Consolidate paperwork for presidential appointees, White House group urges

“As President Obama begins planning for his second term in office, the timing of this report could not be more auspicious,” Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., said. “As President Obama begins planning for his second term in office, the timing of this report could not be more auspicious,” Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., said. Jacquelyn Martin/AP

Consolidating presidential nominee paperwork topped recommendations of a White House working group that is calling for the creation of a new so-called smart form for appointees.

The White House and federal agencies could have nominees fill out the electronic core questionnaire, which also would allow Senate panels to add customized questions, but only as needed, according to a new report.

Nominees, federal workers, lawmakers and academics have long complained that detailed and redundant forms—along with aggressive investigative tactics employed by some senators delaying confirmation votes—discourage qualified talent from accepting presidential appointments.

“We take some self-respecting U.S. citizen,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., who served on the working group, “and the president invites them to come take a position in the federal government of honor and dignity, and suddenly they find themselves immersed in a series of duplicative interrogations from all directions in which they must fill out forms that define words such as ‘income’ in different ways, all of which is designed to lead them before a committee, not to really assess their qualifications but to see if they can be trapped and turned into an apparent criminal.”

As called for under the Presidential Appointment Efficiency and Streamlining Act, which became law in August, the working group’s report lays out a plan to streamline the appointment process for 1,152 positions that require Senate approval. The law removed the Senate confirmation requirement for 169 positions.

The report was presented Thursday to the chairmen and ranking members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and the Rules and Administration committees, via a letter from Office of Management and Budget official Lisa Brown.

Retiring committee chairman Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., said a reduction in paperwork would help nominees reach confirmation more efficiently. “As President Obama begins planning for his second term in office, the timing of this report could not be more auspicious,” Lieberman said.

Such changes, he added, would “free up the Senate to concentrate on nominees for the most important offices, while the working group recommendations will free up nominees to concentrate on the issues rather than filling out paperwork.”

To create the smart form within the next year, the report specifically recommends:

  • Questions on White House and Senate forms not duplicate questions on the public financial disclosure form;
  • New smart form designers eliminate irrelevant questions such as net worth and investment income;
  • Planners vary paperwork for certain part-time positions on boards and commissions that may not require heavy scrutiny;
  • Congress implement the recommendations before the new session starts in January.

The bipartisan White House working group, which adopted the recommendations unanimously, consists of former senators; current and former senior White House officials, including directors of the White House Office of Presidential Personnel; current and former directors of the Office of Personnel Management (John Berry and Janice Lachance); representatives from the and the Office of Government Ethics; and the U.S. chief technology officer and federal chief Information officer (Steven VanRoekel). Brown was its chairwoman due to her recent role as acting federal chief performance officer.

The report includes sample changes in questions and a survey of literature on the topic of nominees and paperwork. The working group is tasked with producing, by May 7, 2013, a follow-up report on background investigation requirements.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.