Plum Book Hot Off the PressThe most exclusive want ad in the nation was released this Monday morning.

Every four years, in order to ease the transition after each presidential election, the United States Government Policy and Supporting Positions—popularly known as the “Plum Book” because of the plum government jobs it lists—is released to the public. It lists thousands of federal civil service leadership and support positions (both vacant and currently filled) in the legislative and executive branches of the federal government that may be subject to noncompetitive appointment.

Positions listed in the Plum Book include agency heads and their immediate subordinates, policy executives and advisors, and aides who report to these officials. The Plum Book lists jobs by department, the type of appointment for each position, names of current incumbents in many of the positions, and salary levels.

The duties of many such positions may involve promoting the new administration’s policies and programs, and the incumbents usually have a close and confidential working relationship with the agency head or other key officials.

Source of the Data

The data in the Plum Book comes from the Executive Schedule C System (ESCS), a restricted database maintained by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and used to store information on federal employees in the Senior Executive Service (SES) as well as appointed employees in the Schedule C System.

Members of the SES serve in key positions just below the top presidential appointees and are the major link between these appointees and the rest of the federal workforce. They operate and oversee nearly every government activity in approximately 75 federal agencies.

Schedule C appointees keep a confidential or policy-determining relationship to their supervisor and agency head and are therefore political, non-competitive appointments. The authority to fill a Schedule C job is usually revoked when the incumbent leaves, and the agency must have specific approval from OPM to establish or reestablish the position.

The information from the ECSC may be slightly modified by the Government Publishing Office before publication, based on additional information they have.

History of the Plum Book

Publication of the Plum Book dates back to 1952, when the newly-elected Republican president Dwight Eisenhower wondered how many positions he could fill after ending a twenty-year run of Democrat presidential administrations. His list lasted him for two terms, but from 1960 to the present this list of political appointments has been issued every four years, whether there is a new president or not.

Although it is published every four years, those issues that coincide with the election of a new president always attract more attention than issues that coincide with an incumbent president’s second term, where there are not likely to be as many changes in personnel.

Earlier editions of the Plum Book had covers of Sand Gray or Killarney Green, but in 2000 someone had the clever idea of releasing it with a Plum cover, and the covers have been issued in that color ever since.

Where to Find the Plum Book

The Plum Book is alternately the responsibility of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. The latest edition was compiled by the Senate committee and was issued both in print and online on Monday morning by the Government Publishing Office (GPO).

  • Print copies may be ordered online from the S. Government Bookstore or may be available for viewing at your local depository library.
  • A digital copy was released simultaneously with the hardcopy at the Web site. For now, a digital copy is also available at GPO’s soon-to-be-obsolete FDsys Web site.
  • Use the Plum Book Mobile Web app to read the Plum Book on your phone, tablet, or other mobile device.
  • An online archive of Plum Books are online back to 1996 are also available on the Web site.

How to Apply

All those wishing to apply for positions in the Trump-Pence transition, Executive Office of the President, or a federal department, agency or commission should follow the instructions on the presidential transition Web site at

After January 20, those aspiring to any of these positions will need to apply with the Office of Presidential Personnel.

Do You Want to Know More?

Getting Ready for 2017: An Introduction to the Plum Book provides a succinct explanation of what kinds of jobs are posted in the Plum Book and how the application and approval process works.

Jockeying for ‘Plum’ Federal Appointments May Begin Earlier in 2016 suggests seven steps to optimize one’s chances of landing one of these plum jobs.

If you have any questions about the Plum Book, contact the Eagle Commons Library, where the staff will be pleased to assist you.


Article by Bobby Griffith.

Image of Plum Book coming off the press from the GPO Instagram account.

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