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Less paperwork would yield better presidential appointees

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The presidential appointment process would be less burdensome and attract more qualified candidates if the executive branch and Senate streamlined paperwork and removed redundant questions, says a report published by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

The Nov. 8 report (.pdf), says developing a common set of core questions would be the "single most important step the executive branch and Senate could take to expedite and streamline the nominations."

The report says, across all of the required paperwork, 18 topics cover an average of 60 percent of topics addressed by the major executive and Senate forms.

However, "the exact questions differ across forms, often requiring candidates to tailor their answers to account for small differences in questions intended to elicit more-or-less the same information."

The Presidential Appointment Efficiency and Streamlining Act of 2011 eliminated the need for Senate confirmation of 169 nominees so the Senate could focus resources on higher-profile candidates and develop a quicker system for review.

The Working Group on Streamlining Paperwork for Executive Nominations suggests the executive branch and Senate develop a common form for nominees to complete. They should also eliminate unused forms such as the White House Personal Data Statement, which the report says not only duplicates many questions but also is not used by the Obama Administration to review candidates.

Other burdens that can be removed include requirements like candidates having to provide transcripts for past speeches and interviews that may or may not be relevant to the position they are nominated to fill. Easing such burdens opens the door for more prolific candidates, says the report.

The 2011 Act called for the creation of an electronic system for collecting and distributing background information for nominees. Congress has already established a set of requirements for the system, but the Working Group recommends enhanced privacy and security for the system.

For more:
- download the report (.pdf)

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