Partnership for Public Service lauds modernization of the Plum Book included in the 2023 NDAA
December 8, 2022
WASHINGTON – The nonpartisan, nonprofit Partnership for Public Service today applauded changes made to the Plum Book that were included in the House’s passage of the National Defense Authorization Act. The Plum Book contains information on more than 4,000 political appointees – about 1,200 of whom are subject to Senate confirmation – along with thousands of other jobs filled by senior career officials in the federal civil service.
“In an age when we have so much access to information, the lack of timely and comprehensive information about the thousands of political appointees and other senior officials serving in the federal government is astounding,” said Troy Cribb, director of policy at the Partnership for Public Service.
“The Plum Book is currently published only once every four years, is quickly outdated and is always full of errors and omissions. The modernized, online, searchable and yearly updated Plum Book that Congress is now requiring as part of the defense bill represents an important step for improving transparency and accountability in our government.”
The reforms included in the defense bill were originally introduced as the Periodically Listing Updates to Management (PLUM) Act, bipartisan legislation supported by the Partnership for Public Service that was championed by House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), Reps. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and John Sarbanes (D-Md.) as well as Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.).
The Plum Book in its current form has remained virtually the same since it was created in 1952 and is in desperate need of modernization. For example, the most recent edition, published in 2020, contained omissions and errors that compromise its reliability, as have other past editions of the directory.
Updating the Plum Book is one of many reforms necessary to fix the broken federal appointments system, which is largely hampered by the many positions requiring Senate confirmation. A 2021 report by the Partnership for Public Service found that the number of Senate-confirmed positions grew from 779 to 1,237 (59% increase) between 1960 and 2016, and that the average Senate confirmation process took about twice as long as it did during the Trump (117 days) and the Obama administration (112 days) than it did during the Reagan administration (56 days).
The Partnership for Public Service, through its Political Appointee Tracker with The Washington Post, has provided information on the status of more than 800 key political positions requiring Senate confirmation. The tracker has made clear the need for more complete and accurate real-time data about political appointments, which currently consist of more than 4,000 presidential political appointees, including more than 1,200 requiring Senate confirmation.
During the past 21 years, the nonpartisan, nonprofit Partnership for Public Service has been dedicated to building a better government and a stronger democracy. We work across administrations to help transform the way government works by providing agencies with the data insights they need to succeed, developing effective leaders, inspiring the next generation to public service, facilitating smooth presidential transitions and recognizing exceptional federal employees. Visit ourpublicservice.org, follow us @PublicService and subscribe today to get the latest federal news, information on upcoming Partnership programs and events, and more.