Saturday, February 26, 2011
Barack Obama 2012: The Cabinet. Mikhail Kryzhanovsky, KGB.
If the bureaucrats are wearing you down, you have the right to fire any Secretary. However, Cabinet members must be approved by Senate, therefore, you have to negotiate with the Senate leaders and party leaders throughout the country. As a result, some positions may go to people you don’t know well and can’t trust. Then if you want to re-organize the Cabinet you have to confront the Congress, because Congress tries to protect the interests of its constituents, who are often the clients of the existing bureaucratic agencies. So, if you plan changes you have to appoint people who share your strategy.
You may also need to offer a position to a group that you need to support in the coming election, or whose help you need; or to help pass legislation (these people will be more loyal to their political benefactors than to you).
Secretaries have disadvantages compared to the staffers as they don’t have easy access to the Oval Office (again, that depends on you). Some of them had little or no contact with you before being appointed. Actually, their task is to win the backing of key interest groups and that’s why you, practically speaking, don’t need Cabinet meetings (if there’s no crisis). If a Cabinet member feels independent (usually, that’s the Secretary of State), don’t fire him - substitute him by the national security adviser or send him abroad on a regular basis .
Six positions have Cabinet-level rank, which allows these individuals to attend Cabinet meetings: Vice President, White House Chief of Staff, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Director of the National Drug Control Policy, United States Trade Representative
The Cabinet members work hard during a crisis only. They prefer to save their plans and suggestions for private conversations with you, because that is what you need them for and they are competing with other Secretaries for your time, support and for funds. It’s not easy for the President to make government agencies work effectively — first, you have no time, second - they have no competition. Anyway, you must have insiders in all departments, especially in the Justice Department (FBI), CIA and Secret Service firing anybody who’s trying to dig dirt on you.
Secretary of Defense
The Secretary of Defense is a very special and unique position for many reasons. This department is regarded a non-political one, defending the United States no matter what (never let him decide, though, what and where US interests are). Military leaders have a lot of friends in Congress who press the administration to accept military demands. Besides, it’s not easy to manage the Pentagon, as you depend on the military for evaluations of the national military capacities; they decide also what kinds of weapons to buy and build. Half of the federal budget goes to Pentagon, making it a major department and that’s the most frustrating aspect of your management.
You have to find compromise between you, Congress, public opinion, interest groups and defense contractors’ lobbyists.
The defense budget affects diplomacy and international relations, because governments worldwide scrutinize it for clues about US global intentions. For example, increases in defense spending, particularly for items such as naval vessels and aircraft, may signal a White House intention to pursue more aggressive foreign policies, and cuts in defense spending may indicate an effort to scale back on defense commitments.
The Cabinet’s Hidden Structure
The Cabinet is divided into the inner circle (State, Defense, Treasury, Justice) and outer, less important one (Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, Health and Human Services, Housing, Transportation, Energy, Education, Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security). While inner Cabinet members are selected more on the basis of personal friendship and loyalty, outer Cabinet members are selected more on the basis of geographical, ethnic or political representation and adopt an advocacy position for their Departments.
The inner Cabinet is divided into two groups:
а) national security group (State and Defense Departments).
b) legal-economic group (Justice and Treasury Departments). The Attorney General usually serves as the president’s attorney and this special responsibility leads to close personal contact with the President. The Secretary of Treasury is very important in domestic monetary and fiscal policies and international trade and currency.
The outer Cabinet is a “domestic” group. Don’t waste your time meeting them - you have enough staffers for that. Sometimes “outer” Secretaries try to build their political base of support within their own bureaucracies. Don’t hesitate to fire and replace any of them if they start to criticize you and behave politically independent, counting on bureaucratic and interest groups’ support.
There’s one (negative for you) thing in common between all Secretaries - self-interest pushes them to protect and expand their departments and then they act more like representatives of their departments to the President then the presidential envoys they were appointed to be (“divided loyalty”).
Then Secretaries of State and Defense usually form a coalition against your National Security Adviser. You must be a smart mediator as Commander-in-Chief. These two have weekly meetings, and each of them has a weekly meeting with the DNI (Director of National Intelligence), so you must know from independent sources what they are talking about in case they “forget” to tell you the details. The Defense Secretary meets weekly with the Joint Chiefs, too.