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.