February 24, 2017

The Trump Administration’s Not-So-Benign Neglect

By Phillip Carter

This week, President Trump delighted his base with a pledge to treat deportations like a “military operation.” There were also reports that his administration is urging government officials to cherry-pick intelligence to support their desired policy outcomes and that his White House chief of staff made inappropriate contact with the FBI regarding Trump’s Russia ties. And that’s just the news from the national security sphere.

The rage felt by the president’s critics is real, and understandable, but it also plays into Trump’s broader agenda. His chief strategist Steve Bannon outlined that strategy this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference, describing it as nothing less than the “deconstruction of the administrative state.” Bannon’s comments this week suggest a darker, more nefarious purpose to the nascent Trump administration’s dysfunction. It may be the case that the Trump team is deliberately failing to staff, manage, and provide resources for federal agencies so as to sabotage and slowly dismantle them. To make matters worse, the Trump team might be leveraging the controversies regarding its disastrous national security moves to obscure and conceal that slow and steady demolition of the bureaucracy.

After the election, the administration was slow to deploy its transition teams, pick top officials, develop future budgets, and generally take the reins of government. By almost any measure, the Trump White House lagged behind prior transitions in these efforts—it was the dog that caught the car and didn’t know what to do next. To this day, the Trump administration lags in terms of picking its political appointees, let alone articulating a comprehensive policy agenda that goes much beyond “make America great again.” At the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, the two largest federal agencies by budget and headcount, the Trump imprint on policy remains amazingly light. One can glean more about acquisition, health care, or war-making from presidential tweets than from the White House’s website.

Read the full article at Slate.

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