Appointments, Confirmations & Budgets

Central Intelligence Agency / Ben Balter (background)

Beneath the high-profile conflicts over civil liberties or targeted killings, a myriad more mundane decisions lie at the intersection of national security and the law. Our constitutional process requires the advice and consent of the Senate for many high-level executive positions, including those responsible for national security, and each year, Congress must pass a budget that includes funding for the armed forces and intelligence agencies. Sometimes these confirmation and budgetary battles become proxy fights for larger and deeper disagreements, and often, they simply reflect the petty partisan politics of the age.

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Department of Homeland Security

The Federal Vacancies Reform Act Under Trump: The Department of Homeland Security Edition

To quote Yogi Berra, “it’s like déjà vu all over again.” For at least the fourth time in just over two years, a dispute has arisen over the president’s authority to name “acting” agency heads under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act (FVRA) of 1998. This time around, the debate involves the Department of Homeland Security—and the resignation/firing/un-resignation/ ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ of Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.

Appointments, Confirmations & Budgets

Troubling Trends in Ambassadorial Appointments: 1980 to the Present

Since the 1950s, presidents have consistently allocated roughly 30 percent of ambassadorial appointments to individuals who are not career diplomats. This practice, atypical among advanced democracies and a recurrent source of controversy, is currently on track to expand: Over the first two years of the Trump administration, more than 40 percent of appointments to bilateral ambassadorships went to presidential supporters who are not foreign service officers. For example, Robert Wood Johnson IV—the ambassador to the United Kingdom—co-owns the New York Jets.

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