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.