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Our View: Leadership positions in federal government must be filled

Everyone should be able to agree that government should be as efficient as possible with our tax dollars. We want the most bang for the buck that we can get.

But as things stand now, and as they have stood for years, there’s a major obstacle to efficiency at the federal level: a lack of leadership.

Appointed positions that carry great authority have been left vacant across a wide swath of U.S. government agencies. Without leadership in place to define goals and keep employees focused, we cannot expect any organization to be very efficient.

The most recent example of the problem came this Friday, when Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced that Bette Brand would be serving as the new deputy undersecretary for Rural Development programs.

Brand will be a deputy undersecretary for a division that has no undersecretary — Perdue hired the second-in-command for Rural Development without having a first-in-command.

In fact, according to Ryan McCrimmon’s reporting for Politico, the USDA “has no undersecretaries for food safety; research, education and economics; and food, nutrition and consumer services. Each area is led by a deputy undersecretary.”

By leaving top positions vacant, leaders like Perdue and President Donald Trump are effectively circumventing the U.S. Senate, which is supposed to confirm appointments to big jobs, according to the Rural News Blog.

This isn’t an acceptable practice — it’s a loophole that allows the executive branch to eliminate a check on its power from the legislative branch.

Lovers of our Constitution will tell you that checks and balances are a big deal — they are central to protecting the American ideal of freedom. Checks and balances ensure no one branch of government can become so powerful as to be dangerous to our collective continued freedom.

Perhaps we need a new rule that if a president or secretary leaves a senior position un-appointed for a certain amount of time, the Senate has the option to choose the appointee itself.

But more concerning is this trend of leaving leadership positions empty — and its sister trend of pushing people out of their leadership positions unless they serve as rubber stamps. These practices have led to large chunks of our government floating, rudderless, for months, perhaps even years.

Some departments and agencies that do get a leader must settle for one who is snuck in and given only a half-hearted endorsement.

That’s a recipe for turning potentially productive, efficient government agencies into wasteful, ineffective burdens on taxpayers.

Editorials represent the opinion of the newspaper’s editorial board. The board comprises publisher Michael Caldwell and Bluegrass Newsmedia editors Whitney Leggett and Ben Kleppinger. To inquire about a meeting with the board, contact Caldwell at 759-0095.