Former Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.) left Congress to join the Obama administration eight years ago, initially serving as Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs. In 2012, Tauscher took on a new role, becoming Special Envoy for Strategic Stability and Missile Defense at the State Department.
This morning on Twitter, Tauscher raised an interesting point (translated slightly from Twitter abbreviations):
“Where is the Trump Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security? NO ONE has been nominated? Unheard of in 40 years. I should know.”
She’s referring, of course, to the job she used to have. And Tauscher’s correct: Donald Trump hasn’t even nominated someone to fill that post – which seems like an important oversight in light of the world’s newfound interest in arms control.
If this were an isolated incident, it might be easier to overlook, but the larger point is that the Trump administration hasn’t bothered to fill a wide variety of key posts that are suddenly quite relevant. There is, for example, currently no U.S. ambassador to South Korea.
The Washington Post maintains a helpful list tracking key Trump administration posts and their status, and perusing the database this morning, I found all kinds of relevant State Department offices awaiting a presidential nominee. Here are some of the more notable vacancies:
* Undersecretary for arms control and international security affairs
* Assistant secretary for intelligence and research
* Assistant secretary for arms control, verification, and compliance
* Assistant secretary for international security and nonproliferation affairs
* Assistant secretary for political-military affairs
* Assistant secretary for conflict and stabilization operations
* Assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific affairs
* Special envoy for North Korea human rights issues
* Special representative of the president for nuclear non-proliferation
For each of these posts – and this is just a partial list of positions in the State Department – the Trump White House hasn’t even nominated anyone.
In other words, this isn’t a series of vacancies the president can credibly blame on “Democratic obstructionism.” No one has been confirmed to these positions because Trump hasn’t yet sent a nominee for these posts to the Senate for consideration.
What happens when an administration, facing a burgeoning crisis, has an all-hands-on-deck moment and the president finds himself short on hands?