President Donald Trump indicated that some vacant political positions may be cut outright instead of filled during an interview on "Fox and Friends" this morning.
During an exchange with host Brian Kilmeade, Trump was pressed on 600 open political appointments that remain open across the federal government.
"I don't want to appoint, because they're unnecessary to have. You know, we have so many people in government, even me, I look at some of the jobs and it's people over people over people," said the president.
Earlier this month, Defense News reported that 27 Department of Defense positions have been filled, with 16 holdovers from the Obama administration, including Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work and the three acting secretaries of the military departments.
Based on numbers provided to Defense News by Michael Rhodes, director of administration for the Office of the Deputy Chief Management Office, roughly 75 percent of political appointee positions within the DoD remain vacant. Of more than 50 positions which require Senate confirmation, Secretary of Defense James Mattis is the only one to have a hearing on Capitol Hill, let alone a confirmation vote.
Army Secretary nominee Vincent Viola abruptly withdrew his name from consideration over business entanglements on Feb. 3, while Navy Secretary nominee Philip Bilden withdrew for the same reasons on Sunday. Bilden's withdrawal came just days after White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer denied on Twitter a report from CBS that he was on the verge of withdrawing his nomination.
Arnold Punaro, a retired Marine general and former staff director on the Senate Armed Services Committee, argues that the Pentagon is able to function much more smoothly with vacancies than other federal departments and agencies.
"[The Pentagon] is very different than some of the domestic agencies like [the Environmental Protection Agency] and Labor [Department] where the incoming administration has major policy changes they want to effect and you need confirmed people throughout to make these changes occur," said Punaro in an interview with Defense News.
"That is not the case in the Pentagon as Secretary Mattis can direct the changes that are required prior to being fully staffed and those below his level will obey," Punaro added.
Punaro did note during the interview that in recent years it has become normal to take nine to 10 months for candidates at the lower-level positions to get confirmed.