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Going Political: Who Takes Appointments and Why

Suzanne Kubota | Senior Internet Editor |

December 22, 2009

“When the Senior Executive Service began 30 years ago, all the assistant secretaries for administration in the government,” said Carol Bonosaro, “were career executives. Over time, you will now find only two who are career executives and that’s because of statute.”

Which is a real shame, according to the president of the Senior Executives Association. Bonosaro told the Federal Drive that senior executives bring a special understanding of the workings of government to the table. “I think they have an advantage because they understand how best to implement policy and they have a particular advantage in being able to point out problems in which policy proposals could pose in implementation. So in other words, they can effectively weigh in on design, but the one thing they have to have is the courage to speak out, of course.”

In trying to convince the administration of the value of appointing career executives to positions now traditionally held by politicals, the Senior Executives Association has created a “scorecard” tracking career feds who make the transition. “We’re just trying to find them all,” said Bonosaro, “identify them, and see how well they’re doing.”

Bonosaro said the proliferation of political appointees and additional layers of political appointments has made the job of government more difficult for two reasons:

It’s limited opportunities for advancement of career executives and it’s inhibited communication between political leadership and career executives as you get all of those layers. It’s really part of our concern about that general issue and just saying “well let’s start paying attention to how this administration does with this issue.”

To see the list of career execs who have made the transition to political positions, or to add to it, see

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