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FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump hands Chief of Staff Reince Priebus (R) an executive order that directs agencies to ease the burden of Obamacare, after signing it in the Oval Office in Washington, DC, U.S. January 20, 2017. Also pictured is White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter (C). REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst(reuters_tickers)
By Roberta Rampton
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Forty percent of the staff members who were working a year ago in U.S. President Donald Trump's White House have since left for other jobs, a new report shows, providing a snapshot of the chaos among Trump's closest subordinates.
At all levels of seniority and pay levels, Trump staff churn has exceeded that of the executive office of former President Barack Obama, with a noticeably larger turnover among top aides, according to an annual report on the White House payroll released late on Friday and reviewed by Reuters.
In the top tier of staff, Trump's White House has so far had the highest turnover of any modern administration, said Martha Kumar, a Towson University political scientist emeritus.
(GRAPHIC: Turnover in Trump's White House - https://tmsnrt.rs/2KBIcKZ)
That hurts Trump's ability to advance his policies in coordination with outside allies, said Kumar, director of the White House Transition Project, who has kept track of the turnover since the Reagan administration.
"You need to have a continuity," she said.
The White House did not respond to requests for comment.
Fifty-six percent of the highest-ranking people in Trump's White House named in last year's payroll report have since left or have announced they will soon leave, including chief of staff Reince Priebus, top economic adviser Gary Cohn, deputy chief of staff Rick Dearborn and spokesman Sean Spicer.
The report, showing names, titles and salaries, is required by Congress each year by July 1. Two comparable reports from Obama's White House showed 13 percent of 24 top commissioned staffers left in the same period.
(GRAPHIC: 2017 report to Congress on White House personnel - https://bit.ly/2sazirc)
Former President George W. Bush had the lowest level of turnover for modern presidents in a comparable time period, with only one top aide leaving, Kumar's research shows.
More upheaval is expected. Trump has been consulting with some advisers on a replacement for current chief of staff John Kelly, who is nearing a year in the job.
Disruption at the top ripples downward, with lower-level staffers jockeying for position with new bosses, doing work left behind by departees and training new hires, said Kathryn Tenpas, a political scientist at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.
Tenpas has tracked turnover in about 60 key positions since the Reagan White House and said Trump has been going through staff at a record pace.
(GRAPHIC: 2018 report to Congress on White House personnel - https://bit.ly/2NgTH8X)
Under Trump, known for running a free-wheeling operation, an unusually high number of resignations have occurred under pressure, she noted.
"It undermines his agenda, because it's not running nearly as efficiently as it could be, and the morale is also questionable," she said.
More resignations can be expected, Tenpas said, after November's congressional elections, when White House staff often leave for less manic-paced, private-sector jobs or to work on the next presidential election campaign.
The report is a snapshot, and does not show turnover between annual reports. Nor does it show changes in the vice president's office and some other White House departments.
It showed high turnover in all salary levels and job types. At the second-highest level of commissioned White House staff -- deputy assistants to the president -- 43 percent of staffers named in the first Trump payroll report had left by this year's update, versus 15 percent in the equivalent time frame for the Obama White House.
In the third-highest level - special assistants to the president - 39 percent left versus 24 percent for Obama.
The report reveals changes in titles. One of note: Ivanka Trump, who takes no salary for her work as an adviser to the president, has dropped the "First Daughter" that was part of her official title in last year's report.
(GRAPHIC: White House Transition Project - report on turnover - https://bit.ly/2yYp4SD)
(GRAPHIC: Brookings tracker of turnover in the Trump White House - https://brook.gs/2HX2fys)
(Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Additional reporting by Damon Darlin; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Alistair Bell)