While the Trump Administration seems to have lost senior level advisors to the President as well as Cabinet secretaries in dribs and drabs, in fact, the turnover rate has been surprisingly high. Thanks to research by the Brookings Institute, we have different measures that can be used to both measure the rate of turnover as well as put the turnover into context.
Let's look at the two measures of turnover in the Trump Team:
1.) Presidential "A Team":
a.) Overall turnover on the Presidential "A Team" – this includes the most influential positions within the President's executive office with the list of positions that comprise this team based on National Journal "Decision Makers" editions. The "A Team" does not include Cabinet secretaries and each position on the "A Team" is counted only once (i.e. only upon the initial departure from that position).
Here is a graphic showing the turnover from year-to-year for the last six administrations:
As you can see, the total number of positions that have experienced turnovers in the Trump Administration's first two years is higher than the number of turnovers going back to the Reagan Administration.
In the Trump Administration, there are 65 "A Team" positions. Of the 65 positions, 50 positions have turned over, resulting in a turnover rate of 77 percent. The data can be further broken down as such:
Resignations – 17
Resigned Under Pressure – 15
Promoted – 18
Of the total positions that have turned over, 32 or 64 percent have been because of resignations or resignations under pressure.
b.) Serial Turnovers on the Presidential "A Team" – this measure looks at the number of multiple departures within a single position of the Trump "A Team". Here is a table showing the "A Team" serial departures where there have been two or more replacement players:
Obviously, the positions of both National Security Advisor and Deputy National Security Advisor have seen the most turnover with four and five new players respectively.
2.) Presidential Cabinet Team:
a.) Overall turnover on the Presidential Cabinet Team: this includes the heads of federal executive departments that are in the presidential line of succession but does not include Cabinet-level appointments like Chief of Staff etcetera.
Here is a graphic showing the cabinet level turnover from year-to-year for the last six administrations:
When looking back to the beginning of the Reagan Administration in 1981, it is quite clear that the Trump Administration has seen the most cabinet departures in its first and second year. While the Bush I Administration had five cabinet departures in its third year compared to the Trump Administration's two departures, we have to keep in mind that years three (and four) of the Trump Administration is not yet complete.
Here are the total number of cabinet departures for each of the last six administrations:
Reagan – 6
Bush I – 8
Clinton – 4
Bush II – 2
Obama – 3
Trump – 9
Here is a complete listing of Trump Administration cabinet level departures:
In only one case was the Secretary promoted (John Kelly, former Secretary of Homeland Security). In all other cases, the Secretary either resigned under pressure (RUP) or resigned in protest.
In many ways, this data should not be overly surprising given that, unlike many presidents, Donald Trump hails from a big business background where firing and hiring are a pastime. What is rather surprising is the elevated number of cabinet-level resignations under protest showing that the Trump Team is not really a team at all. In addition, it appears that Mr. Trump is not particularly an easy individual to work for and many of his cabinet appointees come from the private sector where they are used to being the boss (i.e. Rex Tillerson) that has the power to hire and fire at will and are unaccustomed to the role of being the underling.
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