The outgoing presidential administration is reassigning some of its hack political appointees into career civil service positions--especially in the Department of Interior. This act is called "burrowing." In this case, it appears the intent is not only to provide friends plum long-term jobs, but to continue to push their political agenda under the radar after the new administration comes in. (The officials being burrowed have been aggressive partisans during their tenure.) This is scary on so many levels, the least of which being that these people are way less qualified to do the work than the non-partisan experts who rise through the civil service ranks.
From the article: "Environmental advocates, and some rank-and-file Interior officials said the reassignments represent the Bush administration's effort to leave a lasting imprint on environmental policy.
"What's clear is they could have done this during the eight years they were in office. Why are they doing it now?" said Robert Irvin, senior vice president for conservation programs at Defenders of Wildlife, an advocacy group. "It's pretty obvious they're trying to leave in place some of their loyal foot soldiers in their efforts to reduce environmental protection."
Further down: "Alex Bastani, a representative at the Labor Department for the American Federation of Government Employees, said it took months for that agency even to acknowledge that two of its Bush appointees, Carrie Snidar and Brad Mantel, had gotten civil service posts.
"They're trying to burrow into these career jobs, and we're very upset," Bastani said. "Everyone should have an opportunity to apply for these positions. And certainly career people who don't have partisan bent and have 10 or 15 years in their respective fields should have a shot at these positions."