Posted by Doreen Higgins on Jan 08, 2017
Dan Malachuk, who spent some time as the Director of White House Operations on the staff of President Carter, joined us for breakfast last Wednesday morning.
Dan, a Landings resident, was a consulting partner at Ernst & Young and Arthur Andersen for some decades, part of world-wide teams that focused on helping companies address the new opportunities from globalization following the fall of the Berlin Wall. He also worked with many companies on where to locate, and with cities, states and countries on their economic development strategies. He took a leave from consulting to serve as the Director of White House Operations. Dan has an undergraduate degree in English Literature from Hamilton College and a Master’s degree in Finance from the George Washington University.

Dan told us that he left the US Navy after serving for four years and joined Arthur Andersen’s consulting staff. On President Carter’s inauguration day, a senior partner of Arthur Andersen invited him to lunch at Sans Souci, an insider’s restaurant just one block from the White House. At this lunch, Dan was told that he was being dispatched, the very next day, to the White House to work with President Carter’s personal secretary and the Staff Secretary.

The first work Dan did was to manage the paper flow and assist in the formulation of the decisions the President needs to make every day, a sort of recurring multiple choice scene where each issue is defined, opinions of staff and cabinet members are summarized, and the President picks option a, b, or agree/disagree, or “see me.” Issues are triaged according to importance, sensitivity, significance; managing this process is quite complex, and is driven by the personalities involved as well as the rules. After several weeks of working with the President’s staff on these matters, Dan’s work changed. President Carter had promised to reorganize and reduce the size of government, and Dan spent about eighteen months on this project. He was then seconded to Mrs. Carter to work on issues involving the management of the Carter residence. This phase of Dan’s White House work was also successful and he changed yet again; he was appointed Director of White House Operations. In this capacity he continued to oversee the Residence but his emphasis was to watch over what were called the Operating Units and the administrative management of the White House.

Of the 350 people on the official staff of the White House, 150 reported to him. These people handled personnel administration, budgets, financial reports, travel office, records, IT, switchboard, and correspondence, amounting to 30,000 letters per week, making sure that what was said, written or done was on policy and appropriate. In the Carter administration – and in every administration, Dan said, – only a very few people actually decide things; everyone else works on the myriad details of government, like a “marketing support organization.”

In concluding his presentation Dan turned to the upcoming scenario for President-elect Trump. Staffing the Executive Branch may now involve about 9000 positions, of which about half are “real” jobs; 1100 require Senate confirmation. The situation this time is somewhat unique, Dan said, because the Trump campaign staff was not large, so there are fewer people looking for compensatory appointments. Most of these jobs are in the various government agencies “sitting on top of vast pyramids of career civil servants."

"It’s an extraordinary place to work,” Dan told us, and he made it clear to us that, for him, it was an extraordinary opportunity to look at our governmental process from the inside.
Pictured below are Phil Turek and Dan Malachuk.