Record Breaking Departures from the White House

Haley Mickey, News Editor

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Every presidential administration experiences their share of staff turnover at the start of a new term.  “Staff turnover” refers to the firings, resignations, departures, and promotions that open up a position in the White House staff.  While some turnover has been found to be beneficial to the executive branch, the Trump administration’s staff turnover rate has been unusually higher than that of previous administrations, which could end up posing a problem for the White House.

For an example of one of these White House departures, look to Michael Flynn.  Michael Flynn resigned from his position as National Security Advisor in February 2017.  Flynn revealed that he had given “incomplete information” about his conversation about the United States’ sanctions against Russia with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States.  When it was disclosed that Flynn had misled Vice President Mike Pence and other officials about the nature of his conversations with Kislyak, Flynn resigned after only less than one month in his position.  Several other important members of the Trump staff have either left or been fired as well, including Sean Spicer as Press Secretary, Reince Priebus as White House Chief of Staff, James Comey as FBI Director, and many others.  Most Recently, Hope Hicks announced her resignation on February 28th, and Rob Porter resigned as the White House staff secretary on February 7th after facing accusations of physical and emotional abuse from two of his ex-wives.

Kathryn Dunn Tenpas of the Brookings Institute wrote a paper in which she proposes her argument for why the Trump White House’s rate is so high when compared to previous presidents.  Dunn Tenpas clearly demonstrates how this administration’s staff turnover is record-setting. In its first year, it has been found to have the highest turnover rate among the past five presidents in U.S. history, and has been found to be more than three times that of the Obama administration and twice that of Reagan.  

Kathryn Dunn Tenpas has her theories as to why the turnover rate is so high.  One of these theories focuses on Trump’s reliance on loyalty rather than qualification or previous experience.  Dunn Tenpas explains, “Since the president relied on many of his connections in the private sector and was reluctant to hire those who opposed him during the campaign, the absence of prior White House experience among the ranks of the senior staff was glaring. In addition, the insurgent-like features of the Trump campaign and the relatively small campaign staff limited the pool of experienced applicants.”  She also notes that while this may have created job opportunities for new people in the White House, their inexperience may have hindered the White House and could explain many of the departures.

Dunn Tenpas also cites the overall chaos that surrounded the Trump administration’s first year may have had a hand in the high turnover rate.  Trump is no stranger to controversy, and his responses to major events from this past year continue to be a topic of debate all across the world.  However, Dunn Tenpas predicts, considering Trump’s low approval ratings, he and his team may choose to hire officials with more expertise, which could restore the turnover rate to expected levels.


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Record Breaking Departures from the White House