President Trump still has plenty of work to do to staff the upper echelons of the federal bureaucracy, but for now he seems focused on rearranging who’s in charge of several key agencies.
The New York Times reported Thursday that the White House has devised a plan to push Secretary of State Rex Tillerson out of his job and replace him with CIA Director Michael Pompeo. Trump then would nominate Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., to run the U.S. spy agency.
Since then, both the White House and the State Department have denied such a plan exists. When asked about Tillerson’s future, Trump merely said, “He’s here.” But on Friday, Trump called the report on the plan “fake news.”
The media has been speculating that I fired Rex Tillerson or that he would be leaving soon - FAKE NEWS! He’s not leaving and while we disagree on certain subjects, (I call the final shots) we work well together and America is highly respected again!https://t.co/FrqiPLFJ1E— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 1, 2017
The Partnership for Public Service and the Washington Post have been keeping track of more than 600 key executive branch posts that require Senate confirmation. Of those, 203 appointees are confirmed and working in their positions, while another 162 people have been announced or formally nominated. 250 jobs remain vacant.
In recent days, Trump has nominated the following people to key jobs:
Defense: Phyllis Bayer, assistant secretary of the Navy for installations, energy and the environment. Bayer has served as chief of staff to the assistant secretary of Defense for readiness. She also held posts as program manager in the Office of the Deputy Chief Management Officer and as executive director of the Defense Business Board.
Education: Johnny Collett, assistant secretary for special education and rehabilitative services. Collett is the director of special education outcomes at the Council of Chief State School Officers. He previously served as the Kentucky Education Department’s Division of Learning Services director and as its state director of special education. Before entering state government, he was a high school special education teacher.
Mark Schneider, director, Institute of Education Science. Schneider is a vice president and institute fellow at the American Institutes for Research and president of College Measures. During the George W. Bush administration, he was commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics.
Energy: John Vonglis, chief financial officer. Vonglis is a senior adviser at Cross Range Capital, a private equity firm. Prior to entering the private sector, he held a number of posts in the Defense Department, including director of management initiatives, principal deputy, acting assistant secretary and chief management officer of the Air Force.
Melissa Burnison, assistant secretary for congressional and intergovernmental affairs. Burnison is director of federal programs at the Nuclear Energy Institute. She previously served as a senior adviser at Energy and was a staffer for the House Natural Resources Committee.
Justice: Jeffrey Anderson, director, Bureau of Justice Statistics. Anderson was director of the Health and Human Services Department’s Office of Health Reform under the Trump administration. He previously was a professor at the U.S. Air Force Academy, and he co-created the Bowl Championship Series ranking system that was until recently used to determine the national championship matchup in college football.
Labor: James Williams, chief financial officer. Williams most recently was general counsel of Liquidity Services Inc., a firm that helps corporations and government agencies to manage and sell surplus assets.
NASA: Jeffrey DeWit, chief financial officer. DeWit is the state treasurer of Arizona. Prior to running for office, he had a career in the finance industry.
State: Nicole Nason, assistant secretary for administration. Nason has been a senior adviser to the secretary of State since June. She was administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration during the George W. Bush administration.
David Fischer, ambassador to Morocco. Fischer is chairman, CEO and principal owner of The Suburban Collection, a group of car dealerships.
Joseph Macmanus, ambassador to Colombia. Macmanus is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, and has been a diplomat since 1986. He is an adviser to the secretary of State, and he has held a number of State leadership posts in recent years.