A department’s agency transition director is responsible for leading the planning and execution of presidential transition activities on behalf of their agency in accordance with the law. This position description provides an overview of the key elements, responsibilities, requirements and competencies of the role.

Data from the Center for Presidential Transition compares nominations and Senate confirmations from the most recent four presidents during their first three years in office.

The Center for Presidential Transition has gathered answers to the most frequently asked questions about the political appointment process. For information about navigating this process, visit our Ready to Serve website.

President-elect Biden and his team have already started their transition work, demonstrating skill, experience and purpose. Now that ascertainment has occurred, they can continue with the full support of the United States government. 

RESOURCES NOW AVAILABLE 

1. The Biden-Harris agency review teams may begin coordination with the 17 agencies with intelligence responsibilities. 

2. The General Services Administration (GSA) can release $6.3 million in congressionally appropriated funds to the transition team, along with 175,000 square feet of federal office space, including secure facilities for sensitive intelligence briefings. 

3. Career agency transition directors can coordinate with the Biden-Harris transition team and deliver the briefing materials they have been preparing for the past six months

4. The Biden-Harris team will be granted access to agency succession plans naming acting officials who will hold key positions until Senate-confirmed appointees are in place. 

5. The Department of Justice (DOJ) may begin the final step in adjudicating final, non-interim security clearances for transition team members and political appointees entering the administration on Day One. 

6. The Office of Government Ethics (OGE) can begin coordinating agency ethics officials to support nominees who must disclose, and if necessary, divest assets in accordance with federal ethics laws. 

7. The Office of Performance Management (OPM) can release guidance on personnel actions to take in preparation for the incoming administration, including a moratorium on agencies’ SES Qualifications Review Board process and the authorization for agencies to move forward with Temporary Schedule C and Temporary Non-Career SES hires. 

8. The White House Transition Coordinating Council will facilitate homeland security and emergency preparedness exercises as required by law. 

9. The National Archives and Records Administration will provide guidance to the outgoing administration and transition team on managing and preserving presidential records. 

10. The Biden-Harris transition team will be granted access to an official .gov website and government software applications for the intake of applicants for political appointments.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS 

Q: How much time was lost due to the delay? 

A: Recent transitions have had about 77 days between the election and inauguration. The Biden team will have 57 days. 

Q: How does this delay compare with other recent transitions? 

A: For all recent transitions, the GSA identified the winner immediately following the election. The only exception was in 2000 during the tight election between George W. Bush and Al Gore. That year, the GSA identified the winner on Dec. 13 immediately following Gore’s concession speech. 

This year’s election outcome was substantially different than that of 2000. 

Q: What adjustments have been made due to the COVID-19 pandemic? 

When Biden’s transition team was given federal office space after the political conventions, the GSA informed the team of guidelines produced by the Centers for Disease Control and 

Prevention. The transition team was responsible for determining how the guidelines would be implemented. 

Additionally, the GSA and federal agencies have increased the use of videoconference platforms and made documents available in digital formats. When in-person meetings are necessary, agencies and agency review teams will follow COVID-19 safety protocols to allow for safe in-person interactions. 

Q: Does a shortened transition impact a president’s first year? 

A: It can. The bipartisan 9/11 Commission, which studied the tragic terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, found the Bush administration did not have its full national security team in place for at least six months after it took office. 

Additional research by the Center for Presidential Transition showed that that the shortened transition in 2000 resulted in President Bush having half as many top appointees in place at the 100-day mark of his term as President Barack Obama did eight years later with a full transition period. 

Q: What are other available resources to learn more? 

A: For more information on the transition process, please refer to the following resources produced by the Center for Presidential Transition. 

 

The Presidential Records Act outlines requirements regarding the maintenance, access and preservation of presidential and vice-presidential information during and after a presidency. The act states that presidential records are the property of the United States and must be preserved in perpetuity.

The Federal Records Act outlines how federal agency employees should determine whether information they create qualifies as a federal record and governs how federal records are to be collected, retained, and eventually either destroyed or provided to the National Archives and Records Administration for permanent archiving.

Considering the size of the U.S. government, the importance of its responsibilities and the short time between the election and the inauguration, transitions are always a tall order. But the stakes could not be higher this year.

The modern-day Presidential Transition Act outlines multiple requirements for all stakeholders involved in presidential transitions. This document describes the requirements that apply to the post-election period.

The Office of Government Ethics (OGE) transition guide is a comprehensive resource to help potential political appointees, nominees and their support networks successfully navigate the financial disclosure, conflicts of interest and other ethical requirements of nominees.

This guide and checklist outlines leading practices and key actions CHCOs can take to build effective relationships with new appointees during their first weeks and throughout the onboarding process to position them as a trusted advisor. It includes insights and advice from current and former CHCOs, appointees and other federal leaders.