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In the course of conducting his/her role as the head of state, the President of the United States of America requires advice and support of key government officials to ensure that he/she comes up with proper decisions and strategies that will ensure the sustainability and development of the nation. The White House Chief of Staff is an example of a government official who can play this role. Other than being the highest-ranking employee within the White House office and overseeing the Executive Office of the President, the holder of this office also plays a critical role in preparing and supporting various functions and agendas of the president (Patterson 32). Since its inception in 1939 during the reign of President Roosevelt, this office has grown in terms of responsibility and the power that its holder possesses. This paper will critically analyse the role of the Chief of Staff, the development of this office and instances in which it has been abused.
The Role of the White House Chief of Staff
The role of the White House Chief of Staff varies from one government to the next. This is because the role and power possessed by this office is usually considered as a de facto in nature since it is not directly stipulated in the laws of the United States of America. The president can therefore decide whether or not to fill this position (Kernell 109). However, every government that has been in power since the 1970s in the United States of America has had a White House Chief of Staff.
The Chief of Staff is the individual who has the mandate to select the staff that will hold various positions within the White House in the United States. In the selection process, the Chief of Staff usually ensures that only qualified personnel take up the posts that are available to ensure that the operations of the White House are effective and efficient. To achieve this goal, it is the duty of the holder of this office to structure the White House staff system to ensure that every need of the president within the White House is met. Therefore, the Chief of Staff supervises the operations of all personnel within the White House to ensure that all the duties are attended to as per the expectations of the president.
The Chief of Staff is also a key advisor to the president. Furthermore, it is him/her who regulates the flow of people into the Oval Office, a role that has made the holder of this office to be referred to as the ‘Gatekeeper’. This is an essential role as it enables the Chief of Staff to manage the flow of information within the White House and to protect the interests of the president at all times. Given the power that this office commands, it is believed that a Chief of Staff who has a lot of influence over the president can act as a def facto Prime Minister.
Considering the fact that the holder of this office is responsible for holding meetings and negotiations with the Congress and other members of the executive to present the interests of the president and to support his/her agenda, the Chief of Staff therefore takes over the government operations of the president (Patterson 41). From a critical point of view, this role of the Chief of Staff enables the president to put a lot of focus on his political roles as well as attending to policy issues.
However, the power that is vested in this office is not always put into good use. Several instances of abuse of power within this office have been reported over time. The Watergate scandal, for instance, is a prime example of an incident where the Chief of Staff during President Nixon’s government, H.R. Haldeman, was found guilty on the counts of conspiracy and obstructing justice while he was protecting the interest of the president during a break-in that occurred at the Democratic National Committee headquarters. To protect the reputation of the president and to ensure that he was re-elected in the forthcoming elections, Haldeman tried to cover the involvement of the government in this scandal.
However, the presence of overwhelming evidence including a recording of the president led to the conviction of many government officials and the resignation of the president. This incident therefore shows the extent at which the Chief of Staff can go to protect the interests of the president. In a relatively different incident, John Sununu resigned from his post as the Chief of Staff during the government of George W. Bush in 1991 after he was found guilty of abuse of office and public funds. Sununu went for expensive personal trips at the expense of the nation spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in the process.
The Chief of Staff plays a significant role in facilitating the operations of the president within the White House. It is perhaps due to this fact that the presidents of the modern era have all appointed an individual to hold this position. However, given the fact that the individual who holds this position possesses a lot of power and influence, it is essential to put measures into place to regulate and monitor the operations of the holder of this office to ensure that they are legal and consistent with the law. This will greatly enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of the government operations hence meeting the national goals and objectives.
Kernell, Samuel. Chief of Staff: Twenty-five Years of Managing the Presidency: Contributions. California: University of California Press, 1986. Print.
Patterson, Bridley. To Serve the President: Continuity and Innovation in the White House Staff. New York: Brookings Institution, 2009. Print.