White House Policy Wonks: The Overlooked Keys to an Administration’s Success

December 2020
Topics: Policy, Federal Transition, Government Agency Operations
Duane M. Blackburn, The MITRE Corporation
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An administration needs to wisely select individuals for positions in the Executive Office of the President (EOP), based on particular qualities and attributes. These are not ideal roles for political campaign operatives. Nor are they jobs for those with an “outsider” mentality. Rather, what’s needed are people who understand how to make government work to smooth the way for an administration’s agenda.

Policy issues that EOP entities coordinate are not only the administration’s priorities (by selection or necessity), they’re also usually quite complex. The EOP primarily focuses on government-wide policies that impact multiple federal agencies, each of which is angling for a resolution in its own best interests. Furthermore, these policies are influenced by multiple, often contradictory, considerations, such as science and technology, budget, operational requirements, privacy, and civil liberties and, of course…politics.

This paper outlines the key qualities that staffers need in order to succeed in an EOP policy role.


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