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The Contemporary Presidency: The Personnel Process in the Modern Presidency


  • AUTHOR'S NOTE: I thank Jim Pfiffner for helpful comments.

David E. Lewis is the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Political Science at Vanderbilt University and co-director of the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions. He is the author of Presidents and the Politics of Agency Design and The Politics of Presidential Appointments.


During a presidential election year, public attention naturally turns toward candidates and campaigns. The best prepared candidates, however, are thinking beyond voting day toward postelection planning. The task of transitioning to become president is enormous. On the personnel side, a new president will have to fill between 3,000 and 4,000 positions. In this article I review the current state of presidential personnel politics. I review the choices confronting presidents and how the personnel process is changing. I conclude by making suggestions for reforming the personnel system equally applicable to either party's candidate for the presidency in 2012.