If confirmed as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services after his Senate confirmation hearing on Wednesday, Alex Azar will be the newest member of Donald Trump’s Cabinet, which has been less stable than the first-year Cabinets of any president since 1977.
Back in the simpler times of August, I measured the retention rate of Trump’s top advisers — anyone with the title of “assistant to the president” — and found that even though Trump’s advisers were departing unusually quickly, it was too soon to say whether it was out of line with historical trends. But after Trump’s original secretary of health and human services resigned — the third departure from his Cabinet since he was sworn in in January — I wondered about that group specifically. Are the moves among Trump’s top advisers and federal department heads unusual? My analysis of high-level replacements since Jimmy Carter’s first year in the White House found that Trump is the only recent president to have any replacements in his first year.
To measure Cabinet turnover, let’s first be clear on who we’re talking about. A president’s Cabinet is made up of the vice president, the secretaries of the congressionally approved Cabinet departments — for example, the secretary of defense, who heads the Department of Defense — and any other top officials the president declares to be “Cabinet-ranked.” It’s at the president’s discretion who is counted in this “Cabinet-ranked” group, although some roles are routinely included (for example, the White House chief-of-staff position has been a part of the Cabinets of Trump and former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush).
In February, Trump announced 24 total positions for his Cabinet: In addition to the vice president and the secretaries of the 15 current U.S. Cabinet departments, he selected eight other officials, including the director of the CIA and the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. For my turnover analysis, I compared changes in Trump’s Cabinet to changes in the same positions for presidents going back to Carter.For example, Obama didn’t include the CIA director or the director of national intelligence — both a part of Trump’s Cabinet — while Obama did include the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, who is not in Trump’s Cabinet.
‘>11 But there is no formal, reliable list