Department of Defense Political Appointments: Positions and Process

By Cheryl Y. Marcum; Lauren R. Sager Weinstein et al. | Go to book overview
Save to active project


Political appointees constitute the heart of civilian leadership in the Pentagon. Individuals who are appointed by the President and confirmed by the U.S. Senate occupy a total of 45 positions in the top echelons of the Department of Defense (DoD), including the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) and the military departments—up from 12 a half-century ago.1

The Political Appointment and Confirmation Process:
A Help or a Hindrance to Attracting Individuals
to Serve in Senior DoD Positions?

As the number of political appointee positions has grown over the past 50 years, so too have the processes and procedures that individuals must undergo to gain Senate confirmation. Candidates today must provide extensive background and financial information to the White House before they are nominated. Once nominated, individuals must provide even more information on additional topics to the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and Senate investigators. Once confirmed, political appointees must then adhere to a complex set of federal ethics and conflict-of-interest laws passed in recent decades—legislation that limits their financial and investment options when they are in office while constraining their business and employment opportunities after they leave government service.

At the same time, political appointee positions are taking longer to fill than has been the case in the past; the amount of time such positions go unfilled or are occupied by “acting” officials is rising; and the average time a political appointee spends in a DoD position is shrinking. Today's political appointee nominees face a confirmation process that lasts an average of 8.5 months—more than triple the wait their counterparts endured just three decades ago. Moreover, political appointee positions are vacant some 20 percent of the time today, up from nearly nil 50 years ago. And turnover is high; the most common tenure for the most senior DoD officials ranges between 11 and 20 months.

Public Law 105–261 (October 17, 1998) reduced the number of authorized Assistant Secretary of Defense positions from ten to nine, thereby reducing the number of authorized political appointee positions requiring Senate confirmation in the DoD from 45 to 44. As of May 1999, official OSD title reports reflected 45 such positions in the DoD.


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Department of Defense Political Appointments: Positions and Process


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 80

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?