Observing Public Organizations Appointments Unfulfilled

Governmental Appointments

With the changing of the administration comes the potential for numerous political appointments. While some of these appointments do not require confirmation, many non-career appointments do require confirmation and pose significant challenges to an incoming administration. There are a number of conceptual frameworks that can be utilized to analyze these challenges, as well as provide insight into how these problems emerge and how they can be resolved. Two of these frameworks are Freidson's Professionalism and Fung, Graham and Weil's Targeted Transparency. The strengths and limitations of these conceptual frameworks will be discussed, as they apply to the challenges regarding governmental appointments. How the similarities and differences between the application of Freidson's Professionalism and Fung, Graham and Weil's Targeted Transparency illustrate the relative usefulness and influence observers regarding political appointments.


Freidson's theoretical construct of professionalism can be useful in the analysis of the challenges encountered with political appointments. Freidson notes that professionalism is a framework in which "workers who have the specialized knowledge that allows them to provide especially important services have the power to organize and control their own work" ("Professionalism" 1). Creating conditions of market demand is not the goal of this framework, but rather to provide services that benefit all (2). This framework is demonstrated in a variety of professions, including the medical and legal field. These professionals are able to engage in these fields of work due to their highly specialized knowledge base. Professionalism often operates in contrast to the corporate goals of efficiency and competitiveness. Professionalism is often seen by the interrelated ideologies of efficiency and competitiveness as a means of providing services at higher price points and with lowered quality. However, Freidson sees professionalism in a different light. Instead, Freidson's framework positions professionalism as a safeguard to the quality and provision of public services where efficiencies are often not plausible. For this reason, Freidson's professionalism can be used to examine the role of the political appointee in the organization, as well as to identify the inherent goals and purpose of the appointee.

Friedson identifies critical areas for creating and supporting professionalism. These include: a body of knowledge that is only held by a small group of people, occupationally controlled division of labor, labor market and training program, as opposed to control of these facets by either individual consumers in the free market or "monocratic, rational-legal administration" ("Theory" 120) and a professional orientation towards serving a higher purpose. Furthermore professionalism is centered on specialization ("Professionalism" 121). Freidson surmises that there are three ideal typical forms of occupational control that affect any issue-point. In addition to professionalism, bureaucracy and free market controls also are in affect. Hafferty, Havighurst and Freidson envisions this dynamic as an equilateral triangle, with each ideal occupying a node and the issue-point occupying a space within the confines of the triangle. In the realm of governmental appointments, professionalism is the balancing force against the pull of bureaucracy and the free market. This adds to the challenge of appointing political appointees. Lewis notes that the depth of political appointments influences the polices that these agencies implement (122), as such these appointees need to demonstrate a high level of professionalism, as this will directly affect the policies that are implemented in the United States.

The confirmation process can also be hindered or helped by the appointees level of professionalism. Although the traditional view is the President having carte blanche in the selection of political appointments for executive agencies, however this is not the case. Nixon states that "presidents must accommodate the policy preferences of senators when making nominations" (438). It is the ideological composition of Congress that strongly affects the make-up of successful political appointments. This is contrary to the Presidential deference many would traditionally expect to affect a nominee's acceptance. A primary weakness in Freidman's model is that it fails to take this facet of the confirmation process into consideration, as it doesn't fall within the tri-ideals of Freidson's framework -- professionalism, bureaucracy and free market.

This professionalism is also important in the role of the appointee, as well as their goals, within the organization. Heinrich, Lynn and Milward question how the legitimacy of the government can be sustained in the eyes of the citizens. Alternative mechanisms for accountability, such as control through elections and participatory democracy, are not available for political appointees.

Accountability relationships have long been complex, dense, multilayered, and overlapping webs of relationships that mix 'active and reactive postures of legitmate authorities vis-a-vis the accountability of civil servants' and suggests that multiple accountability types (hierarchical, legal, professional, and political) may be simultaneously present for a single entity, with relative priorities and demands among them changing over time (i8-i9).

For this reason, this makes professionalism even more important in not only the efforts of the appointees, but also in regards to how the citizenry perceives these appointees from the time of their nomination through their tenure in office. A greater level of deference is given to nominees who are guided by professional norms (i9).

This is a primary strength of Freidson's model -- its multifaceted application to the political appointment process. Professionalism provides for an analysis of how the full life cycle of an appointee. It can be used to analyze the initial selection of the nominee, and whether or not the qualities that are present in the nominee meet the standards of professionalism, which can lead to a discussion as to why or why not these qualities are present. Professionalism can also impact the public's perception of a nominee, and may contribute to the confirmation of the nominee, and can sometimes be used to explain any possible challenges that have arisen in the confirmation process. Once confirmed, the appointees performance within the organization can be analyzed with Freidson's model and how professionalism has impacted their implemented policies and the management of the organization. Lastly, the public's perception once again can be gauged in relation to the professionalism of the appointee once they are working within the organization.

As mentioned, examining the role of the political appointee within the organization, as well as their goals and the purpose of the appointee, is well suited for Freidson's model regarding professionalism. For appointees who demonstrate a high level of specialized knowledge, that applies to their agency of appointment, this professionalism affects their role within the organization, in providing a quality of leadership service that goes beyond the typical goals of efficiency and competitiveness. The appointees' goals too will be affected by their level of professionalism, with a desire to provide service that transcends the political goals often associated with this type of position. The purpose of the appointee too may differ depending on the level of professionalism and its ability to offset the other factors. Nominees with little professionalism are clearly an effort by the nominating president to utilize the other ideals as an influence in the policies that will be implemented by the appointee. If this is contrary to the ideologies of those confirming the appointment, this can result in confirmation challenges.

Targeted Transparency

The second framework that can be applied to the successful confirmation of political appointments is Fung, Graham and Weil's targeted transparency. Transparency is the process of "how we claim to know what we know" (qtd. Dodge, Ospina and Foldy 295). The most effective application of this framework is in its relation to the disclosure of information required to promote political appointments. This level of disclosure doesn't have to be full or absolute to all parties involved. Instead, it is targeted disclosure of information that is needed to those parties can make informed and effective decisions (Fung, Graham and Weil 4-5). Transparency's goal is provide information to increase the potential for choice (6-7).

To be effective, this transparency must have long-term sustainability. According to Fung, Graham and Weil (106). The characteristics of sustainable transparency policies include "expanding scope of information... Increasing accuracy and quality of information & #8230; [and] increasing use of information" (109). For this reason, sustainable transparency for political appointees must embrace these characteristics. However, challenges occur because the political aspects of disclosure are often contrary to improved transparency and result in a more limited disclosure mechanism rather than one that is broader (110-111). For this reason, reduced transparency and disclosure policies may become an issue for political appointments.

Fung, Graham and Weil note that transparency cannot be presumed to be automatically effective. The authors use the example of plant closures and disclosure of the goals of these layoffs as ineffective (89). For disclosure to be effective, there are three primary characteristics that must be in place: value, compatibility and comprehension. The utility of the information affects its value (55). The format, time and place of the information, and the consistency with the end user's needs, determines its compatibility (56). Lastly, the ability of the users to apply the information disclosed to the situation at hand determines its comprehension (59). These three characteristics should be utilized to craft a disclosure policy that's intended to support…