November 19th, 2008
03:35 PM ET
6 years ago

Some Pentagon workers 'burrowing' in to avoid the axe

WASHINGTON (CNN) - At the Pentagon they call it “burrowing”.

Political appointees– typically low level - are scrambling to hold onto their positions in the next administration by getting their job description changed from “political” to “career civil service”.

Political appointees serve at the pleasure of president, while career civil servants are hired on merit, and are supposed to be non-ideologues who serve any administration.

There have been accusations leveled at the White House that the appointees of doing so to further the Bush administration agenda, which the White House denies. But here in the halls of the Pentagon they see another motive. Already there’s some grousing from long-time Pentagon staffers who see relative newcomers angling to keep their plum jobs.

“It’s a lot of 20-something who have jobs where they get someone coffee”, harps one veteran of several transitions.

“I know two people in political jobs who are bragging they will be staying,” the staffer told CNN on condition of anonymity.

The burrowing doesn’t involve really high-level staffers, such as Assistant Secretaries of Defense. They are too high-profile to slip by.

The White House said that political appointees who want to keep their jobs need to go through a hiring process outlined by the Office of Personnel Management which makes the decision on a case-by-case basis based on the person’s merits and other applicants for the job.

The typical attempted burrower in the Pentagon is an office secretary or low-level assistant. Or even someone in a job created just for them.

Take the Pentagon’s main Public Affairs office for example. Eight years ago at the end of the Clinton Administration there were only four political appointees. Today there are more than a dozen.

And some may try to stay on, by “burrowing in.”

It’s a time honored bureaucratic tradition.

Filed under: Pentagon • Transition 2008
soundoff (25 Responses)
  1. G.R.I.T. - Girl Raised in the South

    Eight years ago at the end of the Clinton Administration there were only four political appointees. Today there are more than a dozen.

    Hmmm, smaller government? Don't think so. Thanks Pres. Bush for increasing the size of our government while decreasing the number of regular jobs and our 401(k)s and the stock market,.........

    November 19, 2008 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  2. happy thanksgiving

    if they've been hired on merit, they should all be let go.

    November 19, 2008 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  3. LyonsPhilly

    Aaaaah the joy of politics

    November 19, 2008 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  4. Tammy - KCMO

    When Obama takes office and the people under him start reviewing I'm sure some downsizing will take place just like is happening at all businesses. Just because they changed their job description doesn't guarantee them a job.

    Sooner or later, and hopefully sooner, the suck-ups and lazy workers will be given the heave-ho.

    November 19, 2008 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  5. arc, Lugano CH

    GOP = Gone
    Whether they bring someone their coffee or not.

    November 19, 2008 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  6. karen-phoenix

    We are finding out just how large Bush grew the government!!! What a bunch of hipocrits!!!! As a 40 year long republican(I voted Obama this time!!) I'm sooooo digusted with the republican party and a lot ashamed of them!!!

    November 19, 2008 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  7. alvino

    Let them go, Bush and his appointees have done enough damage.

    November 19, 2008 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  8. vobichlan, montreal

    At a time like this one does anything to hang on to one's job, including burrowing. It is not stealing or cheating.

    November 19, 2008 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  9. CNN = Jerry Springer of News

    A small non-essential office where the staff level increases to three times the size in eight years and they do not have to make any cuts due to budget shortfalls? I work in state government and they are talking about cutting more employees who work in the prisons protecting the public due to our budget shortfall (and we have been losing positions steadily the past 8 years).

    I think the federal government is going to have to trim the fat as well in these tough times. I am sick to find out people may have the chance to land permanent position a civil service job without going through the same process as everyone else. Every time a position becomes vacant in my state the position needs to be rejustified before we can hire again. The federal government needs to consider this. Even though these positions are not the high-paying cabinet positions, they still get pretty good benefits and it costs us taxpayers money. This is what is wrong with Washington...

    November 19, 2008 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  10. KJL

    Better check Human Resources and see if anyone there just bought a new Porsche.

    November 19, 2008 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  11. Annjell

    Why are these political appointees given preferential treatment. On the other end, they are calling for the Auto Industry to fail. But, what it's really about is doing away with people's pensions and healthcare – Umm, smells like Enron, at the same time the Mac is getting a social security check every month.

    November 19, 2008 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  12. Dixie AZ

    Watch out for change. Your status may be reversed.

    November 19, 2008 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  13. rachel

    Better lie and say you worked with Clinton if you want a chance to stick around.

    November 19, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  14. Randy, San Francisco

    Bush, Cheney, Gonzalez, and Rove never did understand the purpose of a civil service system and how it is supposed to function.

    November 19, 2008 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  15. Mike, Syracuse NY

    GRIT, you can bet that Obama won't do anything to reduce the count.

    November 19, 2008 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  16. S. Boatman Warrensburg, Mo.

    All Of The Republicans Who Bring Democrats Their Coffee Should Keep Their Jobs! The Democrats Can Do The Governing And The Republicans Can Run Along And Get Them A Hot Cup Of Joe!

    November 19, 2008 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  17. zenter

    Another article bites the dust of irrelevancy. I'm sure Obama will clean up house when it comes to partisan/ non partisan employees. You guys need to stop chasing irrelevant realms of politics.

    November 19, 2008 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  18. mike

    Root them out and fire them for heavens sake!
    Bush appointees were a bunch of idiot zealots and America cannot afford more dead wood, incompetent spongers.

    They are trying to hold onto their jobs in this recession? They inherited a healthy economy and budget surplus and just about destroyed it in 8 ugly, hate-filled years. They have no one to blame but themselves.

    November 19, 2008 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  19. John Q. Cynic

    These low level appointees by the Bush administration learned how Bush, and Cheney worked during their time in Washington...they lie. They followed the theme of Bush's administration that "honesty is a sign of weakness". It's worked for them over the past eight years.

    November 19, 2008 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  20. Jesus Praising Freedom Loving Patriot

    Do what I do when I have rodents burrowing in my backyard...

    SMOKE'em OUT!

    November 19, 2008 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  21. WIlly Brown

    Don't worry Pentagon staffers. Obama will wave his magic wand and "Poof" you all will be the entitlements department with wat's of eople nebing yo halp..

    November 19, 2008 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  22. Ron, Wisconsin Dells .WI

    Throw the Bums out on there butts And leave them high and dry.There just a bunch of brown nosers anyway.Get rid of them

    November 19, 2008 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  23. Gracie









    November 19, 2008 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  24. Carl Justus

    If Bush, Cheney and company further screw up this country they will. If it is by changing some of their screw off appointees they will do that too. These two men have almost put this country into bankruptcy and will do all in their power to get the country so far in debt that the poor will have no recourse than to kiss the rear of the rich for a piece of bread.
    We, the people should tar and feather both of them and put them in the desert until it got hot enough for the tar to melt and run off.

    November 19, 2008 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  25. Farrell, Houston, Tx


    November 19, 2008 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |

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