April 19, 2017
Simone Depew, Presidential Transition Fellow, Partnership for Public Service
Immediately after the inauguration, President Trump sent between 500 and 600 people into federal agencies on a temporary basis to be the eyes and ears of the new administration until key political appointees could be named and if needed, confirmed by the Senate.
These so called beachhead team members that were deployed across the government are temporary Schedule C political appointees serving on a 90 to 120 day hiring authority. They cannot stay in agencies past then unless they are formally appointed to a permanent position or the administration renews the temporary appointment, which can only be done once.
As Trump comes up to the deadline, he must decide whether to formally hire these beachhead team members for permanent roles, temporarily continue their employment or let them go. Some of these individuals already have been given permanent slots and others have not, although there is no exact public accounting of the state of affairs.
In the meantime, the president is way behind his predecessors in nominating and winning Senate confirmation of political appointees up and down the line at agencies, and has been slow to permanently fill many of the almost 3,000 jobs that do not require Senate approval. The president earlier this year said many of these slots are unnecessary and do not need to be filled.
In 2008, President Obama’s did not have a formal “beachhead” operation, but roughly 58 percent of his 500 transition team members named on his change.gov website ended up serving in the administration.
In 2012, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney planned to send individuals into agencies on a temporary basis after inauguration to get quick control of government operations, but there was an explicit understanding that these beachhead team members would not be guaranteed jobs within the administration. Romney lost the election and never had the opportunity to carry out his plan.
So now it’s a waiting game for the Trump beachhead team members to see if they will get permanent jobs. In the meantime, many have been playing key roles in drafting and implementing the administration’s policy proposals, and making other decisions within agencies.