The newest version of the “United States Government Policy and Supporting Positions” document – known colloquially as the Plum Book – shows that at least six major Federal IT positions could see changes during the transition to the Biden Administration in the coming months.
The Plum Book, released in December by the Government Publishing Office and based on information from the Office of Personnel Management, lists over 9,000 senior positions in Federal government and the types of appointments that can be made. While career officials are protected from political changes, presidential appointees are likely to change from administration to administration, and noncareer officials may be changed at will.
In the Federal CIO community, five key positions are presidentially appointed, and will most likely see new nominees within the first year of the Biden Administration – the Federal CIO, the newly-created role of National Cybersecurity Director, and the CIO jobs at the Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Department of Homeland Security. All but the DHS CIO must go through Senate confirmation as well, giving Congress a chance to vet the nominees but also placing a potential roadblock in the way of a quick transition in the role.
Positions with noncareer officials – also called political appointees – are also likely to see some turnover with the new administration. The CIOs at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of State, and the Department of Transportation are currently noncareer officials, opening the door for new officials in those roles. Several CIO roles – including the Navy, the Office of Personnel Management, and NASA – could be filled by either career or noncareer officials, but all currently have career officials in place.
Most Federal IT positions are not political appointments, with the number falling from nine in 2017 to six in 2021. In the 2017 presidential transition, the Trump Administration took some time to fill politically appointed CIO spots, with all incumbents leaving in April before any replacements were named. The recent introduction of the Schedule F executive order could expand the positions that lose career protections, but Biden could reverse that executive order, and there is pressure from some Democrats for him to do so.
Finally, career officials with at least three years under their belt are safe from being released or moved in the first 180 days of the new administration, but transitions can still bring some disruption. In fall 2017, four CIOs left their positions in one week, and the career official CIOs at the Department of Agriculture and the Department of the Treasury were reassigned to other roles by their new secretaries. Both left for new employers within a year.