Every presidential administration has experienced management successes and unexpected management failures, some of which have created political firestorms, set back policy initiatives or undermined public confidence in our government. For example, the inadequate emergency response to the Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans and much of the Gulf Coast in 2005, led to increasingly negative public perceptions of President George W. Bush’s performance and government’s overall competence. In the fall of 2013, the botched rollout of HealthCare.gov, the online portal for President Obama’s signature domestic policy initiative, reinforced the perception that the government and its leaders cannot get things right, and slowed down the launch of the initiative. A focus on management by the White House and executive branch agencies will be essential for the new administration to be success at implementing its policy goals, reducing the risk of costly missteps and building public confidence in the federal government’s ability to serve our nation.
The transition teams should develop a management agenda that:
Developing a management agenda will help the transition team identify actions that can strengthen the new administration’s capacity to address key challenges facing our country. A good agenda provides clarity for a new administration on its management objectives, enabling it to develop a clear plan for carrying out the agenda in the complex federal environment.
It is the policy team’s responsibility to review any regulatory or executive actions coming through the pipeline during the transition phase and to develop a plan to halt or reverse anything contrary to the new administration’s priorities. This includes not only those regulations issued in the final days of the outgoing administration, but any other rules or administrative changes that may be working their way through the system in its final months. Federal law ordinarily mandates a 60-day delay for “major” rules before they take effect, and a 30-day waiting period for “non-major” regulations—those that do not have major policy significance or that will have less than a $100 million annual effect on the U.S. economy. For this reason, some outgoing administrations have tried to publish new regulations on November 21—60 days before the presidential Inauguration on January 20. Alternatively, the policy team should plan to look for regulations and executive orders that may either advance the new administration’s agenda or that address issues the new administration wants resolved, and which the team can help push through the rule-making process.