December 2016

March 8, 2019
Incoming Administration: Agency Review


Agency review teams prepare final deliverables

December Week 1: Budget memos due to policy implementation budget team

December Week 1: Tier 1 agencies—Final executive summary, strategic briefing paper, budget memo and user’s manual due

December Week 2: Tier 2 agencies—Final executive summary, strategic briefing paper and user’s manual due

December Week 3: Tier 3 agencies—Final executive summary, strategic briefing paper and user’s manual due


Landing teams meet with agency staff to collect all relevant information for deliverables (e.g., mission and current strategy of the agency, high-priority issues, expected challenges and opportunities for the incoming head, personnel strategy (through December)

Identify top-performing political appointees who should stay on in the new administration, and career staff who will be critical for implementing the new administration’s policy priorities (through December)

Presidential Transition Guide, Ch. 5, Major Steps in the Agency Review Process, Identify core continuity staff

It is sometimes worthwhile to identify the top-performing political appointees who are carrying out key functions of an office and could be an asset to the incoming administration. This is particularly true for those positions that are considered to be management jobs, such as chief financial officers, assistant secretaries for management and administration, chief acquisition officers and similar positions where management competence is highly important and sometimes hard to find. This could include jobs critical to national, homeland and economic security. Agency review teams working with each major agency are well-positioned to determine whether particular non-career staff members should be invited to stay on temporarily or permanently.

In addition, agency review teams should identify high-performing career employees and those playing critical roles. This will be especially helpful as agencies seek outstanding performers for high-impact roles and to serve as the “bench” of talent that will help minimize the effect of departures by those in appointed positions. Identifying key career staff also will help political leaders build relationships with those employees who will be most critical for implementing the new administration’s policy priorities. By taking this step early, the agency review team can set up the agency’s new political team and the administration for success down the line, and build credibility and goodwill among the career staff. Identifying and developing such staff early through training, and involvement in the decision-making process where appropriate, also will enhance the working relationship between political and career staff and get them further invested in the success of the administration’s agenda.

Provide support as needed to confirmation teams to prepare and brief nominees for confirmation hearings (through January)

Presidential Transition Guide, Ch. 5, Major Steps in the Agency Review Process, Brief incoming agency leaders

The final step in the agency review process is to deliver oral briefings to incoming agency heads and White House staff on the key functions of their agency or office, how various offices interact with one another, staff roles, pressing challenges and other “need to know” information. Although much of this information may be included in the agency review reports, having a briefing in person has a much greater impact than simply “throwing the memo over the fence,” as one senior Obama transition staffer put it. The level of detail of these briefings will depend on the seniority and experience of the incoming agency head and should be done as soon as possible. As stated by one agency liaison, the briefings “should not try to tell incoming heads what to do, but should help them do what they want to do.” New agency leaders inevitably will develop their own plans based on their personal expertise and experience, what they learn from the agency review team and other transition team members, and their understanding of the new president’s goals and expectations for the agency. The role of the transition team is to help agency leaders identify the issues, problems and opportunities they should prepare to address.