November 3, 2016
Chantelle Renn and Amanda Patarino, Center for Presidential Transition
The government is complex. Significant interaction and integration of different people, processes and structures is necessary to get things done. For more than a year, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have been making policy promises on the campaign trail. But on January 20 when one of them takes the oath of office, how will they make those policies a reality?
The Center of Government
The center of government comprises several agencies with wide reach across the federal landscape as well as management and policy councils that the president can use to help implement administration priorities and manage the government.
Center of Government Principles and Case Study
There are five core principles to an effective center of government.
President Barack Obama leveraged these principles in responding to the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Less than a month after taking office, Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and used the center of government to implement this $787 billion stimulus package within aggressive statutory deadlines, while minimizing waste, fraud, and abuse.
Principle 1: Clear policy goals and priorities
President-elect Obama convened meetings regarding the recovery plan before taking office. Throughout the law’s implementation, the president made it clear it was one of his highest priorities, highlighting it in his discussions with members of the Cabinet and including the coordinator of the program as a key member of his staff and in Cabinet meetings.
Principle 2: Continued presidential involvement in overseeing implementation
The president publicly assigned the management of the Recovery Act to Vice President Joe Biden during an appearance before a joint session of Congress. This announcement vested Biden with the authority and the backing of the president, on top of the convening power of his own office. Obama also attended quarterly meetings on implementation.
Principle 3: Well-understood decision-making structures, forums and lines of authority
Open lines of communication between the Recovery Implementation Office and vice president with OMB, agencies and state and local governments negated the distrust that often characterizes state and federal interactions.
Principle 4: Clear metrics, milestones and monitoring
Three days after the economic stimulus package was signed into law, Biden issued a memorandum that clearly outlined the implementation of the legislation and the creation of a Recovery Implementation Office to oversee the management of the program. Throughout its implementation, the vice president convened more than 15 Cabinet meetings and made weekly calls to state and local government officials. Biden also had a rule stipulating that if any agency or local government had an issue regarding the stimulus funding, they would bring it to him and a plan would be developed to solve the problem within 24 hours.
Principle 5: Selecting effective and experienced personnel
The president named Edward Deseve to run the Recovery Implementation Office and gave him three titles: special advisor to the president for recovery implementation (which gave him the authority of the president); assistant to the vice president (meaning he would report directly to Biden); and senior advisor to OMB (linking him directly with OMB). Deseve had experience in management and coordination as former OMB deputy director for management and experience planning the federal approach to the “Y2K” problem when it was feared that coding problems would create havoc in computers and computer networks around the world at the beginning of the year 2000.
Priorities and Actions for an Effective Center of Government
Transition teams can start working now to set up an effective center of government as a key enabler for the implementation of the administration’s policy platform.
Want to Know More?Learn more about the center of government and how the new administration should leverage these structures and entities in this presentation created by the Partnership for Public Service and PricewaterhouseCoopers.