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Obama didn't break Bush record for speed of appointments

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By Al Kamen
Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A quick start put President Obama on track to break George W. Bush's modern-day record for getting his appointees in place. But with the first-year statistics now complete, the latter administration's mark still stands.

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The Bush team, after a transition shortened by hanging chads and such, managed to fill 348 of 508 positions (just under 69 percent) that were tracked by the Brookings Presidential Appointee initiative. Seventy-two more people had been nominated for such jobs -- which did not include ambassadors, U.S. marshals, judges or federal prosecutors -- for a grand total of 420 folks.

The Obama team ended the year with 305 of 515 similar appointees confirmed (just under 60 percent), with an additional 91 nominated but not confirmed by the Senate, according to The Washington Post's interactive Head Count feature online.

The final numbers, though some data could not be determined, show that 71 percent of Obama's selections are white, 32 percent are women, 15 percent are black, 10 percent are Hispanic and 4 percent are Asian American.

More than half of Obama's picks (56 percent) are inside-the-Beltway types. The second-largest groups come from California and New York (each with 7 percent), while Obama's home state of Illinois ties Massachusetts for fourth with 3 percent.

The Obama appointees generally have substantial government experience, with about two-thirds having most recently worked in the federal government, academia or think tanks (among which the Brookings Institution leads with seven appointees), the House or Senate (evenly split between the two), and state governments. The other third came from the private sector, including 34 from law firms.

Aloha means hello

Let's have a hearty welcome-home for the intrepid administration officials who braved the treacherous sun, surf and sand traps of Maui last week -- and missed some nasty weather here -- to attend the legendary American Association of Airport Executives conference.

The week-long conference, as we reported recently, didn't attract the large Hill and administration delegations of the pre-Abramoff days. An early list showed hardly any Hill folks there, although, in the end, two Democratic staffers on the House Transportation subcommittee on aviation -- Laurie Bertenthal and Jana Denning -- made the arduous journey.

The Department of Homeland Security's Transportation Security Administration also sent two people: Deputy Assistant Administrator Douglas Hofsass, who handles all airline and airport security programs, policy and procedures, and Brian Johansson, who handles security at Albany International Airport.

The largest government group came from the Federal Aviation Administration, including Victoria Cox, senior vice president for operations planning at the Air Traffic Organization; Benito De Leon, director of airport planning and programming; Jere Hayslett, program manager for satellite-based air traffic systems in Alaska; Catherine M. Lang, acting associate administrator for airports; and Nancy D. LoBue, acting assistant administrator for aviation policy.

The excellent gathering is sponsored by major airlines, aerospace companies, lobbyists, car-rental folks and Paradies Shops Inc. , the outfit that operates many of those concessions in airports.

Speaking from experience

Former FEMA chief Michael "Heckuva Job" Brown weighed in Tuesday on the difficulties faced by relief agencies in getting aid to Haitian victims when there is so much devastation and no government. He suggested that journalists assist in recovery efforts, rather than report on them.

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