Panic at the DOD

I agree with Spencer Ackerman that folks really shouldn’t read anything into Bill Gertz’s report that “Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates is asking many of the Bush administration’s 250 Pentagon political appointees to remain on the job until the incoming Obama administration finds replacements.”

The article was given the headline “EXCLUSIVE: Obama wants Bush war team to stay” and succeeded in distressing Chris Bowers, but the facts don’t support any such interpretation. The reality is that Barack Obama will be president in less than 30 days, some of which are major holidays. He’s not going to be able to churn out 11 Pentagon subcabinet officials per business day between now and then. And when you consider that the exact time constraints exist in every administration, the task becomes even more impossible. He faces the choice, as do all incoming administrations, of having his predecessor’s appointees lingering on for a while as he lines up replacements and gets them confirmed or else of having a million vacancies amidst the department’s senior leadership. The former is difficult to deal with, but the latter is worse. And the challenge, realistically, is that you have no leverage with which to persuade people to stay. Bush appointees need to be looking for their next job. And if you get a good offer that will be rescinded if you can’t start by February 2, you really need to take the offer.