As Trump lags to fill senior vacancies, retirements pile up

A spate of recent nominations and appointees to key leadership positions in the Trump administration are offset by senior-level employees announcing their retirement and still more agencies lacking personnel, complicating the administration’s efforts to fill longstanding vacancies.

On Friday, Jan. 26, 2018, the White House announced Suzette Kent as the new federal chief information officer, along with James Reilly to take on the year-long empty role of director of the United States Geological Survey and Seth Daniel Appleton to be the assistant secretary for policy development and research at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The Trump administration also saw the recent confirmations of Alex Azar to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, Sam Brownback as the ambassador at-large for international religious freedom and Jerome Powell to chair the Federal Reserve Board.

FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe will be leaving his position effective Jan. 29, 2018, according to the Associated Press. McCabe had planned his retirement for spring 2018, and reportedly used his accrued leave to retire earlier than expected in a practice known as “terminal leave.”

Normally, use of terminal leave is not allowed under Public Law 78-525, passed in 1944, with a few exceptions:


  • Use of terminal leave on part of an employee’s last day
  • When an employee takes terminal leave but shows up for work on their last day
  • When an employee is on approved sick leave pending a disability retirement application
  • When an employee is involuntarily separated and wants to remain on agency rolls to qualify for retirement annuity or health insurance
  • When the exigency or urgent need of service determines that terminal leave should be allowed and an employee’s separation from the agency is known in advance.

FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe is leaving his position ahead of a previously planned retirement this spring, according to two people familiar with the decision speaking to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. (Alex Brandon/AP)


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The chief information security officer for the Department of Homeland Security, Jeff Eisensmith, also announced his retirement from federal service, as originally reported by Federal News Radio.

A DHS spokesperson told Federal Times that they did not have any personnel announcements to make at this time.

Eisensmith has held the position since December 2012, according to his LinkedIn, and has worked in information security for DHS since 2007.

The DHS CISO is not the only high-level IT position now left vacant in the federal government. Seven congressmen wrote to President Trump on Jan. 24, 2018, urging him to appoint a director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, a position that has remained vacant since the beginning of the Trump presidency.

“A recent report described the office as being a ‘ghost town,’ and our concerns that you would fall prey to misinformation have continued to be borne out,” the congressmen wrote, citing the president’s conflation of climate and weather as a key reason for needing an OSTP director.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is also looking to fill their chief information officer position, according to a recent USAJobs posting. Though this position is not appointed by the president, it is held by a member of the Senior Executive Service and serves as the principal IT advisor to the director of USPTO, according to the job posting.

The Government Publishing Office and the U.S. International Trade Commission are also currently looking to fill CIO positions.