Skip to main content

The Bush administration is placing political appointees at various agencies in more permanent senior civil service positions in order to sustain Bush policy under the Obama administration.  The process, as reported by Juliet Eilperin and Carol D. Leonnig at the Washington Post, is called "burrowing."

The transfer of political appointees into permanent federal positions, called "burrowing" by career officials, creates security for those employees, and at least initially will deprive the incoming Obama administration of the chance to install its preferred appointees in some key jobs.

Similar efforts are taking place at other agencies. Two political hires at the Labor Department have already secured career posts there, and one at the Department of Housing and Urban Development is trying to make the switch.

Leonnig has been doing stories about federal career employees and their low morale under the Bush Administration (here and here); it appears she is a reporter to read as the Bush Administration makes its predictable efforts to sustain their tragic legacy through the Obama years.

In the current article, Leonnig and Eilperin note that "burrowing" is standard practice from one administration to the next.  Clinton burrowed 47 appointees prior to leaving office.  But I would add here that that is hardly the whole point.  

The "whole point" is better summed up by reviewing some moves made by political appointees at various agencies over the past 8 years.

January 29, 2006 New York Times:

The top climate scientist at NASA says the Bush administration has tried to stop him from speaking out since he gave a lecture last month calling for prompt reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases linked to global warming.

[O]fficials at the headquarters of the space agency repeatedly phoned public affairs officers, who relayed the warning to Dr. Hansen that there would be "dire consequences" if such statements continued, those officers and Dr. Hansen said in interviews.

From the April 2006 Harper's Readings.  Also here.  An October 17, 2005 email by George Deutsch, a Bush appointee in the NASA public affairs office, to Flint Wild, NASA web designer.  It came out that Deutsch lied on his resume about receiving a degree in journalism from Texas A&M and resigned on February 7, 2006:

Okay, Flint, we've got a slight problem here.  I like these pieces, they're interesting, but they refer to the "big bang" as if it were law.  As you know, the theory that the universe was created by a "big bang" is just that-a theory. It is not proven fact; it is opinion.  Yes, the scientific community by and large may share this opinion, but that doesn't make it correct.

-- snip --

[I]it is not NASA's place, nor should it be, to make a declaration such as this about the existence of the universe that discounts intelligent design by a creator. I know the particular context of these pieces doesn't lend itself to getting into this particular debate, and that's fine with me. But we, as NASA, must be diligent here, because this is more than a science issue, it is a religious issue. And I would hate to think that young people would be getting only one half of this debate from NASA. That would mean we had failed to properly educate the very people who rely on us for factual information the most.

Sorry to get on a soapbox here; I don't mean to. Please edit these stories to reflect that the big bang is but one theory on how the universe began.

October 13, 2005, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility website:

The National Park Service has started using a political loyalty test for picking all its top civil service positions, according to an agency directive released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Under the new order, all mid-level managers and above must also be approved by a Bush administration political appointee.

Civil Rights Hiring Shifted in Bush Era
Conservative Leanings Stressed
by Charlie Savage

[July 23, 2006]

WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration is quietly remaking the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, filling the permanent ranks with lawyers who have strong conservative credentials but little experience in civil rights, according to job application materials obtained by the Globe.

The documents show that only 42 percent of the lawyers hired since 2003, after the administration changed the rules to give political appointees more influence in the hiring process, have civil rights experience. In the two years before the change, 77 percent of those who were hired had civil rights backgrounds.

August 11, 2008, AP:

Under current law, federal agencies must consult with experts at the Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service to determine whether a project is likely to jeopardize any endangered species or to damage habitat, even if no harm seems likely. This initial review usually results in accommodations that better protect the 1,353 animals and plants in the U.S. listed as threatened or endangered and determines whether a more formal analysis is warranted.

The Interior Department said such consultations are no longer necessary because federal agencies have developed expertise to review their own construction and development projects, according to the 30-page draft obtained by the AP.

"We believe federal action agencies will err on the side of caution in making these determinations," the proposal said.

-- snip --

"We need to focus our efforts where they will do the most good," Kempthorne said in a news conference organized quickly after AP reported details of the proposal. "It is important to use our time and resources to protect the most vulnerable species. It is not possible to draw a link between greenhouse gas emissions and distant observations of impacts on species."


The fact is that in this case "burrowing" is nothing less than Cheney's attempt to keep government drowned in a bathtub, to keep the air dirty, to keep the know-nothings in charge.  To keep America from seeing the change it voted for.  Returning to today's article:

The personnel moves come as Bush administration officials are scrambling to cement in place policy and regulatory initiatives that touch on issues such as federal drinking-water standards, air quality at national parks, mountaintop mining and fisheries limits.

It appears that the best Cheney can do is slow Obama down, however:

One senior Interior official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss personnel matters, said an incoming interior secretary or solicitor could create new political positions upon taking office and could shift Senior Executive Service officials to comparable jobs within a few months. As a general rule, career SES employees may be reassigned involuntarily within their current commuting area within 15 days, and beyond their commuting area within 60 days, but they retain their lucrative and permanent government posts. When a new agency head is appointed, he or she must wait 120 days before reassigning career SES officials.

An important task in coming months will be to monitor this aspect of the transition; to make sure that nothing is overlooked.  The cleansing of the Augean Stables here must be complete.

Originally posted to LithiumCola on Mon Nov 17, 2008 at 09:45 PM PST.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Meteor Blades, Bob Johnson, Kimberley, Louise, nitpicker, gpclay, paradox, DeminNewJ, chrississippi, Terri, tmo, fpc, AggieDemocrat, Ray Radlein, Peace JD, cassandra m, eugene, Brainwrap, Ben P, copymark, kate mckinnon, Trendar, AaronInSanDiego, Hornito, Oregon Bear, Liberal Thinking, Geenius at Wrok, peggy, Gooserock, pHunbalanced, Robert Ullmann, Unstable Isotope, lost, saraswati, ScientistMom in NY, emal, Bob Love, newjeffct, dday, JTML, bosdcla14, Avila, dengre, tommurphy, Stoy, rincewind, Shockwave, donna in evanston, Jim in Chicago, bellatrys, willisreed, rhubarb, John Campanelli, eeff, xynz, catjo, dash888, marjo, Bryce in Seattle, lilorphant, object16, zeroooo, mataliandy, givmeliberty, Eric J in MN, linc, hubcap, GreekGirl, Creosote, AbyssAndApex, Whittless, Bogleg, Heart of the Rockies, Plan9, sardonyx, RubDMC, bigforkgirl, humbucker, bara, eyeswideopen, Gustogirl, opinionated, concernedamerican, ReneInOregon, bronte17, conchita, TracieLynn, indybend, landrew, wonkydonkey, leveymg, Mary Julia, SamSinister, AikidoPilgrim, groggy, OCD, undercovercalico, Baldwiny, srkp23, macleme, CoolOnion, biscobosco, peace voter, weirdscenes, bluesteel, KMc, CalNM, Xapulin, Pithy Cherub, boadicea, Cool Blue Reason, makemefree, ksh01, scamp, Scoopster, boilerman10, mkfarkus, chimpy, roses, ivote2004, someRaven, Ignacio Magaloni, peraspera, oslo, skertso, LondonYank, kanuk, oceanspray, CodeTalker, k2winters, BruinKid, DiMe, itskevin, jalbert, chrisfreel, Menocchio, Nate Roberts, thingamabob, rioduran, navajo, arkdem, dmsilev, antirove, CocoaLove, dksbook, Eddie C, wader, LawStudent, NMRed, worldwideellen, Braindead, kharma, hopesprings, Getreal1246, psnyder, nancelot, emmasnacker, danthrax, sockpuppet, marko, mwk, oldjohnbrown, Dallasdoc, Subversive, SKB, brainwave, SeattleLiberal, White Buffalo, pdl ithaca, Patricia, ii, defluxion10, never forget 2000, snakelass, Neighbor2, papercut, lecsmith, welshvalleymaid, alizard, 313to212, Pohjola, Democratic Hawk, Sophie Amrain, BWasikIUgrad, inclusiveheart, walkshills, bwintx, tomjones, xyz, bablhous, vacantlook, Nova Land, boran2, thereisnospoon, rickroks, murrayewv, TekBoss, BDA in VA, cohe, sawgrass727, Gowrie Gal, sxwarren, Big Tex, libnewsie, rapala, nailbender, joanneleon, G2geek, Los Diablo, Slgalt, tovan, bloomer 101, marina, radarlady, case, el dorado gal, Five of Diamonds, JanetT in MD, revbludge, LisaZ, ek hornbeck, irate, PBen, Alice Venturi, truong son traveler, ajsuited, ChemBob, juliesie, Brooke In Seattle, dj angst, Dobber, ratzo, MtnCerridwen, LNK, Sharon in MD, Frank Palmer, EdlinUser, jimreyn, GreyHawk, Kayakbiker, cassidy3, Overseas, smkngman, QuickSilver, gerardbellavita, Phil S 33, blue jersey mom, lasky57, jane123, paxpdx, rolandzebub, Isara, Cyber Kat, janew2, exmearden, noemie maxwell, Savvy813, The Raven, Ginny in CO, Aint Supposed to Die a Natural Death, wiscmass, Silence is Complicity, word is bond, dsteffen, Cory Bantic, Rogneid, LisainNYC, JanL, Ekaterin, noladq, kkjohnson, Alan Arizona, Land of Enchantment, kathny, Sister Havana, fhcec, noweasels, CJnyc, accumbens, Jim P, begone, Abacab, skywriter, Mother Mags, occams hatchet, kovie, pico, trashablanca, snazzzybird, BachFan, danmac, twoducks, CParis, Nightprowlkitty, LeighAnn, tarheelblue, Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse, Keone Michaels, PatsBard, keeplaughing, sherlyle, cybersaur, 417els, Compost On The Weeds, BlueInARedState, tobendaro, Ellicatt, cookseytalbott, victoria2dc, martyc35, Samwoman, KenBee, Magnifico, Im with Rosey, poichick, MTmofo, Albatross, Marcus Tullius, kck, Lefty Coaster, goodasgold, triv33, tecampbell, Lashe, nonnie9999, Dissentinator, Bush Bites, pi1304, taraka das, imabluemerkin, njheathen, JVolvo, NearlyNormal, CTLiberal, bleeding heart, el cid, MarciaJ720, nowheredesign, AndyS In Colorado, ER Doc, Unitary Moonbat, doinaheckuvanutjob, MBNYC, Pilgrim X, llbear, lazybum, ilyana, Timothy J, Clive all hat no horse Rodeo, buckeye blue, Lovo, cherryXXX69, RantNRaven, Dreaming of Better Days, kurt, MadMs, blueness, revgerry, Statusquomustgo, kurious, Blicero, Bernie68, anabelle, HGM MA, Intercaust, AltruisticSkeptic, blueintheface, markthshark, mapman, Riddle, Pandoras Box, Aaa T Tudeattack, NonnyO, ammasdarling, subav8r, bigchin, One Pissed Off Liberal, pgm 01, j1mmyann, YoyogiBear, asilomar, Cronesense, Old Gardener, Ann Galloway, Loudoun County Dem, blue armadillo, FWIW, possum, DUKETYPE, momoaizo, gloriana, vets74, moosely2006, Stwriley, Jimdotz, terabytes, deepeco, DWG, sfbob, Uncle Moji, twinpeaks, Unbozo, bnasley, Grover StL, dolphin777, Seneca Doane, jayden, sabishi, Heyroot, vbdietz, letsgetreal, mauro7inf, cyncynical, Uberbah, TheCorkBoard, mudslide, montanajen, jnhobbs, millwood, Moderation, SBE, Joffan, MadAsHellMaddie, uciguy30, Got a Grip, madgranny, electric meatball, JML9999, Zydekos, Korkenzieher, TexasTwister, homerun, eyesoars, Bikemom, gloryous1, Hens Teeth, vet, oxon, Terra Mystica, Empower Ink, gizmo59, trivium, sand805, JDWolverton, ExPat Zuzzguzz, mistletoe, Westsider, condorcet, LightningMan, walja, Boisepoet, Cordwainer, Brandon Friedman, angel65, Wes Opinion, Renaissance Man, OutCarolineStreet, lineatus, Its any one guess, alipi, Oliver W Holmes the 3rd, hilllady, pkohan, kjboy27, Lujane, tofumagoo, toddpw, hwmnbn, TokenLiberal, Jeff Y, WoodlandsPerson, mnguy66, alnep, mofembot, Rachel Griffiths, S C B, Pogyak, KttG, SmileySam, Taget, luckylizard, CeeusBeeus, Bartimaeus Blue, BYw, George Gould, Executive Odor, dont think, rodentrancher, ludwig van brickoven, cactusflinthead, Scubaval, rhutcheson, watercarrier4diogenes, Diogenes2008, shortgirl, scrubjay, oldliberal, 4km, maggiejean, cameoanne, 1BQ, malibu1964, Bule Betawi, multilee, cybrestrike, emboyo, snackdoodle, BigAlinWashSt, hummingbird4015, juca, Discipline28, An Affirming Flame, be the change you seek, forestgreen, Partisan Progressive, PackLeader89, Buster CT1K, butchergirl, earicicle, Patch Adam, VoteAqui, Yalin, DefendOurConstitution, Daily Activist, glassbeadgame, Mercuriousss, marzook, fsbohnet, obiterdictum, asym, ZilV, Knight Rider, deutschluz, synductive99, IreGyre, Ibis Exilis, PhotogHog, Brelee, 57andFemale, Randtntx, Abie, Larsstephens, cassandraX, teemel, Amber6541, Fairy Tale, ladygreenslippers, TruthandTrust, niaman, oohdoiloveyou, The Distillery, littlezen, mudmanor, marabout40, pyegar, sovery, LSD 25, Gramarye, LaughingPlanet, robertacker13, Dirk Thrust, amk for obama, Firecrawler09, kjoftherock, DeminWisconsin, fidellio, Big Danny, Ladyna, wren400, msmo1918, BonnieSchlitz, Dexter, WisdomSeeker, snaglepuss, Eddie L, Klaus, DeniDemo, ctlrick, sullivanst, ItsSimpleSimon, HartfordTycoon, JasperJohns, DrFitz, SoonerG, Black Leather Rain, washunate, roystah, MsGrin, kissmygrits, sapientgrape, bottles, CA Berkeley WV, nosleep4u, AMfromATL, HylasBrook, Irony Raygun, Actbriniel, Pakalolo, mieprowan, Geoff D, Quite Contrary, StuffOfInterest, wahine, Sailbourne, Amayi, Boocat, sallym, FightingRegistrar, Luthe, free as a butterfly, Haf2Read, the ghost of bad dad, graywolf28

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site