WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump hinted at permanent vacancies in federal posts across government agencies in an early morning Twitter post Tuesday that pushed back on criticism his administration is understaffed.
Lawmakers have been critical for months over the slow pace of nominees for key Defense Department leadership jobs and other high-profile agency postings. Trump has repeatedly attacked Democrats for slowing the confirmation process for dozens of his picks, but Republicans in Congress have said that is only part of the problem.
So far this year, 117 nominees have been confirmed by the Senate, and another 106 are in the middle of the confirmation process. But more than 360 other top positions that need Senate approval have yet to be named by the administration.
They include the Pentagon’s undersecretary of defense for policy and the Department of Veterans Affairs’ top benefits and health care officials. Overall, more than 1,200 government posts require a presidential nomination and Senate approval.
During a “Fox & Friends” episode Tuesday morning, conservative commentator Laura Ingraham called the glut of open positions a looming, serious problem for Trump’s agenda.
“We’ve only had a FEMA administrator since June,” she said. “We can look at these pictures (of the Texas hurricane response) and conclude that the federal government does need staff.
“We’re facing a crisis with North Korea. We’re facing a crisis of confidence across the country.”
Minutes later, the commander in chief took to social media to respond to the morning talk show segment.
“We are not looking to fill all of those positions,” he wrote. “Don’t need many of them — reduce size of government.”
Cutting back on government waste and redundancy has been a goal of the Trump White House. One of his first actions as president was a hiring freeze across federal agencies while a review of federal personnel was underway.
But critics — both Republican and Democrats — worry that Trump’s mindset has taken that idea too far, leaving critical leadership posts vacant and thereby limiting the president’s ability to enact broader reforms across the federal bureaucracy.
Ingraham said during the show appearance that if Trump has plans to reassign those responsibilities elsewhere “and cause the ultimate shrinkage of government, then let’s hear about that as well.”
Senators are scheduled to return to Washington, D.C., in a week. Dozens of Trump nominees were confirmed in the final days of the summer legislative session after Democratic leaders dropped parliamentary stalling tactics they were using to protest the handling of Trump’s proposed health care overhaul.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.