Political AppointeesTurnover Rates in Executive Schedule Positions Requiring Senate Confirmation Gao ID: GGD-94-115FS April 21, 1994
The turnover among political appointees running many federal agencies is such that the median length of service for these government executives is only 2.1 years, hindering the stability and continuity of leadership essential for effective management of federal organizations. Many experts on public administration have expressed concern that the frequent turnover of political appointees in the Executive Branch can (1) disrupt program management, (2) cause key positions to remain vacant for long periods, and (3) prevent clear assignment of accountability for program outcomes. Generally, the median length of service of appointees in cabinet departments was below the governmentwide median. Cabinet departments also generally had higher-than-average turnover rates. Because of differences in the statutorily prescribed lengths of fixed-term positions, a governmentwide turnover rate or median length-of-service figure for such positions would not be meaningful. GAO noted, however, that term-limited appointees generally served longer in their positions than their indefinite-tenure counterparts.
GAO found that: (1) between 1981 and 1991, the median length of appointees' service in indefinite-tenured EX-PAS positions was 2.1 years, and the turnover rate was between 2 and 3 appointees per EX-PAS position; (2) the number of turnovers for any one position varied from none to as many as seven; (3) cabinet department appointees had higher-than-average turnover rates and lower-than-average median lengths of service; (4) some agencies required significant periods of time to fill appointed positions; (5) determining the median length-of-service for appointees in EX-PAS positions would not be meaningful because there are differences in the statutorily prescribed lengths of fixed-term positions; and (6) term-limited appointees generally served longer in their positions than their indefinite-tenured counterparts.