Every four years, National Journal devotes an issue to profiles of top officials in the executive branch. This year’s edition features 250 profiles on the pages that follow. As you’ll see, we’ve highlighted officials who work in the White House, Cabinet departments, and 29 independent agencies. Some of their names you’ll recognize—the Valerie Jarretts, Arne Duncans, and John Kerrys. Others are less familiar—the Ed Paganos, Martha Covens, and Elizabeth Kings. We’re continuing a tradition we started in 1981, when we began writing about key administration officials five or six months into a president’s term.
Selecting the 250 was part science and part art. For the Cabinet departments and federal agencies, we began with a list of positions that require Senate confirmation. We subtracted ambassadors, who don’t play much of a Washington role, and some officials whose duties are primarily financial or administrative. Then we added certain positions, such as a Cabinet department chief of staff, that are often crucial to a department’s success. The selection of White House aides was more subjective: We relied on the expertise of our reporters and editors to identify important people working in the West and East wings. We make no claim that these are the top 250 officials in the Obama administration. But they are certainly 250 top administration officials. If you see the word “designate” next to a name, it’s because the subject of the profile had not been confirmed by press time.
As in 2001, 2005, and 2009, we’ve also collected demographic information on the profilees. (One note on biographical data: Ages in the profiles were as of June 22, 2013.) For our cover story, we asked our veteran White House reporter, George E. Condon Jr., to examine the impact of the long vetting and confirmation process on the president’s ability to staff up his administration. We also asked our Political Insiders to weigh in on whether the confirmation process is deterring good people from entering government and on the quality of Obama’s second-term White House team.
Virtually everyone on the National Journal staff had a hand in putting this issue together. Many thanks to all of them. You can order additional copies of Decision Makers by calling 1-800-207-8001. You can also find all of the magazine content, plus some online-only content, at www.nationaljournal.com/decision-makers.