Who isn’t running government? Ask Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) acting Director B. (Byron) Todd Jones, who has served since November 2011when the previous acting director resigned amidst the so-called “fast and furious” scandal. Jones is the ATF’s fifth acting director since 2006, when Congress first stipulated nominees to the position require Senate confirmation. Domenech (2006), Sullivan (2006–2009), Carter (2009), Melson (2009–2011), Jones (2011–) – my math says that’s a new director almost every year. Meanwhile, like the Bush administration nominee preceding him, Obama’s 2010 nominee Andrew Traver has languished in the Senate.
For many Americans, “fast and furious” epitomizes government at its most incompetent. ATF agents allowed guns to “walk” – standing-by as illegal guns were smuggled across the border into Mexico. One tragically killed a U.S. border agent, igniting a firestorm. In other words, being ATF director is difficult and demands the confidence of others. I am certain acting Director Jones is a competent administrator. It is no secret that acting officials are often more knowledgeable and well-respected. But the position’s authority is diminished because of the unshakable uncertainty that word “acting” signals.