The appointments process has become more torturous than the Founding Fathers ever could have imagined. In the vision of the Founding Fathers, the United States would be governed by citizen leaders who step out of private life for a term in office, then return to their communities enhanced by the experience and ready to recruit the next generation of citizen servants. The Founders, who themselves left farms, law practices, and businesses to answer their country's call, expected the time spent in government service to be inconvenient, even burdensome. That was part of the obligation to serve.
Future presidents will more rapidly assemble the leadership team necessary to honor the election mandate of the people. Barack Obama will take the oath of office on Jan. 20, 2009. In fact, if history is any guide, it will be nine or 10 months later before the new president is firmly in control of the government. That is roughly when the last members of his cabinet and subcabinet are likely to complete the presidential appointments process. Only then can the real work of the new administration begin. Since 1960, every president has taken longer and longer to complete the appointments process. Kennedy's top appointees were not in place until mid-April, Nixon's until mid-May, Carter's until July, Reagan's until August, Bush's until mid-September, and Clinton's until October. The next president will be lucky if his appointees are confirmed by November 1.
The delays reflect many factors, not the least of which is the growing number of positions that require presidential appointment. In 1961, Kennedy filled a grand total of 196 Senate-confirmed appointments. Thirty years later, Clinton had more than 800 to fill. And these figures do not include the growing number of advisory board positions and lesser political posts, which now number in the 5,000 range.
There is already considerable agreement on a short list of reforms that could cut the current delays by several months. These include streamlining of the financial disclosure categories for the president's most senior nominees, and a simplified disclosure form and expedited FBI field investigations for selected nominees further down the Appointee hierarchy.
Although the Founding Fathers most certainly expected the time spent in citizen service to be inconvenient, even burdensome, they did not expect the process of entering office to be so long, intrusive and frustrating. They clearly wanted presidents to make speedy nominations and the Senate to discharge its advice-and-consent function, aye or nay, with equal dispatch.
The president-elect's transition team includes the White House Office of Presidential Personnel, the Office of the Counsel to the President, the Office of Government Ethics, home state Senators (and House members), Senate Committees of jurisdiction/confirmation, and relevant Senate staff.