President Obama Kicks Off Transition Planning with Executive Order
The release of President Obama’s Executive Order (EO) “Facilitation of a Presidential Transition” on May 6, 2016, comes six months before the election and 259 days until the next President is sworn into office. The EO marks the start of the efforts that the outgoing administration and agencies will undertake to support the transition of power. As the beneficiary, in 2008, of what has been described as the smoothest transition in history, President Obama’s EO signals his intent to pay it forward with his own administration’s preparations. The President’s EO also follows the precedent of George W. Bush and Bill Clinton who issued their own transition planning guidance. This year the planning effort will benefit from legislation signed into law in March that establishes a legal baseline of transition planning. Transition planning has also received increased attention as the magnitude and importance of the task – and the risks from doing it poorly – have been illuminated. President Obama’s Executive Order sets up a two-tiered system of preparation. The experience of conducting a transition during an active conflict, and in the midst of the financial crisis of 2008-09, is reflected in the administration’s approach. The White House Transition Coordinating Council, chaired by Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, will set overall policy and levels of engagement with the campaign transition teams. The Council will also provide guidance on White House specific transition activities, such as presidential personnel, and coordinate national security and economic policy preparations. The Agency Transition Directors Council will be co-chaired by the Federal Transition Coordinator, GSA senior career executive Tim Horne, and the OMB Deputy Director for Management (Andrew Mayock has been nominated for this role but not yet confirmed). Interestingly, the transition teams will be invited to send a representative to participate in both of the Councils in an advisory capacity. The Federal Transition Coordinator will also sit on each Council to ensure consistent interpretation and execution of transition planning. The membership of the two councils reflects their respective focus areas. The White House Transition Coordinating Council will consist of senior White House personnel (including Presidential Personnel Office), appointed leaders from national security, economic policy, the Office of Management and Budget, the General Services Administration, and the Federal Transition Coordinator. The council will: Provide guidance on outgoing transition such as succession planning and briefing materials Set the rules of engagement between the outgoing administration and transition teams Conduct tabletop exercises on emergency response In addition to the Federal Transition Coordinator and OMB DDM as Co-chairs, and transition team representatives, the membership of the Agency Transition Directors Council will include a senior career executive from each CFO Act agency, representatives from other agencies selected by the Co-Chairs, the Office of Personnel Management, the Office of Government Ethics, the National Archives and Records Administration. The Transition Directors Council is tasked with: Creating an interagency strategy for transition preparation – including career succession planning Providing guidance to agencies on the preparation of briefing materials for the incoming administration (to be prepared no later than November 1) Ensuring agencies prepare career officials who are placed into acting leadership capacities during the transition With a focus on succession planning and preparation of acting leaders, the EO emphasizes the importance of career leadership during the transition importance. The EO also makes mention of the potentially important role of the President’s Management Council (PMC) in fulfilling agency transition activities. In a nod to the work of outside organizations, including the Partnership for Public Service (which has led the push for more rigorous transition planning) the National Academy of Public Administration and the IBM Center for the Business of Government, the EO green-lights the White House Council to speak with outside individuals and organizations that have expertise in transition. The EO is relatively silent on the meeting tempo for the Councils – it reflects the legislative requirement that the Agency Transition Directors Council form at least six months prior to the election – and says that the Directors Council shall meet “on a regular basis as necessary.” The release of President Obama’s Executive Order sets into motion the next stage of transition planning – which many agencies have already begun – and provides the framework under which that planning will be conducted. The President’s guidance is the latest in what has been a series of encouraging signs from all parties in the transition dance – campaigns, the outgoing administration and agencies – and the media. So while the politics of the campaign season continues to roil and churn, the transition process is well underway – with benefits to the next President and to the nation. Learn more about the IBM Center’s presidential transition Management Roadmap initiative.