July 16th, 2009
07:16 PM ET

Clinton again rips into vetting process

[cnn-photo-caption image="http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/07/15/clinton.speech/art.clintonspeech.gi.jpg" caption="Sec. Clinton believes 'frustrating' and lengthy vetting is hurting diplomatic relations."]

Jill Dougherty
CNN Foreign Affairs Correspondent

Behind the scenes they’re tearing out their hair.

Nominees for top positions in the Obama administration say they are put on seemingly endless hold for months during the “vetting” process, forced to provide minute details of their financial, personal and professional lives going back years. Many have to hire lawyers and accountants – paid for with their own money – to compile the information. Some nominees have simply given up in frustration.

Now, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says it’s affecting U.S. diplomatic relations.

“It’s hard to explain in my position to our foreign counterparts that we don’t have positions filled that would be the natural interlocutors or their counterparts in other countries.”

It’s the third time this week the Secretary has lambasted the process. Monday, she called it “frustrating beyond words,” telling staff at the U.S. Agency for International Development who still don’t have a new administrator, the process is a “nightmare.”

Wednesday, in a major foreign policy speech at the Council on Foreign Relations, Clinton was at it again: “I mean, we are trying to get our political leaders in place to work with our very dedicated Foreign Service and Civil Service employees, but we’re still not there yet. And I had no idea when I was in the Senate asking a million questions of every nominee – (laughter) – how really shortsighted that was.” (Laughter.)

Thursday, at a press availability, the Secretary told this reporter “Most (foreign) governments, after they are elected, are up and going in a relatively short period of time. We are now six months into our new administration and it's not only here but across the government where they don't have critical positions filled. I think it's pretty obvious that the process has gotten much more complicated, cumbersome and lengthy and that is something that I hear from everyone. And it is a matter that we're going to have to address.”

Clinton added that it’s not just the Obama administration and it’s not happening just at the State Department or USAID. The situation has been getting worse with every administration. But some political observers say President Obama’s new ethics rules make it even more challenging to get through the process.

In spite of the frustration, at the USAID town hall Clinton managed to find some ironic humor in the predicament. “… here’s one of the questions you get asked: first of all, you have to remember everywhere you’ve lived since you were 18. And, beyond a certain age you can’t even remember when you were 18!”

soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. RLWellman

    The "vetting process" hasn't worked good enough. Look at how many crooks made it through.

    The amount of money spent by the Government in the first 6-months is the largest amount ever spent. I would hate to see how much more money would have been blown if the Government was running at full capacity.

    I don't think there are a lot of people standing around looking at snapping up these Government jobs. I don't believe the talented people are that stupid to take these jobs!

    July 17, 2009 at 9:03 am |
  2. Sabrina In Las Vegas

    If you want to hold an office at any time in your life, get your ducks in a row now for the vetting process.

    If the administration needs these things, they need to count it as part of the background check and pay it...it is a write-off for them.

    We can't have red tape getting in the way of getting work done.

    July 16, 2009 at 11:53 pm |
  3. Lori


    July 16, 2009 at 10:47 pm |
  4. Jacqueline G. Logan

    Look, if the Government didn’t process in this manner then we would all complain about how it wasn’t efficient enough. Talented individuals understand the process and are patient; nothing that is done right is rushed along without process. President Obama has only been in office for 7 months now and has a large undertaking, and I appreciate his high level of thinking and hard work for the people, for America.

    July 16, 2009 at 9:17 pm |
  5. Sam

    Go Hillary Clinton 2012!!

    July 16, 2009 at 8:53 pm |
  6. Mike, Syracuse, NY

    Given the string of tax cheats and subjects of investigations who were 'successfully' vetted, maybe random selection from the population would be better.

    July 16, 2009 at 8:44 pm |
  7. Annie Kate

    With a process this cumbersome there are bound to be some good candidates that get tired of waiting and having their life on hold and just give up and go on with their lives and work elsewhere. Talented people are always in demand and the government will have to move faster to be able to snag any of them. The government streamlined the tax return to require less paperwork – why not streamline this process? Its ridiculous that these jobs are not filled so our government can work at full capacity; it looks bad to other countries as well; and the worst fact is that we will use the best and the brightest if this vetting process continues to be as slow as it is now.

    July 16, 2009 at 8:13 pm |
  8. JC- Los Angeles

    Hillary Clinton needs to put in her four years, pull a Colin Powell by recusing herself from a second term and then run for President under the mantra of someone here to fix eight years of failed policies.

    July 16, 2009 at 7:23 pm |
  9. Lampe

    To Bad Obama didn't vet his friends a little better, he might have known that most of them were TAX CHEATS!

    July 16, 2009 at 7:23 pm |