Announcing the 2020 Presidential Transition Guide

May 21, 2020

By Troy Thomas, Partner and Associate Director, Boston Consulting Group and Dan Hyman, Manager, Center for Presidential Transition

The new edition of the Presidential Transition Guide shows that it is imperative that presidential candidates prioritize the top 100 appointments early in order to get them through the clearance process. It also emphasizes that policy plans should be aligned with the budget and supported by principles of sound management in executing the president’s agenda.

Whether an incumbent is running for a second term or a challenger seeks a first, preparing for the awesome responsibility of governing is an absolute necessity. And it starts months before Election Day. In the past, however, candidates had nowhere to turn for guidance on how to plan their transition.

That changed in January 2016, when the Partnership for Public Service’s Center for Presidential Transition and Boston Consulting Group released the Presidential Transition Guide. The guide is a one-of-a-kind resource that offers a “how to” manual on all the key activities required for managing a successful transition. It captures best practices, binding laws and important timelines, along with groundbreaking historical documents from past transition efforts.

The Center and BCG studied multiple transitions dating back to 2000 and incorporated lessons from the 2016 election to create the fourth edition of the guide specifically for the 2020 election cycle. The new edition shows that a second-term administration will experience 43 percent turnover among its most senior officials, and a new president will need to fill more than 1,200 positions with appointees confirmed by the Senate. The new guide makes clear the importance of prioritizing the top 100 appointments early to fill the most important jobs in government.

The fourth edition builds on the work of previous iterations and adds the following new information:

  • A new chapter on second-term transitions exploring how previous administrations planned for a second term, along with original research on senior staff turnover and other challenges and opportunities that second term presidents face.
  • An explanation of the recent Presidential Transition Enhancement Act of 2019 and how it will affect 2020 planning for presidential transition teams and federal agencies.
  • More information and insights from the 2016-17 transition as well as data from the first year of the current administration.
  • New information on transition planning for the vice president and the first family, including their role in previous administrations.
  • New insights from senior policymakers and transition experts courtesy of Transition Lab, the Center’s podcast that takes a behind-the-scenes look at presidential transitions.

The Presidential Transition Guide is an invaluable tool for teams that are leading transitions as well as for anyone who has an interest in this hallmark practice of American democracy. The Center and BCG are committed to ensuring that no matter who wins in November, the transition to a new presidential term is smooth, safe and effective.