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Science and Technology Leadership in American Government: Ensuring the Best Presidential Appointments 3 Improving Recruitment and Expanding the Pool of Candidates Recruiting outstanding individuals for presidential appointments is always a challenging task. Finding first-rate scientists and engineers willing to serve in an administration presents special problems because they do not usually consider a tour as a political appointee to be a normal step in their careers. The White House needs to undertake special measures to ensure that efforts to recruit scientists and engineers are successful. However, because the Office of Presidential Personnel is overburdened with a large number of placements to make, especially at the beginning of an administration, it is unable to conduct the type of active search needed to find the best talent for positions in highly specialized areas. As a result, the current system too often fails to identify and recruit the best available talent for presidentially appointed positions involving scientific or technological expertise. In addition, the criteria used by the OPP to screen candidates are too frequently misunderstood in the science community, leading to damaging perceptions that political and ideological factors are overemphasized in the selection process. We conclude, therefore, that it is necessary to find ways to improve the White House's outreach to the science and engineering community and for the White House, industry, academia, and scientific societies to work together in expanding the pool of potential talent. RECRUITING TOP SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS While a presidential appointment is very attractive to many people, there are a number of deterrents confronting those invited to work for the President. The pay is often less, sometimes considerably less, than what many successful professionals could earn in the private sector. The public financial disclosure process with its arcane forms, legal complexity, and publicity can discourage potential appointees. Post-employment restrictions often limit future career opportunities. A presi-
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Science and Technology Leadership in American Government: Ensuring the Best Presidential Appointments dential appointment means living in a public fishbowl. For those not already living in the Washington area, a move can be disruptive to families with children in school, and it is costly to find a home in the expensive Washington housing market. Public esteem for government, especially the federal government, has declined in recent years, which has reduced the prestige of the public service and lowered its morale (National Commission on the Public Service, 1989a,c). This stems in part from perceptions that the government is less effective. While the problems government faces are more complex and difficult to solve—which is why the government's need for highly qualified dedicated scientists, engineers, and other experts in leadership positions is greater than ever—Congress and the executive have become more fragmented and divided and therefore less able to agree on decisive action. This in turn reduces one of the major incentives for public service—the opportunity to make a contribution. Although these factors affect all potential recruits for presidential appointments, the consequences are especially serious in the case of technical personnel because of the critical importance of S&T judgment and advice in national policymaking and program management. Some of the factors discouraging potential recruits for presidentially appointed positions may affect scientists and engineers to a greater degree than candidates from the legal or other professions, or from the business sector. For many scientific and technical positions, the people most needed to be effective are those who are at the peak of their technical expertise, at the cutting edge of technology. These professionals are likely to be at midcareer, earning somewhat higher salaries than the government pays. They are less likely to have accumulated wealth that would allow them more easily to forgo a higher salary to take a government appointment, and they are more likely to have children in college. While mid-career scientists and engineers may be the most desirable from the perspective of the government because they are energetic, creative, and on top of the latest research developments, they are among the hardest to recruit. Past presidential personnel directors have often written them off as impossible to recruit. Thus the career-stage factor makes the pool of scientists smaller than other professions. Also, presidential appointment to a policy position will not necessarily enhance scientists in their scientific careers in the same way that it would help lawyers or business professionals who gain from the prestige, contacts, and experience of a presidential appointment. In a time of rapid scientific and technological change and progress, time away
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Science and Technology Leadership in American Government: Ensuring the Best Presidential Appointments from research is costly because a scientist quickly loses touch. Federal service may, however, help those pursuing administrative career paths in science, business, or academia. Thus it is often necessary to find a person who is ready to make a career shift out of research science into the more administrative aspects of the profession. Scientists are also less likely to be located in the Washington area and are thus more likely to have to move their families in order to accept a presidential appointment. In other professions such as law, business, economics, or foreign policy, Washington-area think tanks are likely professional homes for those who want to have an influence on public policy. Some say this amounts to a ''shadow government'' in the various policy organizations and law firms in Washington. But the major centers for nongovernmental research and development are not in the Washington area. This makes many of the best-qualified scientists and engineers less visible to presidential recruiters and makes it more burdensome for them to accept a presidential appointment. OFFICE OF PRESIDENTIAL PERSONNEL Compounding the problems created by the relatively small pool of potential presidential appointments with science and technology expertise is the strained capacity of the Office of Presidential Personnel. Each new administration is inundated with applications and nominations from those seeking government jobs working for the new President. By June 1989 the new Bush Administration had received more than 45,000 applications for positions. Quality control over this flurry of paper poses a major problem for the OPP, with its limited resources. The strain provided by volume is matched by the pressure to staff each new administration in a timely fashion. The transition period between election and inauguration amounts to only about 11 weeks, and most of the time must be devoted to cabinet selection and preparation for confirmation hearings. But the second tier of appointees must be on board early in the administration or crucial programs will slip because of lack of leadership. Attention to science and technology appointments must be shared with attention to all other appointments. The whole personnel operation is going on concurrently with the other important activities of the transition period, including budgeting, policymaking, international affairs, congressional relations, White House staffing, and inaugural celebrations. These volume and time pressures might be mitigated by early prep-
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Science and Technology Leadership in American Government: Ensuring the Best Presidential Appointments aration, but political realities and sensitivities do not allow much in the way of planning. Presidential campaigners are reluctant to divert resources from the campaign to devote to transition or personnel planning. If the candidate is not elected, there will be no transition to worry about. Even if resources are available, no campaign wants to give the impression that its candidate is so confident of victory that it is already dividing the spoils of victory. The current President, for example, did not let his future personnel recruiter open an office or recruit a staff until after the election. The search for scientists and engineers is part of the larger personnel operation, which can only be begun in earnest after the election. The capacity of the OPP is also under strain because of the large number of appointments with which it must deal. As the government has grown and political control has been extended deeper into the executive branch, the number of appointments that Presidents make has increased. The number of presidential appointments requiring the consent of the Senate (PAS) has grown from 152 in 1965 to more than 550 in the 1990s.1 In addition, other nonpresidential appointments (about 650 noncareer SES and 1,700 Schedule C), have increasingly come under White House control and thus the responsibility of OPP. In addition, the OPP must handle more than 500 PAS and more than 1,500 PA appointments to part-time boards and commissions.2 These pressures on the OPP are intensified by additional pressures exerted by the political party and congressional supporters of the President on behalf of their own candidates for political appointments. Thus, in searching for nominees with the best substantive qualifications to lead the executive branch, the OPP must fend off intense pressures for appointments from sources that may be more concerned with political rewards than with the need for expertise. The pool of potential scientific nominees is also narrowed by self-imposed criteria for presidential appointments, that is, loyalty to the new President. While political loyalty is certainly a legitimate criterion for presidential appointments, construing the evidence of that loyalty too 1 This total does not include some 165 ambassadors, 187 U.S. attorneys and marshalls, 930 U.S. judges, or representatives to international organizations. 2 PA positions are appointed by the president without the advice and consent of the Senate. These include the president's assistants and other executive office staff (about 338) and one of the S&T-related positions included in this report—Director of the National Cancer Institute (Appendix B).
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Science and Technology Leadership in American Government: Ensuring the Best Presidential Appointments narrowly can severely constrain the pool of people considered for appointments. Certainly a sophisticated appreciation of the politics of science and public policy is an essential criterion for potential nominees for PAS positions, but experience in partisan campaign activity is less likely to be found among scientists and engineers. Since scientists are less likely to engage in the usual sorts of political activism that makes them visible to presidential recruiters, the OPP should not expect the same level of partisan political activism by potential scientist nominees as they would expect of candidates from other professions. Rigid application of the usual political criteria will quickly eliminate from the pool many qualified scientists who should be given further consideration. GREATER RELIANCE ON DEPARTMENT AND AGENCY RECRUITING The locus of decisionmaking for subcabinet political appointments should be with the cabinet secretaries and agency heads. We believe that shifting the balance toward the departments and agencies will improve the chances of recruiting and keeping first-rate scientists and engineers in presidentially appointed positions. The OPP faces too many demands to conduct the active search and negotiation process needed to fill the nearly 80 S&T positions among the 550 full-time PAS jobs, along with nearly 2,350 additional full-time positions and several thousand part-time appointments to boards and commissions that must be made at the beginning of each administration. While the OPP is likely to be under intense pressure to fill positions for political reasons, department and agency heads have a large stake in filling S&T positions with people of high expertise. They are also in a better position to match the person with the job, and they are more likely than the OPP to be connected to the professional networks in which technical experts operate. Recommendation B-1. Without giving up their exclusive right to make executive appointments, Presidents should place greater reliance on cabinet secretaries and agency heads for active identification and recruitment of candidates for subcabinet positions involving S&T expertise. The White House cannot hope to fill the thousands of PAS and other political positions that must be filled at the beginning of an administration in a timely fashion or adequately supervise them thereafter. In any case, most appointed S&T positions are level IV or V, are
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Science and Technology Leadership in American Government: Ensuring the Best Presidential Appointments primarily specialized in nature, and work primarily with department leadership, not the White House. We believe, therefore, that the departments and agencies should play a larger role in identifying and recruiting candidates. KEY PERSONNEL ROLE FOR THE PRESIDENT'S ASSISTANT FOR SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY In attracting the best scientists and engineers for leadership positions in the executive branch, the importance of presidential leadership cannot be overemphasized, even where cabinet secretaries and agency heads take the lead in identification and recruitment. The President must be perceived in the research community to value science and respect first-rate science personnel. The selection and role of the Assistant to the President for S&T is crucial to this perception. An important message is sent to the science and engineering community by the quality and stature of the President's appointee as the Assistant for S&T. If the Assistant is perceived to be distinguished in his or her field, it will encourage other first-rate scientists and engineers to consider joining the administration. One of the key roles of the Assistant for S&T is to assist the President in recruiting the best scientific and engineering talent in the country for top positions in the S&T-intensive agencies (Trattner, 1992:19). In recent decades, however, presidential science advisers have been chosen too late to participate in the all-important initial recruitment effort of new administrations, and they have too seldom played a strong role in recruitment once they were on board. The President can signify the importance of science and technology to the administration by designating the Assistant to the President for S&T early in the transition along with cabinet secretaries and other top White House staffers.3 The President should direct that the Assistant for 3 Initially, presidential science advisors had the rank of special assistant to the President. After President Nixon abolished the position, Congress established the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) in 1976 to ensure that a capacity for science and technology advice existed in the Executive Office of the President. Until 1989, Presidents named the Directors of OSTP—who are confirmed by the Senate—also to be their science advisors. President Bush not only named his science advisor to be OSTP director but also restored the title and rank of Assistant to the President for S&T. While this precise arrangement may not last, the panel's recommendations are aimed at the functionally
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Science and Technology Leadership in American Government: Ensuring the Best Presidential Appointments S&T be actively involved and work cooperatively with the departments and agencies, and with the Assistant to the President for Presidential Personnel, in the recruitment of talented scientific and technical personnel for the President's team. It is important that the Assistant to the President for S&T be someone of high stature in the research community, and if he or she helps with presidential recruiting, the acceptance rate of the most qualified scientists and engineers for presidentially appointed leadership positions can be increased. Recommendation B-2. The President should designate the Assistant to the President for S&T early in the transition and instruct him or her to work closely with department and agency heads and with the Office of Presidential Personnel in an active effort to identify and recruit outstanding scientists and engineers for presidential appointments. The President's Assistant for S&T also should help recommend changes, whether in personnel or in the authorities, location, reporting relationships, and staff and budgetary resources of key S&T positions that may be required to make the positions more effective and attractive. SPECIALIZED CAPACITY OF THE OFFICE OF PRESIDENTIAL PERSONNEL FOR S&T RECRUITMENT The Office of Presidential Personnel must make special efforts to recruit technical personnel. OPP is a small office that is faced with processing an unsolicited flood of thousands of applications, especially at the beginning of an administration. However, the most qualified scientists and engineers are probably not looking for appointed positions in the government. They are less likely to be living in the Washington area already or be involved in partisan politics than are capable individuals outside the S&T community. Active outreach to this special, limited pool of potential appointees is therefore essential. Although some of the best scientists and engineers do not think of seeking a presidentially appointed position and have to be actively recruited, the OPP does not have adequate capacity for identifying and assisting in recruiting them, that is, a separate unit with specialized equivalent individual who is providing personal advice and judgment to the President on S&T matters, including executive-level staffing.
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Science and Technology Leadership in American Government: Ensuring the Best Presidential Appointments personnel. Also, in some cases, initial contacts with prestigious scientists and engineers have not been handled sensitively, leading them to believe that inappropriate criteria are being used or that political criteria, while appropriate to some degree, are being overemphasized relative to technical qualifications. Recommendation B-3. The Office of Presidential Personnel should have a special unit charged with assisting in the recruiting of outstanding scientists and engineers, and it should be given sufficient resources to ensure a high level of professionalism in recruitment. The new unit for scientific and engineering recruitment should work closely with the Assistant to the President for S&T and with the department and agency heads in identifying and approaching potential nominees for the administration, and special outreach efforts should be undertaken in conjunction with professional associations of scientists and engineers. We believe that specialized and experienced staff, working in conjunction with the Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and concerned department and agency heads, will better perform the recruitment function. COOPERATION AMONG THE DEPARTMENTS, THE PRESIDENT'S ASSISTANT FOR SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY, AND THE OFFICE OF PRESIDENTIAL PERSONNEL The success of these recommendations aimed at improving the out-reach and recruitment process depends critically on close cooperation among the departments and agencies, the Assistant to the President for S&T, and OPP staff. It is necessary and appropriate for the OPP to manage the appointment process because these are presidential appointments. OPP is a small staff agency, however. Therefore, it must and should rely on the department and agency heads for much of the work in identifying and recruiting prospective appointees, especially for lower-level executive positions within the departments—e.g., assistant secretaries and bureau heads. Finally, the Assistant to the President for S&T should play a key role in identifying and recruiting candidates for certain positions considered key to the President's program and to the government's major S&T efforts, and the President's Assistant for S&T should monitor for the President the overall effectiveness of the recruitment process where it counts—namely, in successful S&T policies and programs.
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Science and Technology Leadership in American Government: Ensuring the Best Presidential Appointments OTHER RECRUITING RECOMMENDATIONS While the federal government should improve its recruitment process as much as possible, the other partners in the national S&T enterprise also have an interest and an obligation to encourage their most qualified members to serve in top government policy and management positions. The following recommendations are aimed at increasing the involvement of the industrial, academic, and nonprofit sectors and of the professional scientific societies in encouraging talented scientists and engineers to serve in the government. Greater Involvement and Support of Nongovernmental Sectors Not all of the responsibility for a high-quality cadre of scientists and engineers in the federal government should fall on the President. It should be accepted as the obligation of the research community to educate its members about the importance of government S&T policy to the future of the country. Members of the scientific, engineering, and health professions should be encouraged to serve in policy positions. Business corporations and universities should facilitate the exchange of scientific personnel with the government. At a minimum, they should not discourage employees from taking leave to engage in public service. Business and university policies should be reviewed to remove impediments and to encourage public service. For instance, rigid limits on the number of years faculty members can take leave without resigning their positions should be relaxed for those accepting presidential appointments. Current law permits the federal government to make payments to university pension funds on behalf of faculty members on leave to serve in the government, but a university's personnel benefits program may or may not be structured in such a way as to make this possible. Company policies may or may not be written in such a way that those resigning to take a government position are able to receive severance pay due them. Businesses and academic institutions should not only remove impediments to public service, they should actively encourage their promising members who are scientists and engineers to serve in the government and consider such service as a desirable part of career development. This approach may require a reorientation of attitudes toward such outside service on the part of universities and firms, but the long-term
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Science and Technology Leadership in American Government: Ensuring the Best Presidential Appointments viability of the nation's S&T enterprise depends in part on the quality and energy of the scientific and technical personnel available for public service. Recommendation B-4. Academia, industry, and professional societies should establish and participate actively in programs that encourage especially talented scientists and engineers in midcareer to take leadership positions in the federal government. They should review their policies and procedures to ensure that they do not unduly penalize or restrict employees who leave for government service. Although there may be occasional frustrations and conflicts with government, the business sector has a major stake in maintaining the quality of government's S&T-related policymakers, regulators, and program administrators. It should—through the Business Roundtable or similar cooperative body—explore ways to encourage government service on the part of its most talented personnel. Academic institutions should similarly review their policies and procedures. There are a number of areas in which properly conceived and drafted policies would make it easier for midcareer employees to spend several years in a government position—for example, leaves of absence that are not just permitted but encouraged; pension plans that are constructed to permit government contributions; general policies for earned severance pay that are set up so appointees may take them without running afoul of conflict-of-interest provisions. Increasing the Interest of Scientists and Engineers in Government Service Few physical and biological scientists or engineers actively involved in research or technology development have any experience with the public policy process or exposure to government work. Some who are interested seek out opportunities to become involved, for example, by applying for a Washington fellowship or serving as a "rotator" in an NSF program office, but most devote themselves to their research careers and never find out whether they have the interest or aptitude to serve in the government. Some of the professional societies and science associations support young members early in their careers as congressional and executive branch fellows for one year. Some White House
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Science and Technology Leadership in American Government: Ensuring the Best Presidential Appointments fellows are scientists or engineers. These programs should be expanded to provide a cadre of politically sophisticated scientists and engineers who are interested in serving on federal advisory committees and, perhaps eventually, in serving in top S&T jobs in the government. The existence of such a cadre would also be helpful to recruiters in the Office of Presidential Personnel and the departments and agencies who must fill S&T-related positions. They would be a source of candidates themselves, and they could serve as a network of people who could help evaluate colleagues not only for their professional credentials but also for their suitability in a federal executive position. Federal agencies could also increase the early experience of scientists and engineers with government work by recruiting a greater proportion of promising midcareer scientists and engineers to technical advisory committees. Again, some would discover a keen interest in science and technology administration, and the agency could gauge their suitability for government service. Recommendation B-5. The Washington fellowship programs of the professional and disciplinary societies and scientific associations should be expanded to expose more up-and-coming scientists and engineers to S&T issues and program administration at the national level, and the White House Fellows program should make a special effort to acquaint promising young scientists and engineers with S&T decisionmaking at the national level.
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