Presidential Transition 2000:
Geoscience-Related Federal Appointments


A final note: This document was prepared before the dust had settled on the presidential election. Now that the Bush-Cheney Administration has been inaugurated, the political appointment process has shifted from the Transition Office to the White House Office of Presidential Personnel.  All communications regarding political appointments should be addressed to Clay Johnson now the Assistant to the President for Presidential Personnel and Deputy Chief of Staff at: White House Office of Presidential Personnel, Eisenhower Executive Office Building, 17th St. & Pennsylvania Ave., Washington DC 20502. (2-3-01)

Even before the election, small teams within each campaign have been working to prepare for the transition to a new administration. Mostly, their pre-election operations were kept quiet to avoid the appearance of over-confidence, but they also worked openly with the General Services Administration to ensure that the official transition team office space at 1800 G Street NW is ready with phone lines, computers, and all the trimmings. One of the most important tasks for the transition team is to fill presidential appointments from the Cabinet level on down.

This appointment process presents an opportunity for the geoscience community as it does for all constituencies. Key positions to be filled at federal agencies and within the White House can have a major impact on the conduct of geoscience education, research, and other activities as well as the employment of geoscientists.  To aid geoscientists in this endeavor, the AGI Government Affairs Program has gathered information on the process and available positions as resources for interested individuals and organizations in promoting earth scientists to these appointments.

At the beginning of November, AGI sent out a memo to its member societies outlining positions available and the nomination process, including a list of geoscience-related political appointments (Acrobat 4.0 PDF file, 117 KB; Word97 file, 41 KB) in federal departments and agencies.  This document should not be taken as a comprehensive list of high-ranking federal leadership positions since many of those are not strictly presidential appointments. For example, the head of the Geosciences Directorate at NSF is a career civil service appointment. But the list does include the positions that first the transition team and later the designees for science advisor and Cabinet posts will be looking to fill. The process operates from the top down, filling first the Cabinet positions, then their deputies, then their deputies in turn.

Additional Resources

The Office of Personnel Management has provided general employment information that helps answer questions of salary, benefits, and position category.  The Brookings Institute also has a very complete resource center for people and groups interested in the appointee process.  Another resource available on the transition to a new administration is the United States Government Policy and Supporting Positions, commonly known as the Plum Book, that lists a range of federal civil service and support staff positions in the Executive and Legislative Branches. Application information for presidential appointments is available at the Bush-Cheney Transition website http://www.bushcheneytransition.com.

Earlier this fall, the National Academy of Sciences released a report on the presidential appointment process for science and technology positions. The report found that in recent years, the percentage of top-level appointments completed within four months of nomination had slipped from 80-90 percent, the norm from 1964 to 1984, to 45 percent since then. The report recommended that steps be taken to initiate the appointment process for key science and technology leadership early in the transition, reduce financial and vocational obstacles to government service in order to increase the pool of scientists and engineers willing to serve, and streamline the approval process both within the administration and in the Senate. It remains to be seen whether the new administration will consider these recommendations or improve upon the recent track record.


Contributed by Margaret Baker and David Applegate, AGI Government Affairs Program

Posted December 1, 2000; Updated February 3, 2001

Please send any comments or requests for information to AGI Government Affairs Program at govt@agiweb.org.



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