We Don’t Have a Secretary of the Air Force

Michael Donley announced he was stepping down as Secretary of the Air force in April and did so in June. No replacement has been named.

Michael Donley announced he was stepping down as Secretary of the Air force in April and did so in June. No replacement has been named.

Robert F. Dorr, Air Force Times (“Why no new AF Secretary?“):

When Americans complain about a breakdown of government in Washington, they’re usually venting at our dysfunctional Congress.

But sometimes it appears the executive branch is broken just as badly as the legislative process on Capitol Hill.

If you’re in the Air Force, or a member of the Air Force community, you ought to be outraged the Obama administration didn’t find time to name a new Secretary of the Air Force before Michael Donley was honored at a retirement ceremony June 28 and left office two days later.

There was nothing sudden about the end of Donley’s five-year stint in office. His decision to step down was announced April 26 — fully two months before he left — and was expected inside government even before the announcement. There has been plenty of time for the White House to choose a qualified replacement and send a name to the Senate for confirmation.

But that hadn’t happened when Donley departed. The delay is enough to make you ask whether the White House thinks the Air Force is important.

[…]

Acting Secretary Eric Fanning, a Dartmouth College graduate, does bring some valuable experience to the table: stints on the House Armed Services Committee staff, as a special assistant in the Defense Secretary’s office and as a deputy undersecretary in the Navy.

But he lacks the background of the Army and Navy secretaries, formerly career politicians with all the clout and connections that confers.

Some airmen believe — erroneously — that the secretary job is ceremonial. But that’s because airmen don’t see the behind-the-scenes labors that produce budget requests, congressional testimony and the staffing and equipping of the nation’s air arm.

The secretary works in partnership with the chief of staff — the Air Force’s top general — and without a civilian service chief in high standing, the general has less power and less credibility defending programs in Congress.

This is part of a broader pattern: Senate Republicans have made it extremely difficult to confirm even seemingly non-controversial nominees to posts all across government and the administration has responded by not bothering to nominate people. This is no way to run a railroad.

FILED UNDER: Government, Military Affairs, Quick Takes
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. PJ says:

    @James Joyner:

    This is part of a broader pattern: Senate Republicans have made it extremely difficult to confirm even seemingly non-controversial nominees to posts all across government and the administration has responded by not bothering to nominate people.

    I think it’s about more than the administration not bothering, not sure if it’s actually able to get the people it wants to accept being nominated. Why would anyone be willing to be nominated if it only means that they’ll end up in confirmation limbo until the administration withdraws their nomination? Don’t think that’s something people would want on their CV…

  2. There’s no doubt that there have been many nominees blocked over the past four years, but its worth noting that none of the Cabinet appointments that the President has put up since the start of 2013 has been blocked and, so far, all of them have been confirmed.

  3. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    As I’m reading along, I’m wondering just how Obama’s neglect will somehow get spun to be blamed on the Republicans.

    This is part of a broader pattern: Senate Republicans have made it extremely difficult to confirm even seemingly non-controversial nominees to posts all across government and the administration has responded by not bothering to nominate people. This is no way to run a railroad.

    OK, that’s how. The surprising thing here is that Mr. Mataconis called it out for the BS it is.

  4. PD Shaw says:

    “the administration has responded by not bothering to nominate people.”

    No, I believe this is wrong. The Administration announced at the beginning of its first term that it was going to be tougher vetting its appointees and unveiled an extremely long self-disclosure form that would be a part of it. (I can recall the stories, is Hillary really going to be required to fill that out? And can anybody fill that out without hiring a law firm to to do background checks?)

    The Administration might feel that its superior vetting should be recognized by the Senate, which should be more deferential in return.

  5. legion says:

    The one thing we – and Bob Dorr, for that matter – don’t know is what (if any) people have been asked about the job, but declined because of just the issues James & PJ mention. From what little coverage has occurred, we have no way to know if this just didn’t get done (which would, in fact, be incompetent) or if they’ve been tapping people quietly & just don’t want the bad PR (for both the Admin and Congress) of being unable to find anyone who _wants_ the job…

  6. michael reynolds says:

    What does the job pay? Do you get your own, personal F-16 as “company car?”

  7. Scott says:

    @michael reynolds: About $180K, for the privilege of being abused by the Congress, press, executive branch, etc. Is it any wonder folks are hesitant to step up?

  8. al-Ameda says:

    From the “No kidding?” File:

    This is part of a broader pattern: Senate Republicans have made it extremely difficult to confirm even seemingly non-controversial nominees to posts all across government and the administration has responded by not bothering to nominate people. This is no way to run a railroad.

  9. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    On further reflection, I’m surprised that the Obama administration didn’t announce the new Secretary as a “recess appointment” on July 4.

  10. MarkedMan says:

    The Repubs have so broken the nomination process that the only hope is to find some workaround. And truth be told, some of the blame goes back even before the current screwups and can be laid at the feet of both parties. Did you ever have an affair? Paid cash for a cleaning lady or someone to watch your kids? Screw up on your tax return? Get into a public fight with your spouse? Want to have that blasted across the media? Want to have your kids humiliated in their school? No? Then refuse the nomination.

  11. Tyrell says:

    Best Joint Chief of Staff/Air Force Secretary: General Curtis LeMay