They’re from the government and they’re here to help your transition


February 10, 2016 | Updated on January 5, 2021

This blog post originally ran in 2016 and was one of our favorites from the last election cycle. One of our most popular posts, the information remains valuable for transition planning.

By Zach Piaker

There is both disruption and continuity in a presidential transition. Thankfully, a support structure of career staff and their agencies stands ready to assist the presidential transition teams BEFORE the election and the incoming administration after the votes have been counted. 

In 2010, Congress passed the Pre-Election Presidential Transition Act to provide major party presidential candidates with support and services after their nominating conventions. This law added to a range of services that are provided by the government to the presidential campaigns. Here are some places to turn to for help. 

  • The General Services Administration has provided logistical support, including office space, to the president-elect’s transition team since 1963. Under the 2010 law, eligible campaigns don’t need to wait until Election Day to move their transition teams into secure federal space. Republican Mitt Romney received support in 2012. This year will be the first election in which two candidates will receive pre-election support from GSA. 
  • The Office of Government Ethics processes financial disclosure reports for the incoming executive branch political appointees. 
  • The Department of Justice manages the security clearance process and ensures that the FBI can conduct background investigations on new appointees who require security clearances. 
  • The Office of Personnel Management conducts background investigations for lower-level positions following the election and provides guidance to agencies as they prepare for thousands of departing and incoming political appointees. 
  • The National Archives and Records Administration helps ensure that outgoing officials follow records requirements. NARA also is responsible for removing historical documents from the White House before the next president moves in. 

Campaigns don’t need to search for federal resources, though. Congress mandated GSA to create a Presidential Transition Directory, which was launched online last fall to help eligible 2016 presidential candidates get quick and easy access to key resources about the federal government’s structure and policies related to presidential transition.

More resources are available to transition teams—including templates, timelines and guidance—in our own Center library

The “transition service providers” all play a critical role in the transition process. Last summer, the Center for Presidential Transition started a series of meetings with representatives from these agencies. Getting support teams together early and often helps federal service providers share information and create strategies and solutions. 

Thanks to the work of this group, the next president’s transition team will be better supported than ever before.