From the February 2017 issue:
Well over 99 percent of the 2 million-plus people working in the federal government are career officials. Even in the White House, where the president has far more say over personnel, career officials dominate: Of the 1,800 or so people who work for the Executive Office of the President, approximately two-thirds of them are career. The vast majority of people working at the largest offices within the EOP—the Office of Management and Budget, the National Security Council, and the U.S. Trade Representative’s office—are career officials.
Many are dedicated professionals who work long hours and are extremely knowledgeable in their areas. This is especially true in the White House, where career officials tend to be the best of the best, hard-working and talented. But it is also true among the highest echelons at most departments, the SES, or Senior Executive Service. Top career officials I worked with at HHS could have made vastly more money working in the private sector but chose to dedicate significant portions of their careers to public service. The political scientist John DiIulio has written a thoughtful book, Bring Back the Bureaucrats, arguing that we need more, not fewer, career officials, to accomplish all of the tasks that Congress has assigned to the administrative state. Regardless of whether you accept his argument, it is clear that career officials do dominate the federal government, and presidential administrations need to take that into account. To be a successful political appointee, you had best learn not only how to work with, but also how to get the most from, career officials.