Conversions of Selected Employees from Political to Career Positions at Departments and Selected Agencies

GAO-10-356R: Published: Jan 29, 2010. Publicly Released: Mar 1, 2010.

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J. Christopher Mihm
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Office of Public Affairs
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Political appointees in the federal government sometimes seek appointments to career competitive and other positions which, unlike political appointments, do not terminate at the end of an administration. Conversions of political appointees to career positions must conform to merit system principles requiring that selection be determined solely on the basis of merit after fair and open competition. Sometimes, however, circumstances surrounding conversions can raise questions as to whether the individuals received political favoritism or an unfair advantage in the merit system selection process, even the appearance of which could adversely compromise the integrity of the system. As requested, we are providing you with information on the number of conversions of political appointees to career positions as reported to us by 42 executive branch departments and agencies from May 1, 2005, through May 30, 2009. The types of positions this letter covers and a definition of each, along with the criteria we used to select the 42 departments and agencies, are listed in the scope and methodology section.

On the basis of data submitted by the 42 departments and agencies and our discussions with them, 143 former political appointees and congressional employees converted to career positions from May 1, 2005, through May 30, 2009. These conversions were reported by 26 of the 42 departments and agencies we surveyed. The other 16 departments and agencies reported no political conversions during this period. Eighty (56 percent) of the 143 reported conversions were made by 5 departments: the Departments of Justice (32), Homeland Security (18), Defense (13), Energy (9), and Commerce (8).

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