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Fewer Political Appointees, More Civil Servants Could Solve Geithner's Staffing Problem

I saw this article the other day about how Tim Geithner is swamped with work because he doesn't have enough aides to help: Compounding the strain on

I saw this article the other day about how Tim Geithner is swamped with work because he doesn't have enough aides to help:

Compounding the strain on the Treasury, almost all the top posts beneath Mr. Geithner are still vacant. Though he has hired about 50 senior advisers — about half the number he hopes to recruit — the White House has become so worried about potential tax problems and other issues in the backgrounds of candidates that it has nominated only a handful of people.

On Sunday, the White House announced that it would nominate Alan B. Krueger, an economist at Princeton, to be assistant Treasury secretary for economic policy. It will also nominate David S. Cohen to be assistant secretary for policy on terrorist financing and Kim N. Wallace as assistant secretary in charge of Congressional relations.

That still left many positions, including the No. 2 post at Treasury, without even a nominee.

Mr. Geithner, as a result, has been pulled in many directions at once and remains virtually the only public face of the Treasury. He is the sole person who can go before Congress to promote and defend the department’s decisions to provide billions of dollars for General Motors, Chrysler, the nation’s banks or the millions of homeowners facing foreclosure.

But this post on FedBlog makes a very relevant point:

So, Tim Geithner doesn't have a lot of people helping him out at the Treasury, and he's overstreteched. This is obviously a bad thing. A lot of the debate over Geithner's overstretch has focused on how the Obama administration got spooked by some early confirmation scares, and as a result, has moved far too slowly to fill some positions at arguably the most important department in government at the moment.

It's hard to argue that it's in any way a good thing that Obama hasn't filled a lot of key posts at Treasury. But that kind of misses the point. Obama shouldn't have to appoint that many people in the first place. There are far too many positions that the president has to fill personally that could be easily and competently done by career employees. Of course the president needs people who can implement his agenda and set policy. That's what department heads and a layer of political appointees immediately below him or her are for. But agencies and departments would be vastly better served by having high-ranking career employees bringing their institutional memory and experience to high-level positions in departments and ensuring that they can continue to function no matter how far along the president is in his vetting and appointments process.

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