The policy team, in cooperation with legal counsel, also should begin drafting the first executive orders and directives for the new president to issue upon taking office. These should reflect the president-elect’s top policy priorities, tee up the major initiatives of the administration’s first months in office and help build momentum for the administration’s agenda. President Obama was aggressive in this regard, issuing executive orders and presidential memoranda on a range of issues, including ethics standards, labor regulations and Guantanamo Bay. President Obama issued nine executive orders and nine presidential memoranda in his first 10 days.
A major task of the policy office is to begin laying the groundwork for the first presidential budget, which is essentially the first significant comprehensive policy document the new administration releases. The Budget Enforcement Act of 1990 requires the president’s budget to be submitted no later than the first Monday in February, meaning that an outgoing president can let his successor submit a budget. However, the past three outgoing administrations submitted transition budgets to Congress that included a baseline budget and historical data. That set the stage for the next administration’s budget submission. The need for the incoming administration to develop a comprehensive and complex economic and budgetary blueprint in a short period of time requires a high-powered team with significant experience. So it is critical for the president-elect to select his or her budget and policy staff early so they have time to prepare the budget submission. OMB career staff are well-prepared and motivated to help the president-elect’s team translate priorities into a new budget. This will be one of the new administration’s first opportunities to work with the dedicated, nonpartisan civil servants across the federal government, who can be tapped for their expertise.