Seasoned conservatives in Washington say they're alarmed at President Donald Trump's comments last week that he may leave many senior political jobs unfilled, and say he has to get the right people in place - and fast.
"If you don't do that, I don't care how many executive orders you write, they're not going to be carried out," Robert Moffit, a former assistant director of the Office of Personnel Management in the Reagan administration, told LifeZette.
"He doesn't understand that doing that empowers leftist bureaucrats like Sally Yates and Lois Lerner."
Moffit says Trump and most of the people working for him don't understand the power of the more than 2 million people who staff the federal agencies - known as the civil service.
"If you're not going to fill senior positions in the government, what this amounts to is unilateral disarmament," he said.
There are more than 9000 political jobs in the federal government that Trump could fill, according to the Plum Book, issued in December following each presidential election. He has filled about 400 of them that don't require Senate confirmation, and has had almost his entire Cabinet confirmed. The only Cabinet appointee still awaiting confirmation by the Senate is the U.S. Trade Representative - Robert Lighthizer.
But many other agencies under the Cabinet level still don't have Trump appointees leading them. They include ICE, the IRS, Citizenship & Immigration Services, OSHA and the Office of Personnel Management. Also still to be confirmed are the Secretary of the Army and the Secretary of the Navy. There are also hundreds of assistant secretary and deputy assistant secretary jobs at the federal agencies that are still vacant.
Trump told the Washington Examiner last week: "We don't want to fill all of the vacancies, we won't fill all of the vacancies. We don't need so many of these people."
He pointed to the State Department, where Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has not named anyone for many of the undersecretary positions, as a positive example.
But Moffit, now the director of the Center for Health Policy Studies at the Heritage Foundation, says the president doesn't realize something.
"He has a fully staffed State Department," he said. "It's staffed by the civil service -- by all the folks that didn't vote for him."
In the 2000 presidential race, State Department employees contributed 99 percent to Clinton and 1 percent to Trump, as reported in a Nov. 26, 2016 article in the The Hill entitled, "Government workers shun Trump, give big money to Clinton."
"You have to get people in place," says Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies.
"If you don't know the bureaucracy that well, the bureaucracy can stymie all kinds of things," he says, pointing to the IRS, where Obama appointee John Koskinen is still in charge, despite having obstructed Congress' investigation of the agency's targeting of conservative groups.
"There are lots of things the IRS could do to tighten up immigration enforcement," he says. "They have consistently resisted this."
One, he says, would be to pull all tax returns filed using an ITIN, a taxpayer ID number, with a social security number on the accompanying W-2. Virtually all of these are illegal aliens, he says, filing only so that they can claim a tax credit - often a large "credit" that amounts to a lump-sum cash payment of up to $40,000 for claiming 20 or more dependent children.
The IRS, he says, keeps claiming privacy protection as a reason for not turning this information over for enforcement, even though illegal aliens are not covered under the Privacy Act.
"There's still a significant amount of drift," he says. "If things are going to be drifting, they're not going to be drifting the way Trump wants."
He says it's extremely important that the president hire people who are: One, committed to his agenda; and Two, know the bureaucracy.
A former congressional staffer and senior Pentagon official who has enthusiastically supported Trump says not filling political jobs is a big mistake.
"He doesn't understand that doing that empowers leftist bureaucrats like Sally Yates and Lois Lerner," she told LifeZette.
Moffit says Trump and the people around him need to know about the Iron Triangle -- the alliance in Washington between the senior managers in the federal bureaucracy, senior congressional staffers - mostly top committee staffers -- and top people at the powerful lobbying organizations like the AARP, the big pharmaceutical companies and organized labor.
"This is the strongest force that resists change," he says. "These institutions are staffed with very, very experienced big government liberals."
The Trump administration, he says, has to get control of personnel.
Reagan did it, he says, with Don Devine as head of the Office of Personnel Management.
Don Devine famously cut 100,000 civil service jobs, saving the country $6 billion and leading The Washington Post to refer to him as "the terrible swift sword of the civil service."
Moffit, who worked under Devine from 1981-86 as associate director of OMB in the office of congressional relations, calls Devine "one of the most effective management appointments ever made."
He says President Trump, like President Reagan, was a "shock to the establishment" and has an "enormous" potential to change things in Washington.
But Trump, he said, cannot implement his agenda by relying on the career civil service. Policy should be the province of the political appointees who are personally committed to the president.
"Very frankly, they've got to get a handle on this," he says.
The new administration, he says, "has got to demand accountability from the civil service" and the career civil service employees must know that they are "duty bound" to carry out the president's agenda.
"If they don't like it, they resign," he said.