Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson praised career civil servants Thursday in a speech at the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service, saying they have been crucial in maintaining HUD operations despite a vacuum in the agency’s political leadership.
“People have been doing two or three jobs at a time,” Carson said. “I’m finding the people who have been there for 10, 20, 30 or 40 years actually have some pretty darn good ideas, and a lot of times no one’s ever listened to them before.”
Carson remains the sole confirmed nominee of the 12 key appointed positions at HUD tracked by the Partnership and Washington Post. Four other nominees await congressional approval, and President Trump has yet to name anyone for the remaining seven posts. Trump lags far behind previous presidents in securing appointees in top-level jobs, according to the appointment tracker. As of July 19, the Senate had confirmed only 50 of the president’s nominees. For comparison, former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush both secured 203 confirmations by this point in their administrations.
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Though he expressed his need for deputy and assistant secretaries, Carson said he views the current situation as somewhat of a “blessing,” exposing him first-hand to his agency’s various functions. With career federal employees at his back, he said HUD is “already making tremendous strides” in running the organization more like a business.
HUD spokesman Raphael Williams singled out employees for their help in the budget preparation process, collecting necessary documents and preparing Carson for his congressional testimony. According to Williams, Carson has also hosted a number of events for HUD staff exclusively in an effort recognize their efforts.
“With the help of career employees, we’ve been able to build momentum that will be kept up once the new appointees get here,” Williams said.
Carson’s message was well received at the Partnership’s “Recognition in Government Forum,” an event focused on building a culture of recognition among federal employees that also featured discussion with former Service to America Medal honorees.