Department of Defense Political Appointments: Positions and Process


In 1998, the Defense Science Board Task Force on Human Resources Strategy was established for the purpose of evaluating the Department of Defense's (DoD's) capacity to attract and retain both civilian and military personnel. As part of this evaluation, RAND was asked to study the growth of political appointment positions within the DoD as well as to examine the appointment and confirmation process that potential political appointees face. Tasked with reviewing relevant DoD data, the National Defense Research Institute (NDRI), acting in support of the Defense Science Board Task Force, found that the number of DoD positions requiring Senate confirmation has grown significantly over the past two decades. The study also revealed that the functional responsibilities of such positions have narrowed while their vacancy rates have increased. In assessing the literature, the NDRI found that disincentives exist in the political appointment and confirmation process -- namely, requirements that candidates disclose a range of personal and financial information; requirements to comply with conflict-of-interest regulations that may require divestiture of stock holdings; and requirements to comply with extensive post employment restrictions. Additionally, the length of the appointment and confirmation process itself may serve as a disincentive to potential appointees.


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