Phil’s Terrible, Horrible, Really No Good Week


If you’re running low on outrage and haven’t enjoyed any angertainment say, since about two hours ago, click on this link. It’s an excruciating seven minutes of FAA admin nominee Phil Washington being grilled by the Senate Commerce Committee as part of his confirmation process. It’s also partisan sniping at its typical worst.

The senator doing the questioning is North Carolina freshman Ted Budd. Washington goes 0 for 7 on the questions, but the questions themselves have zip to do with being FAA administrator. They’re just the typical ambush-style flyspeck queries meant to tank the opposite party’s aspirations. The viewing public and most reporters don’t realize this. “Hey, this guy knows nothing about aviation,” is the intent and it was achieved.

Having said as much, the administration deserved to lose the round for not having prepped Washington better. Anyone with a scintilla of political savvy should have known what was coming and prepared the nominee. It seems obvious to me that this wasn’t done. By all appearances, Washington’s nomination was a patronage pick. He was on President Biden’s transportation transition team.  

Our poll this week suggests that 66 percent of readers think the FAA administrator should be a pilot. I’m not among them. I picked nice to have because steely eyed stick and rudder skill is hardly a high priority in leading an agency as unwieldy as the FAA. It’s nice to have it to sniff out when the mid-level executives and staff are trying to snow you, which they will do from time to time. (Did I mention I did a cartoon on this?)

Exhibit A for me was the recently departed Steve Dickson. On paper, he was impressive. Air Force Academy grad, years of airline experience, including time in the C-suite. However well he did or didn’t perform, call me unimpressed. He resigned halfway through his term and my view is that this is service to the country. Don’t take the gig if you’re not willing to stay in it. On paper, Washington is less impressive. I give him props for navigating the Army bureaucracy to rise to the highest enlisted rank, but the rest of his experience is airport and transportation related. A plus, maybe, but also maybe not enough.

Winding the tape back 40 years, 12 FAA administrators have been pilots, seven have not been. Judging their efficacy is eye of the beholder, but some have had disasters happen on their watches. Take Michael Huerta—not a pilot—whose term coincided with Boeing’s disastrous 737 MAX certification. He was gone from the agency when the cover was whisked off the rot and incompetence and it fell to Dickson to suffer through the aftermath. He did, but not in a way that filled me with bubbling confidence.

Huerta, who came through the professional executive pipe stream, was so boring and politic that Russ Niles and I used to get into thumb wrestling matches about whose turn it was to interview him at Time with the Administrator “opportunities” at Oshkosh. Yet people who dealt with Huerta directly in small groups said he was an effective, informed leader.

From the dreamy days before social media turned us all into snarling Dunning-Kruger poster children, there were actually people from general aviation in the FAA’s top chair. One was J. Lynn Helms, the other Donald Engen. Both them ran Piper in the days when it was still a force in GA and both were naval aviators. Helms was a Marine; Engen rose to command an aircraft carrier. Neither had airline experience. Helms had an eventful term as administrator, overseeing what became the National Airspace System and bringing TCAS through deployment. He resigned under a cloud in 1983 for illegal business activities.

Looking back over those appointments, many were drawn from the ranks of military or business communities, thus we get Phil Washington. But Helms and Engen had far broader aviation experience, especially Engen whose command responsibility was both impressive and aviation oriented. Simpler times then. I bet he didn’t suffer any gotcha questions during his confirmation hearing. Senate Republicans want Washington’s nomination withdrawn, which it probably will be if the Democrats can’t whip the votes.

This could be fortuitous because already in the seat is Billy Nolen, the acting administrator. When he first surfaced, I thought he had come up through the ranks of the FAA’s executive corps but he is in fact an outsider with stints as an airline pilot and manager with a specific specialty that’s much needed at the moment: safety systems oversight. Many in the industry are a little queasy about the number of incidents and near accidents we’re having. Hardly a week goes by when we don’t see another controller operational error or pilot deviation. I don’t know what this means, frankly.

My guess is that it’s pandemic related. The shutdown was a wrenching, cataclysmic event that brought the airline industry to a near standstill. Then, obsessed with recovering lost revenue, airline managers began aggressively selling seats their companies didn’t quite have the aircraft, pilots and staff to fly. This may be smoothing out now, but I suspect we’re not done seeing troubling incidents. If there are deeper problems, Nolen seems to have the skills to find out what they are.

He ought to know the airline biz and has a systems safety background. I’m sure he can read and understand the patterns in what data is available better than Phil Washington could and better yet, he’s been on the job for almost a year. He probably has the votes for confirmation.

So get on with it. Give Nolen the job.  

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  1. This handing out important jobs to political “appointees” has gotten out-of-hand. We need people that at least have have shown some real world desire in the field that they would now control. With no personal desire for aviation nor any personal understanding, their default nature is both political and beholding.

    • Political appointees have been part of the US government since George Washington’s time. While early appointments may have been through merit and qualifications, political loyalty, rather than efficiency, has gradually become more important. I agree that this practice needs to change.

      • Agree. I’m afraid it will not change until competence and results are things voters get more serious about.

        In the meantime, we get more angertainment.

        I’m seriously just planning to vote against virtually all incumbents next cycle. Previous government service in a legislature is likely a disqualifying factor. If we can get just 5% of voters to hold politicians accountable for the results, it will seriously bend the curve by providing proper incentives to do better.

      • Raf S., I agree with you. But I sense a number of respondents here (who like me, hold the mighty “Paul B.” in special reverence) have reservations about much of what Paul wrote before his conclusion – or maybe it’s what he did not write.

        Paul and I am part of aviation in the USA. You are too. Not sure what inning it is, but this is our game! We are members of an elite group of people that combine sound judgement with training and acquired skills – most of the time. We are what makes the “System” safe. God forbid that ATC would ever make a mistake because then it would be “on us” to save the day.

        I think Billy Nolen would make a good administrator – and in disagreement with Paul – I say we definitely need one and such a person could make a difference. I’ll just go with some internal leadership for now. But the politicians are going to need more time to “arrive at the gate” with their decision. Meanwhile, what are we doing ourselves right now to deal with our flying problems? Paul’s posit that we are suffering pandemic aftermath is probably correct, but how does that help solve our problems? We are the pilots that are missing our taxi instructions or not maintaining our outside situational awareness and then causing these incursions. We hesitate to question our own judgement about enroute weather during a period of increasing extreme weather events (been to California lately?). Many of my friends snickered at the idea of us pilots relying upon NOTAMs – that’s what the Dispatcher is for, right? Are you willing to start with the idea, “These mistakes are my responsibility.”?

  2. The problem with political appointees extends far beyond the FAA Administrator, it’s just that we are most affected by that one. Raf is correct that the system has been around since the beginning, but like everything else in government, it has gotten too large and unwieldy. A new administration has literally hundreds of department positions to fill and precious little time to do so. Donald Trump’s approach to the problem was actually quite clever – he just made his selections “acting” administrators, thus avoiding the Congressional quagmire for getting his people approved. Plus, he could fire them at will with no backlash from the opposition. To me, the main problem, other than the current political cat-fighting, is that positions like the FAA Administrator required good knowledge of one of the most complex operations on earth – something that most Presidents lack. That, pus the fact that there is no “ideal” candidate, makes the selection very difficult. I agree with you, Paul, that Billy Nolen is probably the best person for the job at this time. His biggest problem is that he has supposedly been in charge during the recent spate of runway incursions, national system holds and the holiday horror shot last Christmas. Not exactly the resume highlights one would want.

    • “His biggest problem is that he has supposedly been in charge during the recent spate of runway incursions, national system holds and the holiday horror shot last Christmas.”

      To be fair, that might not mean a whole lot if the underlings act as though their “acting” administrator isn’t permanent so who cares what they say.

      • True. Any “boss” with the term acting in front of their title is regarded as a place holder until the real boss is selected. Within the FAA bureaucracy, it is hard enough to effect change by any boss since the rank and file “lifers” consider any administrator as temporary until the next election when another new guy will take his place.

    • Shockingly, just like the President, they have much less control over the happenings under their reign than many believe.

  3. Washington seemed like he was going to be a difficult one to get confirmed from the beginning. It seems at least plausible that he was used as a decoy to give the opposing party a win in blocking his confirmation to then nominate Nolen (who appears to be a candidate who can get confirmed).

  4. I can simplify ALL of this nonsensical superfluous diatribe. If YOU — any one of us here — owned a Company and needed a CEO to run, say, a plumbing operation, would you hire a person who didn’t know a nipple from a coupling from a drain valve? Be honest! Let’s say some PhD in Leadership showed up and had a half decent resume of running the Olympics — kinda like Michael Huerta — would THAT qualify him to run your plumbing operation? See the problem here. Usually, running ANY sort of operation requires — as a minimum — a modicum of knowledge of what the hell is going on FIRST. Only then does other people and management skills enter the decision making.

    Washington is NOT qualified … PERIOD !! Nolen at least knows where the hot air comes ouot of a jet engine. Hire him! I spoke directl to him at Airventure 2022 … he seemed prepared to answer relevant questions unlike Washington.

    • That’s all well and good, except 1) many company CEOs DON’T know anything about the industry that their company is in, so it’s not like it’s an uncommon practice (not that this is a good thing), and 2) the FAA is more like a plumbing + electrical + carpentry operation, so no one of them is any more suited than the other at running it (though any one of them would be more suited than, say, a gardener).

      • Exactly. I’d say the number of modern CEO’s not knowing their industry is a symptom of too much government, but that shouldn’t be an absolute disqualification.

        If you are going to use the idea that successful people can be successful though, you ought to be picking very successful people who were successful for very particular reasons. If this appointee had turned around another agency or organization with similar problems, it wouldn’t matter if he wasn’t from aviation, I’d be willing to take the chance.

  5. Hi all,
    Typing this at FL300 halfway across the USA
    Enroute to sfo 10:20 pm
    All good comments
    Keeping it civil
    Paul is right
    Let’s just get on with it
    Make Mr Billy Nolen the perm FAA

    I hope to see him again at eaa 2023.

    As the usaf taught me in 1980
    Or get out of the way

  6. If the FAA’s troubles run deep and in a bind,
    Nolen’s the guy who can unwind.
    With an airline background and safety finesse,
    He’ll find the problems and clean up the mess.
    Phil Washington may try, but Nolen’s the pro,
    He’ll decipher the data and make it all flow.
    He’s been on the job for almost a year,
    And with his skills, there’s no need to fear.
    Larry S. says, it’s a no-brainer, it’s easy to see
    Confirm Nolen and let it be.

      • I may be feeble, but my rhymes are strong
        As a chanted lyricist, I’ll speak out all day long
        My themes are political, my words are true
        I aim to promote the qualified few
        Age may have slowed me, but my mind is sharp
        I’ll challenge the status quo, tear it apart
        My rhymes may be old school, but my message is new
        Qualified leaders, it’s time for them to breakthrough

    • It’s later here so I got horizontal for a bit. A storm woke me up.
      Came back to see if there was any more. You didn’t disappoint.
      Saaaaayyyy … can a CFI cum poet become Administrator?
      Others here seem to think that you don’t have to know anything to do the job so … are you running for the position? One more jingle oughta get you the position …
      I heard an FAA employee play the bagpipes at the MCO FSDO last week; you’d be a great entertainer at the ‘Meet the Boss’ forums at Airventure. You could bring the bagpiper while you recite.

  7. One of the problems here is that we are applying checkers reasoning to a chess game. But in DC, they play five-dimensional chess and we’re at the Pawn-to-K4 step in the process. Washington was at best a patronage stalking-horse, and Nolen would likely do a pretty good job once he was no longer hobbled by the “acting” part and fully confirmed. But given the looming budget negotiations, everything is both up in the air and on the chopping block.

  8. I wouldn’t expect Mr. Washington to answer questions that might appear on the written in any detail. But, I would expect the nominee to answer the first question with his understanding of ADS-B from the standpoint of an administrator. This is a job interview for which he was not prepared. I spent most of my career in business and found that leadership is THE most important skill for a leader. Subject knowledge at an appropriate level is always number two. Mr. Washington did not present himself as one who could think on his feet by showing he had skills as a leader. He fell into a trap that he could have avoided had he been prepared.

  9. Washington typifies the nominee choices presented by the current administration, so it’s no surprise that his qualification level mirrors that of the rest. Billy Nolen has stated he thinks Washington is qualified to be Administrator. Even assuming alphabet agency heads and nominees issue statements conforming to the direction of the Executive branch, this could indicate Nolen does not want to remain in the Administrator position. Which would be too bad, he’s good at his job and seems to be the kind of administrator who could effectively address the upticking safety issues.

    • Nolan had to say he supported Washington whether he believes it or not. He would be out yesterday if he had not.

  10. Being a pilot for an FAA Administrator does not just mean “stick and rudder” skills. It means you have some knowledge of the system and the importance of GA also. You actually have somewhat of a love for Aviation…the middle word in FAA is aviation.

  11. Is or is not aviation complex?
    Does safety call for honesty and integrity at its core?
    Tell me, who grounded the B737max after 346 innocent souls were shredded in those two crashes?
    Reflect – Shredded my friend, like being thrown alive into a wood chipper run at full speed.
    Shredded – you remember the Continental Airline’s 737 El Paso contract mechanic who was sucked into the engine and shredded in El Paso when haste overrode safety?
    But who grounded the B737max?
    If I recall the Chinese did?
    The Europeans did?
    Time moved on…
    Was it the FAA commercial aircraft certification person?
    Was it the FAA Administrator?
    Was it the Department of Transportation Administrator?
    It took the actual President of the USA to have the guts to make the decision did it not?

    The FAA is an organization full of arrogant and more often ignorant individuals is it not?

    Was your message that you felt sadness that Washington was shown to be unsuitable to run a hyper complicated organization? Thank you folks for making that point obvious to our world.

    If you’d like to discuss further call or email me. 713-385-7825 or [email protected]

  12. Big Joe and his entire administration should be ashamed for putting this man through this. It points to their complete disregard for the responsibilities of the jobs to which they were elected and appointed, and to their priority of Politics over Service.
    Having grown up in the 60s, I’d really thought our worst side was behind us. With antics like this nomination, I can hardly wait for 2024!

  13. Perhaps, this nominee has demonstrated great management skills in prior positions? If so, they weren’t highlighted, nor heralded, during this hearing. What is readily apparent, ( even glaringly apparent ), is his “complete lack” of even a basic knowledge of aviation. What an embarrassment… And, it’s often said, that Trump’s appointees were unqualified. Well, …..

  14. Um, do you actually need the FAA? Accidents get investigated without it, and I am sure the post office could handle the admin of flying licenses…

  15. When the whole country knows who the Secretary of Transportation is, it’s no surprise the FAA nominee was found lacking. Is it partisan to note that the party currently running this administration of mediocrities and nobodies is focused on “messaging” and not performance?

    I agree the qualifications to run the FAA extend past being a pilot, but having experience on the other side, as a “customer”, seems a plus to me.

  16. The problem is that unlike business, the “employer”, i.e., the government, did not conduct an exhaustive search. It merely pulled a name from its “political payback” stack of resumes and threw Washington to the wolves. From the interview, it is painfully obvious that the nominee should not even be in charge of a major airport, let alone an entire agency supposedly devoted to the safe and effective management of aviation in this country.

    Truth is, gone are the days when an administration made even a half-hearted effort at trying to put forth a qualified nominee. The current Secretary of Transportation is proof of that. His entire knowledge of U.S. Transportation system comes from having ridden a bus while serving as mayor of South Bend, Ind. Not hardly a ringing endorsement to oversee one of the largest agencies in the U.S.

    I’m all for Nolen only because, as Phil Washington’s confirmation hearing suggests, we could all wind up with someone worse. The FAA, as a bureaucracy, is already “so far behind the airplane, it’s likely riding in the glider being towed behind it.” It’s time to place someone in charge who can manage and provide a course correction.

  17. Some real experience in aviation has to be a plus—and a necessity—for the FAA Administrator. “Real” experience doesn’t mean a short term stint ostensibly running an airport—which in reality will run itself for longer than Mr. Washington’s tenure at DEN (or DIA as it’s more locally known). Knowing something about the systems that the FAA is responsible for, even if not the minute details, seems to be pretty necessary. It’s pretty hard to judge the effectiveness of those systems and the people that run them if there’s no understanding of what they do or how they work.

    Perhaps relevant is an uncomfortable experience I had many years ago, after running afoul of the regs resulting in an accident. When offered the “opportunity” to meet with the investigating FAA Inspector and an FAA attorney, I found the Inspector and I both having to persuade the young attorney that what I had done was not worth a 2 year suspension, but that a much shorter and less onerous penalty was appropriate. His total knowledge of aviation was sitting behind an FAA legal desk in DC for a few months and that he’d soloed in a 152 just before joining the FAA legal staff right out of law school. In other words, his legal and aviation knowledge were both significantly lacking as was his real world experience, so that he was incapable of judging the seriousness of my offense.

    I have no knowledge of Mr. Nolen’s qualifications, other than he’s in the seat at the moment. Whoever occupies that seat on a more permanent basis, though, should have enough aviation knowledge and real world experience that he (or she) can effectively communicate with and understand the folks working within the FAA. Although I don’t like the “gotcha” method used in too many confirmation hearings these days, including this one, it certainly pointed out that Mr. Washington has neither.

  18. Paul, one of the highlights of my day is often the opportunity to read, and in some cases, listen to your work. I can think of no writer whom I enjoy more than you since the days of Gordon Baxter and Len Morgan at “Flying”. In the instant case, your conclusion, whether adopted or not, is right on. Thank you for your perceptions and your skill in sharing them.

  19. Yes, North Carolina freshman Ted Budd questions had nothing to do with administrating a large heavily bureaucratic, governmental and political organization. However, what the NC Congressmen did, was exactly what was necessary. He showed by action, not discussion, that Mr. Washington was not qualified for the FAA Administrator job. From a power and persuasion perspective, it was a brilliant move. Without those sounds clips, Mr. Washington would have sailed through confirmation and the more qualified candidate Mr. Nolen, would not have been considered. Such is politics these days.

  20. There is more to the present messed up Political Appointee dilemma. The FAA estimated in a 2019 report that the AVIATION industry in the United States contributes $1.8 trillion to the economy and supports 10 million jobs. Additionally, the FAA’s budget is greater than the budgets of at least 16 states:
    1. Delaware ($4.5B),
    2. South Dakota ($4.9B),
    3. Montana ($5.1B),
    4. New Hampshire ($6.0B),
    5. Vermont ($6.0B),
    6. Idaho ($7.9B),
    7. Maine ($8.0B),
    8. Oklahoma ($8.1B),
    9. Alaska ($8.3B),
    10. Iowa ($8.9B),
    11. Wyoming ($8.9B),
    12. Nebraska ($9.7B),
    13. Rhode Island ($10.0B),
    14. West Virginia ($13.8B),
    15. North Dakota ($14.7B),
    16. and Hawaii ($15.4B).

    The question we are all posing is whether having a knowledgeable FAA Administrator – an FAA Governor, if you will – with aeronautical expertise who can effectively manage the complexities of aviation would be a better option. In short, yes, it would be a better option. Given the industry’s significant economic impact and the number of jobs it supports, effective FAA management is crucial to ensuring its continued growth and success. Nolen, or someone with the same or better global experience and professional background, would be a good fit. The Political Appointee Program needs to be re-evaluated.

  21. It might be convenient to jump on the Billy Nolen bandwagon but I would slow down a little. Since leaving AA Mr Nolen has changed jobs frequently. Two of his positions were with foreign airlines, moving from Qantas to West Jet, before taking a position with the FAA. He didn’t stay at either airline very long. There may be very good reasons why he changed jobs rather frequently but it would be something I would ask about during a job interview. The fact that Ted (angle of attack) Cruz likes him doesn’t mean he’s qualified to lead the FAA.

    • Right on Flyer! Partisan politics always has played a part in appointments. The politics do not need to be so vicious. Neither candidates seem to be perfect. Jimmy Carter and the Democrats increased the number of presidential appointees from 800 to 3000 if memory serves. Regan and the Republicans made all civil servants liable to lawsuits for almost any reason, exempting only judges. Who wants a job like that? Especially since civil servants are always under attack! You get the government you deserve, not the one you want, old saying but I would change it to you get the government you pay for not the one you want someone else to pay for.

      • Here is a list of the presidential appointees by administration since Franklin D. Roosevelt:
        1. Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-1945): 1,997
        2. Harry S. Truman (1945-1953): 1,126
        3. Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961): 2,282
        4. John F. Kennedy (1961-1963): 1,045
        5. Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1969): 2,785
        6. Richard Nixon (1969-1974): 3,126
        7. Gerald Ford (1974-1977): 1,030
        8. Jimmy Carter (1977-1981): 3,268
        9. Ronald Reagan (1981-1989):4,384
        10. George H. W. Bush (1989-1993): 3,155
        11. Bill Clinton (1993-2001): 3,359
        12. George W. Bush (2001-2009): 3,022
        13. Barack Obama (2009-2017): 3,099
        14. Donald Trump (2017-2021): 4,116
        15. Joe Biden (2021-Present): To be determined.
        Reagan and Trump appointed the most.

      • Liable for any reason? You must be an attorney, but I cannot guess your specialty. Perhaps corporate mergers?

  22. Typical government politics. Who would’ve guessed that they would like to install an unqualified person to oversee the FAA?

  23. As a government employee I had the opportunity to work under an “appointee” who had no real experience in the job he was given. He was able to take an efficient and smooth running operation and throw it under the bus. He was,however, presented with awards from his superiors while the ship sank.
    The administrator of the FAA may not have to be a pilot,but he should someone with an intimate understanding of how the system works and has sufficient knowledge to hire the right people for important positions,and also know enough to ask the right questions.

    • Precisely! In MY over 50 years of being a pilot and A&P, the only truly successful Administrators were those that had some sort of aviation background. Matt W — below — brings up a salient point, as well. Maybe that’s their goal?

      • All due respect, what’s your metric of “successful?” I got some interesting e-mail in the background on this blog from people well positioned to judge how effective past administrators have been.

        My view is that most have been mediocre because it’s a hard job that requires dedicated engagement in highly technical matters often involving complex budgeting. It’s also intensely political.Rare talents indeed and more likely to say in the private sector making mega bucks.

  24. If I or any other pilot candidate showed up for a check ride as unprepared as Mr Washington was, there would be no pilots left to regulate!

  25. I got a distinct impression that Mr. Washington lacked confidence in front of the inquisition. I would expect someone who was running a major US airport would have made a comment or two in defense of his lack of aeronautical knowledge.

  26. Ted Budd, the representative from North Carolina voted not to certify the 2020 Presidential election despite over 60 attempts to find election fraud failed in various courts. So, it seems that his qualification to serve as Representative is questionable, given that the facts seemed to be of little value to Mr. Budd? Nevertheless, he won his election, thus the honor and, most importantly, the obligations of being a U.S. Representative.

    How many of us could correctly answer all of the questions Budd posed to Washington? I doubt that Budd knew all the answers himself. How many of us understand what is required to appropriately lead the FAA? How many of us could, effectively, do the job of administrator? The job at the top is wholly different than say an Air Traffic controller, an A and P Mechanic or a pilot. We all probably have strong understanding of what we see as Aviation from our perch on the tree, but even that view is different for each and every one of us.

    Should he be nominated, I hope Washington does well as Administrator. We should all think that because we need a healthy FAA if we want to continue enjoying our privilege of flying.

    • Since you have injected the 2020 election into the conversation, let me point out that virtually all of those “over 60 attempts to find election fraud” were rejected by the courts on the basis of standing; the merits of the cases were never adjudicated. Rep. Budd’s constituents must not have been too unhappy with his actions with regard to the 2020 election as they returned him to office in 2022.

      I agree with you in hoping Mr. Washington does well should he be confirmed as administrator; he would be a beacon of competence compared to the clown show we’ve experienced the past two years.

  27. I used to prep nominees before hearings in a past administration. The best complement you could get after a hearing was the nominee complaining that they were over prepared and it was easy. Senator Budd effectively proved that Washington was not a pilot, was not well prepped and certainly didn’t know much about ADSB. That said I am also on the “nice to have” side for pilots but not required. The Senator did not prove that Washington was not a strong leader who could navigate and solve the challenges before the FAA. That’s the most critical skill and few hearings really draw that out. In the end, I have no idea what kind of leader Washington is, but it’s clear that his seniors at DOT and in the Administration are not strong.

  28. It is clear from looking at his record he is a social climber. I don’t see anything remarkable about any of his job performances at prior positions. I think he is nominated for this position because of what he is not what he is capable of doing. That is typical of this administration and the absolute incompetence we see all through it is there for all to see.

  29. Although it makes sense to appoint people who have direct experience in the work of the agency they are being nominated to administer, almost no federal statutes exist that require such experience. An exception is the Fish and Wildlife Act of 1956 (16 U.S.C. 742(a)-754):

    “The Director of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service shall be appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate. No individual may be appointed as the Director unless he is, by reason of scientific education and experience,
    knowledgeable in the principles of fisheries and wildlife management.”

    In the 1980s, President Reagan nominated one of his campaign coordinators to be Director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The nominee had none of the legally required qualifications and the Republican controlled Senate returned the nominee and requested another nominee who met the requirements of the statute.

  30. As meta-ignorance has become the order of the day in the ‘developed world,’ Paul’s line, “From the dreamy days before social media turned us all into snarling Dunning-Kruger poster children,” should be the lead, in most stories today. Though I do believe that social media is more of a force multiplier, than a causative agent. People like being happy and ignorance is bliss. On a more positive note, fewer Americans are learning to read, so perhaps social media will stall out as we all make a more idiocratic turn to the future. Cheers!