as rewards for political support. If so, I hope the Obama administration applies them forcefully to the people in the outgoing Bush administration who are facilitating the burrowing of unqualified people. If there are not such sanctions, I would suggest the Congress consider fines; a suitable basis would be three times the yearly remuneration (salary plus benefits) of the person that they helped burrow. A significant budget should be available for investigation and prosecution of offenders. JAD

Examples of Burrowing and its Tracks
Image Source: John S. Wilkins, "In the mud," Evolving Thoughts, January 12, 2007.

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