All eyes are on President Donald Trump’s plan to sign a new tax law and for Congress to pass a 2018 budget that will keep the federal government open for business ahead of the Christmas holiday.
But some federal agencies have continued to carry on over that past year as if President Barack Obama were still in office and his agenda was front and center, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
The main headline on the NOAA’s homepage on Tuesday read: “Globe had 3rd warmest year to date and 5th warmest November on record.”
As Bloomberg reported:
In report after report following Donald Trump’s election, career staffers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration kept saying the same thing: climate change is real, serious and man-made.
That’s surprising because Trump has called global warming a hoax. His political appointees at the Commerce Department, which oversees NOAA, have complained to its staff, but stopped short of demanding changes or altering the findings. So the reports, blog posts and public updates kept flowing. The bureaucrats won.
“Everything coming out of NOAA does not reflect this administration,” David Schnare, a retired lawyer for an industry-backed think tank who served on Trump’s transition team, said in the Bloomberg report. “It reflects the last one.”
Bloomberg reported NOAA is not the exception when it comes to the estimated two million career federal workers who “have found ways to obstruct, slow down or simply ignore their new leader, the president.”
Bloomberg cites the staff at the Securities and Exchange Commission, which issued a report contradicting the Trump White House’s position on the negative effects of banking regulations.
Over at the State Department, the embassy staff preserved Obama-era programs to help the economies of developing nations, which Bloomberg points out is at odds with Trump’s “America First” campaign pledge.
Bloomberg’s assessment concludes that the most glaring contrast between Trump and Obama and the continuation of the latter’s agenda across federal agencies is climate change.
Here are some more examples:
- A Department of Energy report commissioned to show the problems with wind and solar power and the U.S. power grid came to an opposite conclusion when first unveiled (it was later revised to reflect Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s recommendations).
- Pentagon staffers stalled Trump’s reversal of an Obama policy on climate change and national security by initiating a review of the topic that is still underway nine months later.
- Federal procurement officials have kept promoting zero-emission vehicles but by focusing on economic gains rather than environmental benefits.
Part of the problem is filling key posts at federal agencies, Bloomberg reports:
Two factors may be making it harder for this White House to impose order: a desire to reorient major agencies from their traditional missions and the slow pace at which it has filled key posts. Less than two-thirds as many appointments have been submitted and won Senate confirmation as were in place at this time during the Obama administration.
But it will take more than that to make the federal government reflect the agenda of the current White House occupant.
“It’s an enormous challenge for a new president and administration to exert influence over the bureaucracy,” David Lewis, chairman of the political science department at Vanderbilt University, said in the Bloomberg report.
“They know a lot more than the political appointees who come into the agencies,” Lewis said. “That gives them an advantage.
Trump has successfully used executive authority to reverse some of the environmental policies initiated by Obama, including “rolling back limits on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants,” pulling out of the 2015 Paris climate accord, and opening up more public land to oil and coal production.
Still, the bureaucracy is dug in.
“The bureaucracy is generally resistant, no matter what the hell you’re trying to do,” Leon Panetta, who guided presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama through transitions, said in an interview. He added that Trump’s ambitious goal to undo what Obama has done means it “is gonna take a hell of a lot longer.”
Bureaucrats also continue programs that were put in place before Trump was elected by “calling them something new or describing them in different ways.”
The General Services Administration (GSA), for example, which manages the federal government’s fleet of more than 640,000 cars, trucks, and other modes of transportation has added more than 1,000 electric vehicles to the fleet.