THE MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE CORPORATION (MCC), a federal aid agency, was established by Congress more than a decade ago to depoliticize foreign development assistance. At the time, lawmakers envisioned the MCC as a technocratic alternative to the inconsistent, wasteful and uncoordinated aid programs administered by political agencies such as the State Department. Under both the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations, it was primarily staffed by nonpartisan development experts — but that ethos could soon change.
On Sunday, The Post’s Robert O’Harrow Jr. reported that the White House has taken control over hiring decisions at the MCC and installed a number of Trump loyalists in positions previously held by experts. When it authorized the MCC in 2003, Congress granted it special authority to hire and remove 30 employees without adhering to civil service laws and regulations. The idea was to short-circuit entrenched bureaucracy. The White House is now exploiting this flexibility to appoint supporters and campaign workers. Internal rosters obtained by The Post show that 14 Trump allies have been appointed to the MCC — more than double the number of political employees at the agency when Mr. Trump took office.
Among the political appointments are Robert Blau, a speechwriter on the Trump campaign who is now interim leader of the agency; Karen Sessions, the wife of Trump supporter Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Tex.); and Dillon Seamus Bullock, the grandson of a senior official in the White House’s Presidential Personnel Office, who was named a “staff assistant” with a $50,000 salary, though he had no professional experience listed on his résumé. To make room for the new appointments, six employees — including the agency’s chief risk officer — were reassigned, and three others were forced to leave.
The White House’s actions may not cross any legal or regulatory lines, but they raise questions about politicization and cronyism. Just because the MCC is exempt from civil service regulations does not mean it should abandon merit-based hiring. The prioritization of political appointees deprives the MCC of technical experience and undermines the values — such as independence, expertise and nonpartisanship — that were meant to set it apart from other aid agencies. The MCC is essentially a technocratic organization; it should not be a dumping ground for Trump loyalists looking for cushy positions in the federal government.
The Senate is considering the White House’s nominee for chief executive of the MCC, Sean Cairncross. In light of these reports, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee should scrutinize Mr. Cairncross’s credentials carefully and question him on his commitment to the agency’s nonpartisan mission. He has said he is not looking to politicize the MCC, but will he stand by and watch as the White House does it for him?