August 31, 2020

The conclusion of the political conventions represents an important milestone in transition planning

By Livi Logan-Wood and Dan Hyman

The conclusion of the Democratic and Republican national conventions this month mark the official start of the 2020 presidential campaign and a key turning point for transition planning.

According to the Presidential Transition Act, within three days after the last convention ends, the federal government is required to provide presidential transition teams with specific support. By Sept. 1, 2020, the following changes will take place.   

  • The General Services Administration will begin offering support services for the Joe Biden-Kamala Harris transition team. These include a secure IT network, hardware, software and the associated infrastructure support.
  • The Biden-Harris team can move into federal office space. GSA has allocated office space for up to 100 people at the Department of Commerce headquarters for the Biden-Harris transition team. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and GSA will provide COVID-19 health and safety guidelines to the transition team, which will be responsible for implementing those procedures inside the space as it sees fit.
  • The Biden-Harris transition team can begin the process of obtaining security clearances. The transition team may coordinate with the Department of Justice to submit requests for security clearances for prospective officials who will need access to classified information after the November election.
  • A representative from the Biden-Harris transition team can attend the Agency Transition Directors Council. This council guides preparations by federal agencies for presidential transitions. The council already has held two meetings this year – one in May and one in July. Moving forward, the Biden-Harris transition team will be permitted to send a representative to ensure agency transition activities are taking place as required by law.

Because President Trump is the incumbent, his administration is not required to create a formal transition team. However, the conclusion of the nominating conventions presents an opportunity for the Trump administration to plan for second term policy and personnel changes.

The next notable transition milestone will be on Oct. 1 when the Trump White House and the Biden-Harris team must reach an agreement that governs how and when transition team members can engage with federal agencies following the November election if the Democrats are successful. This agreement also will include an ethics plan for transition team members.

With the presidential campaign now heading into its final months, the law dictating the beginning of official coordination among the transition team, the current administration and federal agencies is a testament to the importance of a smooth and peaceful transfer of power and for effective presidential transition planning.