Reality TV star-turned-president elect Donald Trump broke with another precedent last week, telling ambassadors who were appointed by Barack Obama to resign by January 20th instead of waiting for their replacements. Such purges seem to be the new trend in the Trump transition, and it doesn’t matter how sensitive the job is.
A source within the Department of Energy tells Ashley Feinberg of Gizmodo.com that the political head of the National Nuclear Security Administration Frank Klotz, and his deputy Madelyn Creedon, have been told to leave their jobs overseeing “the safety, security, and effectiveness” of America’s nuclear weapons.
Unlike most political appointees, the nature of their work is important enough that both positions normally carry over into a new administration until new appointees are confirmed. Trump has not named their replacements.
Feinberg’s source says that the decision represents “a shocking disregard for process and continuity of government.”
“There are scores more appointees within the department,” our source told us. “Secretarial and administration appointments that don’t require Senate confirmation, mostly performing policy, liaison, and strategic advisory capacities in support of the agency they’re at. They serve at the will of the head of their agency. Those people are, theoretically, also out on inauguration day unless otherwise directed, which hasn’t happened yet to my knowledge.”
The source later added, “I’m more and more coming around to the idea that we’re so very very fucked.”
Although Trump has spoken of expanding American nuclear forces, empty leadership positions will leave the NNSA unable to communicate with Congress about its budget. By law, civil servants working for NNSA are not allowed to take orders from anyone besides their director, so the agency will be effectively paralyzed until Trump gets around to filling these posts.
Of course, it’s not as if the United States has been sitting on its hands. Under President Obama, decrepit nuclear production facilities underwent a major renovation, labs were modernized, and warheads refurbished. Perhaps Trump aims to simply take credit for work already performed?
It’s not a far-fetched notion. The NNSA is organized under the Department of Energy, which will be led by former Texas governor Rick Perry, who can teach Trump a few things about taking credit for other people’s work. Plagiarists always seemed to do quite well in Trump’s inner circle, and now they are thriving in his administration.
Trump’s decision to purge every one of Obama’s political appointees with total disregard for the consequences will inevitably produce crises down the road. Let us hope that America’s nuclear weapons do not become one of them.
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