Center Blog

Presidential Transitions Improvements Act of 2015 Becomes Law

March 21, 2016

Andrew Lobel, Manager, Partnership for Public Service

Congress has made a clear and unequivocal statement about the importance of the presidential transition with the passage of the Edward “Ted” Kaufman and Michael Leavitt Presidential Transitions Improvements Act.
This bipartisan legislation, sponsored by Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and signed into law on Friday by President Obama, codifies many of the best practices of the 2008-09 Bush-Obama transition. The law gives federal career executives a bigger role in the transition process and builds on the reforms of 2010 Pre-Election Presidential Transition Act.
Here are some of the law’s key provisions:

  • Beginning in May, the president must establish a White House Transition Coordinating Council and Agency Transition Directors Council. These councils will facilitate information-sharing between candidates and agencies. The councils will also provide guidance to agencies in preparing briefing materials and other information requested by eligible candidates, and ensure that there is an integrated strategy for addressing interagency responsibilities around the presidential transition.
  • The administrator of General Service Administration must appoint a federal transition coordinator, a career executive responsible for managing the presidential transition across agencies and overseeing GSA-provided transition services. The federal transition coordinator also will chair the Agency Transition Directors Council.
  • Agency heads must designate a senior career executive by May to oversee transition activities in that agency.
  • The administration must negotiate a memorandum of understanding with the transition team of each presidential candidate by November 1 to ensure access to agency personnel, facilities and documents.
  • Training resources made available for appointees in the first term of the administration may now also be used in the second term, and may be used throughout the president’s first term.
  • In the event of a contested election, GSA may continue to provide services to eligible candidates until the election outcome is determined.

The new law ensures that presidential transition teams will have access to more resources than ever before. It will be up to the presidential candidates from both parties to take advantage of this assistance in their preparation for governing. Even at the height of the presidential election season, with its partisanship and intensity, the intent of Congress is clear: candidates should take transition planning seriously.

For more on the bill, read our article on Bloomberg Government.

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