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Administration staffing pace: a slow walk

When the Ronald Reagan's aides vowed to "hit the ground running," they must have been thinking about something other than staffing. Because 3 1/2 months later, most of the Reagan "runners" haven't even made it to the starting blocks.

As of this writing, President Reagan has no more than 80 of his top 400 officials confirmed by the Senate.

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At the Department of Energy only the secretary has been confirmed, while at the Department of Justice five of nine assistant secretary posts are still unfilled (not to mention 90 US attorney and US marshall jobs). At the Environmental Protection Agency, the new administrator is still awaiting confirmation.

"I'm concerned that the appointments have not been as fast as they thought [ they would be]," says Phil Truluck, executive vice-president of the conservative Heritage Foundation, which is otherwise pleased with the new administration.

"It has slowed down policy development," Mr. Truluck points out. His think tank has been filling in the gaps by providing "task forces" to work with the agencies in areas including energy and environment.

The administration has put the blame for the slow staffing on the obstacle course of clearances required for each nominee.

"It takes the candidates two to three weeks to get together the paper work," says Jay Moorehead, executive assistant in the White House personnel office. He says that the 1978 conflict of interest law makes the process more complex than for any past president.

The President has already settled on his coice for 80 percent of the top 400 posts, explains Mr. Moorehead. (In all, Reagan has to make 1,902 appointments requiring Senate confirmation.)

Adds Moorehead: "Penn James [assistant to the President for personnel] doesn't feel he's in a footrace with any other previous administration. He's not concerned about that. What he is concerned about is getting quality people."

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Another apparent reason for the slow pace of staffing have is controversy over the ideological purity of appointees.

Conservatives have complained about too many "retreads" from past administrations. Sen. Jesse Helms (R) of North Carolina, slowed down confirmation of several state department appointees partly on these grounds.

In other cases, the administration ran through a long list of possible choices before one was found who would conform to the antiregulation feeling in the White House.

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