Presidential Transition Timeline

Incoming Administration: Agency Review
July 2016

To-Dos

Select leads for each agency
Create standardized format for agency review deliverables: executive summary template, strategic briefing template, budget memo template and data file template

Presidential Transition Guide, Ch. 5, Major Steps in the Agency Review Process, Create standardized agency review report format

Developing a standardized reporting format for review teams to use at some 100 federal agencies to ensure that the information about agency operations will be collected and presented in a clear and understandable way. In the past, agency leaders reported that the information provided to them was not been especially helpful because it was too long, outdated or inaccurate. The 2008 Obama transition consulted with previous political appointees about what they found helpful in an effort to learn from prior experience, and they created specific guidelines for the type of information agency review teams should collect and how it should be reported.

In the pre-election phase, the teams were asked to produce four deliverables: a two-page summary memo to be read by the candidates and senior transition staff about each agency and its work; a 20-page document identifying high-priority issues for the agency review teams to focus on during the formal transition period; a list of members of Congress and other stakeholders to contact for additional information; and an agency data file of public background information on the agency’s mission, personnel and budget. The format of these documents and the information they contained came as a result of the transition’s discussions with former Clinton administration Cabinet members about what materials had been useful as they were preparing for their confirmation hearings and getting ready to take over their agencies.

Post-convention, negotiate a memorandum of understanding with the White House to ensure agency review team’s post-election access to materials and personnel at agencies

Presidential Transition Guide, Ch. 5, Major Steps in the Agency Review Process, Negotiate an MOU with the current White House

A memorandum of understanding (MOU) is needed between the transition team and the White House regarding the transition team’s access to federal agencies. Ideally, this MOU should be negotiated after the party nominating conventions, although it will be signed only after Election Day. For certain agencies, including the Department of Defense, additional MOUs may be needed.

Provide input to appointments team on position descriptions for Wave I positions (through August)

Submit potential candidates for most critical positions in each agency to appointments team (through August)

Presidential Transition Guide, Ch. 5, Major Steps in the Agency Review Process, Interaction between the agency review, policy and personnel teams

The work of the agency review team is related to, yet distinct from, the work of the presidential personnel team. Because the agency review team will be knowledgeable about key staff positions, potential personnel issues or leadership gaps within each agency, it should work closely with the personnel team to identify possible candidates to lead each agency and identify other critical positions that should be filled quickly.

The agency review team should play a role in identifying the major management challenges or successes within each agency, identifying particular skills and competencies needed for each position, and uncovering best practices or successful programs.

Agency leads identify, vet and select members for each landing team (through October)

Presidential Transition Guide, Ch. 5, Major Steps in the Agency Review Process, Develop and Staff Agency Review Teams

Within the Romney Readiness Project, the department and agency review group was the largest single team, with 250 members by Election Day. This group had 33 teams under the four major subgroups of budget, national security, domestic policy and economic policy. Most team members were volunteers. Agency review team members were chosen directly by their team leaders and not vetted by the campaign.

The Obama 2008 agency review team began with only four people prior to the election, nearly all volunteers. Following the election, the team was divided into 10 separate agency review teams, each with a particular area of focus, including economics, international trade and development, national security, energy and natural resources, and education and labor. Each review team was allowed to hire its own volunteers and staff, with incoming staff vetted by a central working group. Teams consisted of about 30 people, mostly from the campaign. Most positions were unpaid volunteer positions. The team deliberately avoided using Capitol Hill staffers in an attempt to minimize leaks and avoid future conflicts with congressional oversight activities. A large number of the people on the team went on to become members of the Obama administration, due to their work and their previous professional experience.

As landing team members are selected, the operations team should receive the list of agency review team members who will require security clearances to access classified information (through election)

Ongoing

Provide input to appointments team on prioritization of appointed positions (June–July)

Presidential Transition Guide, Ch. 5, Major Steps in the Agency Review Process, Interaction between the agency review, policy and personnel teams

The work of the agency review team is related to, yet distinct from, the work of the presidential personnel team. Because the agency review team will be knowledgeable about key staff positions, potential personnel issues or leadership gaps within each agency, it should work closely with the personnel team to identify possible candidates to lead each agency and identify other critical positions that should be filled quickly.

The agency review team should play a role in identifying the major management challenges or successes within each agency, identifying particular skills and competencies needed for each position, and uncovering best practices or successful programs.

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