Tommy Thompson Resigns as HHS Secretary

Thompson to announce resignation from Cabinet post (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Tommy G. Thompson will announce here this afternoon that he is resigning as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has learned. Thompson, 63, will hold an afternoon news conference to disclose the end to his 38-year career in public service. He is leaving for the private sector, a source close to Thompson said. The news confirms Thompson’s frequently stated intentions to leave the Bush administration after one term. He will be the eighth cabinet member to leave since election day.

His long career in government and politics began with his election to the Wisconsin Assembly. He won an unprecedented four terms as Wisconsin governor, leaving the last one to be sworn in as HHS secretary on Feb. 2, 2001. The post made Thompson the nation’s top health official, putting him at the helm of a vast, complex department with more than 60,000 employees and a budget bigger than all but a handful of countries. The budget in fiscal year 2003 was nearly $503 billion. Health and Human Services encompasses a dozen agencies. including the Centers for Disease Control, the Food and Drug Administration and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Among his achievements, Thompson counts strengthening preparedness for a bioterrorism attack, increasing funding at the National Institutes of Health and reorganizing the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, formerly known as the Health Care Financing Administration.

Health and Human Services is almost certainly the most thankless of the cabinet posts. Indeed, I can’t recall the last time I thought about Tommy Thompson aside from the reports that he would likely be among those exiting after Bush’s first term. It’s a long step down after having been one of the glamor boy governors of the 1990s.

Update (1622): It’s official.

Thompson Becomes Eighth Member of Bush Cabinet to Step Down [RSS] (NYT)

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James Joyner
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James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.