Controlling Agency Choke Points: Presidents and Turnover in the Senior Executive Service

46 Pages Posted: 30 Nov 2017 Last revised: 1 Feb 2018

See all articles by Kathleen Doherty

Kathleen Doherty

University of Southern California

David E. Lewis

Vanderbilt University - Department of Political Science; Vanderbilt University - Law School

Scott Limbocker

Vanderbilt University

Date Written: November 28, 2017

Abstract

If presidents wish to see their policy priorities implemented, they need control over career executives occupying key decision-making positions. This paper examines the extent to which new presidential administrations marginalize high level career executives and whether political conflict with a new administration drives executives from their positions. Once in office, presidents are more likely to target individuals with whom they conflict and those in important policymaking positions. Turnover is also affected by the choices of career executives. Some anticipate conflict and strategically exit before a new president takes office. To assess our theory, we use unique new data that combines individual survey responses with personnel records to analyze the probability that an agency executive departs her position from March 2015 to July 2017. Given our findings that turnover is driven both by presidential marginalization and strategic exit by bureaucrats, we conclude with implications for presidential efforts to control the bureaucracy.

Keywords: president, political control, civil service, turnover

JEL Classification: H11

Suggested Citation

Doherty, Kathleen and Lewis, David E. and Limbocker, Scott, Controlling Agency Choke Points: Presidents and Turnover in the Senior Executive Service (November 28, 2017). Vanderbilt Law Research Paper No. 17-64, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3078801 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3078801

Kathleen Doherty

University of Southern California ( email )

2250 Alcazar Street
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States

David E. Lewis (Contact Author)

Vanderbilt University - Department of Political Science ( email )

VU Station B #351817
Nashville, TN 37235-1817
United States
615-322-6222 (Phone)

Vanderbilt University - Law School

131 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203-1181
United States

Scott Limbocker

Vanderbilt University ( email )

2301 Vanderbilt Place
Nashville, TN 37240
United States

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