January 16, 2018

Partnership for Public Service urges President Trump to seize opportunity to improve government effectiveness during his second year


CONTACT: Erika Walter





WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump took steps during his first year in office to begin reorganizing federal agencies and modernizing IT systems, but continues to operate without the political leaders who are needed to oversee these and other important management initiatives throughout the government.


Max Stier, president and CEO of the nonpartisan, nonprofit Partnership for Public Service, said the president laid the groundwork in 2017 for improving government performance by challenging agencies to come with up plans for streamlining operations, bringing in new ideas from the private sector and outlining a management agenda.


“President Trump has a tremendous opportunity during his second year in office to strengthen government accountability and make agencies work better for the American people, but it will require a firm commitment for improved management and focused leadership,” said Stier.


In addition to plans already underway, Stier believes the administration should place an emphasis on employee engagement, recruiting and retaining smart, committed people to public service, and improving the citizen experience with federal agencies.


Stier said the administration’s desire to improve government efficiency could be hampered by the high number of political leadership vacancies, due in part to the president’s slow pace in picking nominees in the early months of his term, and Senate delays in confirming appointees.


“It is imperative for the president to nominate qualified candidates for critical unfilled positions, and for the Senate to promptly confirm these nominees,” said Stier. “The high number of leadership vacancies will have negative implications for the administration’s ability to govern effectively and implement management reforms.”


Trump has fallen behind his predecessors in filling important top government posts. As of January 13, less than 40 percent of the 633 key, Senate-confirmed appointments still had no nominee.


It is encouraging that President Trump has nominated high-quality talent for crucial management positions, like Jeff Pon as the director of the Office of Personnel Management and Margaret Weichert as the deputy director for management of the Office of Management and Budget. However, key positions remain without a nominee, such as the IRS commissioner, director of the Census Bureau, ambassador to the Republic of Korea, assistant secretary for nuclear energy at the Department of Energy and director of the National Counterterrorism Center.


Additionally, the departments of Commerce, Education and Labor still do not have a deputy secretary in place.


Here is a look the historical appointments data for the past few administrations at the one-year mark in comparison to the Trump administration:

Nominated Confirmed “Failed” Average Days to Confirm
Trump (as of Jan. 13) 559 301 78¹ 72
Obama 690 452 18 54
W. Bush 741 493 125² 36
Clinton 633 471 11 38
H.W. Bush 478 405 12 48

Caveats: these numbers exclude non-civilian and judiciary positions, as well as hold-overs. Additionally, it is important to know that the “confirmed” and “failed” are part of the nomination count, and are not a separate entity. Note that often updates the following day, so the numbers for Trump are subject to change.

¹On January 3, 2018, the Senate returned 64 of President Donald Trump’s pending nominations, as required by congressional procedure. 55 of these nominations have been resubmitted to date.

²On August 3, 2001, the Senate returned all of President George W. Bush’s pending 117 nominations, as required by congressional procedure. 113 of these nominations were later re-submitted. The Senate passed measures that prevented this from happening to Obama, Clinton and H.W. Bush.


Here are key Senate-confirmed positions that have been filled according to our appointments tracker with The Washington Post:

Trump Administration Department-Level Senate-Confirmed Appointment Snapshot (as of Jan 13)

Number of Tracked Positions Nominations Submitted to the Senate Withdrawn Confirmed Positions Filled Percent of Positions Nominated Percent of Positions Filled
United States Trade Representative 4 4 0 1 1 100% 25%
Department of Education 15 14 1 4 4 67% 27%
Department of Justice 31 18 0 9 9 45% 29%
Department of Transportation 20 12 0 6 6 50% 30%
Department of Agriculture 13 7 0 4 4 46% 31%
Department of the Treasury 30 19 1 10 10 47% 33%
Department of the Interior 17 13 0 6 6 59% 35%
Department of Labor 14 16 1 5 5 71% 36%
Department of Energy 22 12 0 8 8 50% 36%
Environmental Protection Agency 13 9 0 5 5 54% 38%
Office of Management and Budget 5 5 0 2 2 100% 40%
Office of the Director of National Intelligence 5 4 0 2 2 80% 40%
Department of State³ 152 94 1 60 61 54% 40%
Department of Health and Human Services¹ 17 19 0 9 8 94% 47%
Department of Homeland Security² 17 14 1 9 8 71% 47%
Department of Commerce 21 18 1 10 10 76% 48%
Small Business Administration 4 4 0 2 2 100% 50%
Department of Housing and Urban Development 13 12 0 8 8 77% 62%
Department of Defense 55 53 3 34 34 82% 62%
Central Intelligence Agency 3 3 0 2 2 100% 67%
Department of Veterans Affairs 11 8 0 8 8 73% 73%

Nominations submitted to Senate includes nominations that have been confirmed, returned or withdrawn. Percent of positions nominated includes all positions that have a confirmed Trump nominee, or a Trump nominee is in the Senate process (has not been withdrawn or returned).               We track full-time, executive branch positions, excluding: career ambassadors nominated by President Obama and currently occupying a post, part-time positions, U.S. attorneys, and U.S. Marshals and termed positions that aren’t currently vacant. As termed positions and career ambassadorships become vacant, we update the tracker accordingly.

¹Tom Price was confirmed to be the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, but resigned, leaving the secretary role currently unfilled.                                                                                                  

²John F. Kelly was confirmed to be the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, but then became the chief of staff of the White House, leaving the secretary role currently unfilled.                                

³John J. Sullivan received one nomination to fill two roles within the State Department. This is why the “Confirmed” and “Filled” counts are different.


At Trump’s one-year mark, the Partnership also has released an updated Presidential Transition Guide that is designed to help candidates and incoming administrations navigate the transition process and prepare to govern. The revised guide includes a new chapter outlining steps that incumbents who are seeking re-election should take to prepare for a second term.


During the past 17 years, the nonpartisan, nonprofit Partnership for Public Service has been dedicated to making the federal government more effective for the American people. We work across administrations to help transform the way government operates by increasing collaboration, accountability, efficiency and innovation. Visit to learn more.