Cornyn, Maloney Urge Thorough, Open Hiring Process For Next Head Of Federal Voting Assistance Program

Dec 3, 2008
Press Release
WASHINGTON—U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-NY, today announced they have sent a letter to Department of Defense Secretary Robert Gates urging him to conduct a fair and open hiring process for the next Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) Director.  This position is charged with administering the absentee voting system for all military and overseas voters. Citing serious concerns about the manner in which the selection process has been handled to date, Sen. Cornyn and Rep. Maloney, along with Sen. David Vitter, R-LA, and Congressman Mike Honda, D-CA, are seeking to ensure all candidates are fully considered. The incoming FVAP Director is an individual who can offer fresh approaches and solutions for improving the department, specifically the military voting system.

“The right to vote is one of the most cherished civil rights that American citizens have, so it’s very troubling that several reports have indicated many of our troops are being denied this fundamental right.  It’s equally troubling when it appears that some in the Defense Department are not offering a thorough and open hiring process to fill the critical position that oversees the voting system for our servicemen and women,” Sen. Cornyn, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said. “This opening represents an important opportunity for the Federal Voting Assistance Program to change the status quo, which is simply unacceptable. It is my hope the Department of Defense will consider all qualified candidates – both within and outside the department – and conduct a thorough process to hire someone who is committed to improving the department and our military voting system so our troops who wish to vote have the opportunity to do so.”

“The FVAP has failed in their mission to help overseas Americans and military voters access the ballot,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D NY said.  “DoD should broaden the search to find someone that can offer fresh approaches and help enfranchise our military servicemen and women and civilians living abroad.”


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Background:

This builds on Sen. Cornyn’s previous efforts to hold accountable the FVAP. In September, Sen. Cornyn joined his colleagues in sending a letter to GAO, calling for an investigation into FVAP and its mismanagement of funds and failure to accomplish its missions.


--The text of the letter by Sens. Cornyn, Maloney and colleagues is below--

The Honorable Robert Gates
Secretary of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC  20301-1000

Dear Secretary Gates:

It has come to our attention that DoD has begun the selection process for the next Director of the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP), and we believe this change in leadership presents a singular opportunity to address the root causes of numerous problems at FVAP.  We and other members of Congress wrote to the U.S. Comptroller General in September to request a GAO investigation into FVAP’s stewardship of taxpayer dollars and past failures to fulfill its legal obligations to provide U.S. military personnel a reasonable opportunity to vote. 

The right to participate in the democratic process is fundamental to the American experience.  Our men and women in uniform have stepped forward to defend that right, often at great personal cost.  As such, it is incumbent upon us to ensure these Americans have a voice in choosing their elected leaders.  We urge you to help us protect their rights by ensuring that the incoming FVAP Director is not only an individual with substantial subject matter expertise in the relevant areas and a high level of general competence, but also someone who can offer fresh approaches and innovative technology-based solutions to the very complex issue of military voting. 

We ask you to personally see to it that, during the selection process for this position, candidates external to DoD and FVAP itself are given full and thorough consideration.  FVAP’s efforts to date have been wholly inadequate, and the status quo is simply unacceptable.  For this reason, a “promote from within” approach to filling this FVAP position would be a disservice to our military voters.  Voting data and other indicators from recent elections tell us that our military voters continue to face major roadblocks to successfully participating in elections.  The current military voting system, as implemented by FVAP and its current leadership, is too cumbersome and convoluted to effectively serve those who serve the cause of freedom. 

In addition, we are concerned about the specific manner in which DoD appears to be conducting the hiring process for this SES-level position.  The hiring process must conducted properly, thoroughly, and in accordance with applicable regulations and policies.  The position of FVAP Director is absolutely critical, and a thorough selection process is imperative.  It is our understanding that DoD currently aims to close out this hiring action by December 3, which is likely to result in an unnecessarily rushed and poorly informed hiring decision. 

Given our interest and numerous concerns, we would appreciate answers to the following questions before December 3, 2008.

1.      What is the intended process for this personnel action?

2.      In this selection process, are external candidates being given full and thorough consideration?

3.      Can you give us assurances that the civil service laws are being followed in the selection process?

4.      What attempts have been made to publicize this position in order to widen the search and find the best candidate for the job?

In addition, we would appreciate a general explanation of why DoD aims to complete this hiring process so quickly and on such short notice.

We need your help in protecting for our military service members the very rights they fight to safeguard for their fellow Americans.  Thank you for your service to our nation, your tireless dedication to its Armed Forces, and your prompt attention to this important matter.

        Sincerely,

JOHN CORNYN
United States Senator

DAVID VITTER
United States Senator

CAROLYN B. MALONEY
Member of Congress

MICHAEL HONDA
Member of Congress