Presidential Transition Timeline

Incoming Administration: Operations
November 2016 Pre-election

Ongoing

Design the post-election transition team (map the movement of staff from the campaign team to the transition team and hire new talent as required) and update the post-election volunteer and payroll structures (September–October)

Presidential Transition Guide, Ch. 2, Key Transition Leadership Activities, Organizational Structure and Growth

Past transition team members report that staffing is typically an area of concern. The pace of the work is so fast that it is difficult to maintain constant, organization-wide communication. Additionally, there is a desire to integrate campaign staff who want to remain involved, which can cause uncertainty over the size of the post-election transition operation and what, exactly, the new employees will do. The result can be significant overstaffing, a problem made worse by the fact that at such a critical time before the election, the transition team cannot contact campaign leaders to ask about the skills and performance of individuals and how they would fit best on the transition team. Reaching out to campaign staff before the election can prove to be a major distraction and create the perception that some staff are being selected for the transition over others, and that can affect morale.

Transition leadership can take steps to alleviate these problems by discussing, at least at a high level, how to integrate campaign staff well in advance of the election. This means determining staffing needs as much as possible before the election to get an idea of where additional capacity will be needed; establishing a clear policy for moving campaign staff to the transition; and having access to basic personnel background information for campaign staff who are expected to join the transition team.

The George W. Bush and Barack Obama transition teams confronted these challenges in different ways. For Bush, the small size of the transition operation meant that key leaders on the post-election transition had to come from the campaign. For the Obama transition, there were different challenges involved in integrating campaign staff into the transition operation post-election. In planning for the transition, there was an understanding that most staff would come from the campaign. Generally, the preferences of the campaign regarding who should be on the transition payroll were honored. However, in practice this meant that many junior staffers who had worked on the campaign were given paid jobs, making the transition a financial bridge for many of them until they could be hired by the new administration formal beginning of the administration. The large influx of campaign workers forced the transition to make constant adjustments to its staffing and budget plans, which were largely based on untested estimates prepared by the presidential campaign of John Kerry in 2004.

Submit to DOJ security clearances required for agency review team members, key advisors and staff who will need access to classified briefings (July–election)
Conduct a detailed historical review of transition activities of previous presidents-elect and build a comprehensive 75-day calendar for the president-elect (July–election)
Coordinate support for the vice president-elect and future first spouse (build calendar, organize offices, plan to accommodate family needs) (July–election)
Develop a post-election media strategy and communication plan (September–election)
Develop a post-election outreach strategy for working with think tanks, trade associations, community groups, governors and Congress (September–election)
Make preparations for moving in to the post-election GSA-provided office space (October–election)
Coordinate with GSA on provisions for post-election remote office locations and decide which transition team staff will work remotely (October–election)
Develop a transition website and link into the back-end personnel database to receive applications for administration positions (October–election)
Design the White House organizational structure and create detailed job descriptions for White House staff roles (October–election)
Begin mapping which transition team members will move to White House staff roles (October–election)
Onboard new staff the as transition team grows and oversee day-to-day logistics (July–November)
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