5 Things You Need to Know About Federal News From the Past Month

Changes in federal government keep coming fast. That’s why GovLoop gives you these monthly recaps of federal news that may affect agency management and employment. If you’ve fallen behind, check out the previous recaps.

By the time you read this, there will undoubtedly be new developments. And, this roundup can’t include everything. The focus is on federal news most relevant to government employees. Check out the linked sources for more information to stay on top of the latest news in government.

1. Staffing issues

ProPublica released Trump Town, a new database of the over 2,600 people appointed to government positions by the Trump administration. The tool can be searched by agency, appointee name, and where they used to work, and includes staff with ethics waivers, special government employees, deregulatory task force members, and more.

NPR reported know that “no elected first-term president in the past 100 years has had this much Cabinet turnover this early in [their] presidency.” Meanwhile, BuzzFeed reported that many more government employees would leave if they weren’t having such a tough time getting jobs they want outside of government.

According to analysis by the Atlantic, Trump “has assembled the most preponderantly male team since the Reagan administration…[naming] twice as many men as women to administration positions.” Just “33% of Trump’s appointees are women, compared to 47% of the national workforce and 43% of the 2 million people working in the executive branch.”

Politico reported on the continued “politically motivated firings and other retaliation” against career government employees for being insufficiently loyal to Trump, and also explored how working for the Trump administration has changed the lives of civil servants.

Trump and his appointees obtained at least 37 ethics waivers and “stocked federal agencies with ex-lobbyists and corporate lawyers who now help regulate the very industries from which they previously collected paychecks, despite Trump’s promises as a candidate to drain the swamp.” The swamp waters flow both ways. An unknown number of political appointees at the Environmental Protection Agency have been simultaneously working for unknown or undisclosed private clients, with just two having been granted permission to do so.

2. Departures

Now that we have a sense of the bigger picture, here are people who departed last month.

Gary Cohn resigned as White House chief economic advisor after Trump decided to impose steep tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. Justin Caporale, first lady Melania Trump’s director of operations, resigned “due to issues with his security clearance.”

Roberta Jacobson, U.S. ambassador to Mexico resigned, saying she will be retiring from the civil service “to pursue other opportunities.” ABC News noted that “at only 57-years-old” Jacobson left government service “before usual retirement age.” John Feeley, U.S. ambassador to Panama, who resigned last year, explained his decision in an op-ed in The Washington Post. Among many criticisms, Feeley said, “I resigned because the traditional core values of the United States, as manifested in the president’s National Security Strategy and his foreign policies, have been warped and betrayed.”

Tony Tooke, who became chief of the U.S. Forest Service at the Department of Agriculture after Trump took office, resigned after a PBS News Hour investigation “revealed a widespread culture of sexual harassment and assault within the agency, and retaliation against those who reported it” and “claims of sexual misconduct against Tooke, including relationships with his subordinates”

Andrew McCabe, who had been on leave as the FBI’s deputy director, was fired less than two days before his planned retirement because of reports that “he had misled internal investigators at the Justice Department.”

Via tweet, Trump fired Veterans Affairs secretary David Shulkin “who has been mired in scandal over his charging taxpayers for luxury travel expenses and the infighting among his senior aides.” Soon after, the New York Times published an op-ed by Shulkin in which he said he was fired because “advocates within the administration…saw [him] as an obstacle to privatization” of the VA. Trump nominated his presidential physician Rear Admiral “Dr. Ronny” Jackson as Shulkin’s replacement, to be approved by the Senate.

H.R. McMaster resigned as Trump’s national security adviser, and Trump quickly hired former UN Ambassador John Bolton. Bolton was called “dangerous” and Slate said his hire “puts us on a path to war.”

3. A day packed with staffing shakeups

That’s not all. The following staffing shakeup all happened on March 13.

Trump fired secretary of state Rex Tillerson in a tweet. The ousting came the morning after Tillerson said Russia “clearly” was involved in poisoning of a former Russian spy, now a UK agent on UK soil. In his remarks after he was fired, Tillerson thanked the “selfless leaders” at the State Department, and didn’t mention Trump.

Trump then announced he was nominating CIA director Mike Pompeo would replace Tillerson as secretary of state, and Gina Haspel, the deputy director of the CIA, as the agency’s new director. Haspel’s nomination has been criticized because of her role in CIA programs that tortured subjects. Senate confirmation hearings for both are expected in April.

Hours later, State Department undersecretary for public diplomacy and public affairs Steve Goldstein was fired for issuing a statement saying that Tillerson was “unaware of the reason” he was fired, contradicting the White House’s version of Tillerson’s dismissal. State spokeswoman and former Fox & Friends host Heather Nauert was promoted replace Goldstein. Nauert will also continue to serve as a spokesperson. Two of Tillerson’s aides also resigned that day: Margaret Peterlin, his chief-of-staff, and Christine Ciccone, his deputy chief-of-staff.

Later on March 13, James Schwab, the San Francisco spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement resigned because “Trump administration officials made false public statements about a key aspect” of ICE’s operations in Northern California. And Johnny McEntee, Trump’s personal assistant, was fired then escorted from the White House grounds, reportedly because “he was a frequent gambler whose habit posed a security risk.” Even with that knowledge, Trump’s re-election campaign hired McEntee as a senior advisor.

4. New hires

In addition to the hires mentioned above, these are the administration’s other new hires.

Robert Redfield was hired as director of Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Though “well respected for his clinical work” by some, Redfield faced opposition because he has “no experience running a governmental public-health agency,” as well as his “once-controversial positions on HIV testing during the first decade of the AIDS crisis” and his professional connections to conservative AIDS policy organizations. The position does not require Senate confirmation. Redfield replaced acting director, Anne Schuchat.

Chris Liddell was named White House deputy chief of staff for policy coordination. CNBC anchor Larry Kudlow was hired as National Economic Council director, which is Trump’s top economic advisor. Kudlow replaced Gary Cohn.

The Senate confirmed Jeff Pon as director and Michael Rigas as deputy director, both at the Office of Personnel Management; Gilbert B. Kaplan as undersecretary of commerce for international trade and Nazakhtar Nikakhtar as an assistant secretary of commerce, both at the Department of Commerce; Marie Royce as assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs and Kevin Edward Moley as assistant secretary of state for international organization affairs, both at the State Department; and Brent K. Park as deputy administrator for defense nuclear nonproliferation at the National Nuclear Security Administration and Anne Marie White as assistant secretary of energy environmental management, both at the Energy Department.

Also confirmed: Jeffrey DeWit as chief financial officer of NASA; Kevin K. McAleenan commissioner of Homeland Security’s U.S. Customs and Border Protection; David J. Ryder as director of the Treasury Department’s U.S. Mint; James Edwin Williams as chief financial officer of the Labor Department; Josephine Olsen as director of the Peace Corps; and Mark Schneider as director of the Department of Education’s Institute of Education Science.

Federal Times reported two senior IT leadership changes. Longtime FBI agent John S. Adams was hired as assistant director for the Information Technology Branch at the FBI, and Todd Simpson moved from his role as Food and Drug Administration chief information officer to Department of Health and Human Services chief product officer.

The Trump administration launched the International Wildlife Conservation Council at the Interior Department to rewrite federal rules about big-game trophy hunting. Members of the council “include celebrity hunting guides, representatives from rifle and bow manufacturers, and wealthy sportspeople.” The council will cost taxpayers $250,000 a year.

5. Withdrawn nominations

Trump had previously nominated Stephen Akard to be director general of the foreign service. That nomination was withdrawn, perhaps in response to concerns that “the administration is stacking the State Department with political supporters in key roles historically reserved for career officials.” After withdrawing Akard for the foreign service position, Trump re-nominated Akard, this time to be director of the Office of Foreign Mission at State.

Johnathan Miller’s nomination as assistant administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) was withdrawn by the White House for unspecified reasons.

Note: This article not an opinion about or endorsement of any policies, regulations, or orders, nor of the behaviors of elected officials, political appointees, government employees, other individuals, organizations, or agencies.

What other federal government developments have caught your attention? What stories are you and your colleagues talking about at the office? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Lauren Girardin is a marketing and communications consultant, freelance writer, and trainer based in San Francisco. She helps organizations engage their communities and tell their stories. Her website is laurengirardin.com and you can connect with her on Twitter at @girardinl.

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