NEW YORK -- Donald Trump chose retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson on Monday to be secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, raising fresh concerns about the lack of experience some of Trump's Cabinet picks have with agencies they're now being chosen to lead.
Carson, who opposed Trump in the Republican primaries, has no background in government or running a large bureaucracy.
In addition, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, Trump's choice to be ambassador to the United Nations, has no foreign policy experience. Steve Mnuchin, a former Goldman Sachs partner and Hollywood executive, is Trump's man to lead the Treasury Department but has never worked in government. And retired Gen. James Mattis, a widely praised battlefield commander, spent decades in the Marines but now is tapped to run the nation's largest government agency, the Defense Department, with 740,000 civilian employees in addition to 1.3 million service personnel.
Democrats swiftly criticized Carson's qualifications for his job. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi called him a "disconcerting and disturbingly unqualified choice." And New York Sen. Charles Schumer said he had "serious concerns about Dr. Carson's lack of expertise and experience in dealing with housing issues. Someone who is as anti-government as him is a strange fit for housing secretary, to say the least."
Carson would oversee a budget of nearly $50 billion that provides rental assistance for more than 5 million households. Demand for that assistance is high in part because housing costs are rising faster than incomes. HUD also promotes home ownership with the Federal Housing Administration underwriting about 1 in 6 mortgages issued in the U.S. The agency is charged with enforcing federal fair housing laws, too.
In a statement, Trump said he was "thrilled to nominate" Carson, describing his "brilliant mind" and his passion "about strengthening communities and families within those communities."
Carson, who grew up poor, quickly endorsed Trump after ending his own presidential bid despite Trump noting what he called Carson's "pathological temper." Carson has been coy about joining the new administration, saying shortly after Trump's election victory that he wasn't certain he'd fit into a Cabinet-style role in a job like Health and Human Services secretary. "Ben shares my optimism about the future of our country," Trump said, "and is part of ensuring that this is a presidency representing all Americans."
Heading a Cabinet agency is a huge bureaucratic job, with responsibility for overseeing massive budgets and thousands of employees. Choosing a leader without management experience could present challenges, warned Ben Chang, who worked under three different administrations.
"People can learn the policies and the talking points, but the transition will be dictated by their own managerial style," said Chang, who remembered incoming Secretary of State Colin Powell walking the halls to meet with career officers and not just his executive staff.
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