Colleges President Speaks at Brookings Institution Briefing – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Colleges President Speaks at Brookings Institution Briefing

Hobart and William Smith Colleges President Mark D. Gearan spoke on behalf of former Presidential Appointees who today issued an open letter to President Bush and the 108th Congress endorsing comprehensive reform.

November 20, 2002 Washington, D.C. – Hobart and William Smith Colleges President Mark D. Gearan today spoke for the more than 200 former presidential appointees – Democrats and Republicans – including 16 former Cabinet members, who signed an open letter to President Bush and the 108th Congress, requesting immediate reform to solve the problems with the current presidential appointments process.

Gearan, former communications director for President Bill Clinton and former Peace Corps director, offered reflections on the importance of reform on behalf of the bipartisan group of signatories represents presidential administrations from Nixon to Clinton, and includes former Cabinet secretaries, chiefs of staff, and general counsels.

A member of The Presidential Appointee Initiative, Gearan spoke not only as a former appointee, but as a college president who observed that the oft-times cumbersome procedures are seen as a deterrent to college students who may be interested in public service.

“At Hobart and William Smith and other colleges and universities around the country, I meet young people who truly want to make a difference,” Gearan said. “We must remove the obstacles and encumbrances they face to make it easier for these dedicated people to say ‘yes’ to public service.”

In addition to Gearan, Strobe Talbott, president of the Brookings Institution, and Paul C. Light, senior adviser to The Presidential Appointee Initiative, spoke.

“President Bush and the incoming Congress have a unique opportunity to work together to reform the cumbersome presidential appointments process,” said Light. “With the open letter, former appointees are asking the president and Congress to take immediate, bipartisan action to improve the process for the sake of future presidential appointees.”

With Congressional approval yesterday of the creation of a Department of Homeland Security, Light emphasizes the pressing need to improve the appointments process. “The new Department of Homeland Security will add up to an additional 28 presidentially appointed positions to the total number of appointees, up to 14 of which will require Senate confirmation,” Light said. “Reforming the process will only make it easier to get these individuals in place.”

The open letter requests specific improvements, including:

• Providing all nominees awaiting clearance and confirmation with twice-monthly
status reports,
• Providing nominees with privacy and the right of “discovery” with respect to allegations concerning personal character which may be raised in the course of
Senate hearings,
• Providing all nominees with both a formal orientation to the federal government and an additional orientation to their respective agency or department,
• Providing each nominee with adequate guidance through the appointments process,
• Receiving assurance of an up-or-down vote within 45 days,
• Removing the burden of post-employment conflict-of-interest regulations

“With the release of the open letter, these former appointees are not only signaling their desire to reform the process,” said Light, “but also their realization that, without the considerable efforts of President Bush and the 108th Congress, reform is impossible.”

The Presidential Appointee Initiative was established by the Brookings Institution in 1999 with funding from The Pew Charitable Trusts. The Initiative is working to encourage talented citizens to seek and accept presidential appointments and to build support for reforms that will simplify and expedite future appointments. To learn more about The Presidential Appointee Initiative, please visit www.appointee.brookings.org. To request an interview with Mark D. Gearan, president of Hobart and William Smith Colleges, please contact Susan Murad at (315) 781-3540 or murad@hws.edu.

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A transcript of the presentation of the open letter to President Bush and Congress is available.