Posts Tagged ‘national security’

Update: The White House Transition Project

August 20, 2009

I had lunch yesterday with Martha Kumar, who helps run the White House Transition Project,  and she encouraged a visit to their website to see their “Six Month Review” of the Obama Administration’s transition.  You should visit also!

They’ve got a running tally of the status of presidential appointments as of the six-month point (55 percent identified or confirmed, of the top 542 positions).  They note the delay in confirmations tends to be on the White House side – not the Senate side — of the appointment process.

They have also drafted some essays on specific topics:  a review of Rahm Emanuel’s effectiveness on the job so far (a positive assessment), a review of Jim Jones’s role as national security advisor (still evolving), and a piece on presidential travel (Obama has earned lots of miles!).  Additional essays in production include a piece on the organization of the White House, and the interaction between the President and the press.


Inventory of Blog Entries

October 22, 2008

This is my 100th blog entry!  Thanks to our many readers and contributors.  While few people post comments on our entries, we get lots of emails and phone calls.  Also, thanks to the Library of Congress for asking to preserve the site as part of its 2008 election coverage.  It’s been fun.


I looked back to see if there were any themes to all the stuff I’ve been writing and thought this would be a good point to come up with a rough index, which I’ll periodically update:


 (Last Updated: December 23, 2008)


Blogs on “The Big Picture” — Where Is Government Reform Going?

Blogs on What the Campaigns Have Been Saying About Government Reform


Blogs on the History of Transitions


Blogs on the 2008 Transition Process

 Blogs on The Bush Administration’s Transition-Out Activities

 Blogs on Management Ideas for the Next Administration

 Blogs on Advice for the New Team

Blogs on What Other Groups Are Doing


I’ll expand this list over time, so you might want to bookmark this page and return to it when you might be looking for something particular.


Also, I’m getting so much stuff, I’ll start blogging more frequently, with shorter blogs.  Would like to see how that works for you. Let me know. 

National Security Reform

August 5, 2008


Project on National Security Reform

Project on National Security Reform

Think tanks are starting to release some significant reports for the next president. The Project on National Security Reform recently released its preliminary findings.  The project’s goal is to revisit the National Security Act of 1947, which put in place the current infrastructure for national security (like the Defense Department!).


The project has a bipartisan cast of star advisors – Norm Augustine, Leon Fuerth, Newt Gingrich, Wesley Clark, Brent Scrowcroft, and more.


The preliminary report – more than 100 pages – concludes: “The world for which the national security system was created no longer exists.”  It identified a series of insights that should underlay any reform efforts, including:


·         The system must produce a collaborative government approach

·         Resources much match goals and objectives

·         The new system must be able to deal more effectively with other nations


It encourages the creation of a “national security workforce bound by a national security culture that rewards cooperation and collaboration,” and have “Oversight and Accountability of the system as a whole, rather than of its constituent parts.”


The findings report does not offer solutions.  This report is designed to only set the stage. Another report, along with detailed findings, are due out in October.



National Security During Transition

April 29, 2008

Last week the Congressional Research Service released a report noting: “A presidential transition is a unique time in America and holds . . . a possible risk to the nation’s security interests.” It cites Frances Townsend, who used to be President Bush’s homeland security advisor, as saying that Al Qaeda targeted terror attacks around the Spanish and British elections in recent years and that it “wants to influence elections and have political influence.”

The report’s author, John Rollins, is a specialist in terrorism and national security. He recommends several activities to facilitate a smooth transition in power in the face of potential threats. These include:

· Involving the national security representatives of presidential hopefuls in all transition-related discussions and holding a table-top exercise after the election so the incoming team can understand and test the national security coordination system;

· Establishing a joint advisory council that draws on the expertise of both the National Security Council and the Homeland Security Council to address transition-related risks;

· Passing the FY2009 appropriations without undue delay,

· Quickly assigning congressional committee members to committees focused on national security, and

· Appointing career civil servants to mid- and high-level positions in national security areas to provide continuity during the transition.

He cited several little-known resources, including a January 2008 presidential transition report prepared by President Bush’s Homeland Security Advisory Council. That report encourages information exchanges and collaborative efforts by the Department of Homeland Security with major party candidates.

Rollins’ report discusses a provision added in the 2004 Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act which “allows each major party candidate for President to submit, before the date of the general election, requests for security clearances of prospective transition team members” who would require access to classified information during the transition. This would mean background investigations would be completed by the day after the election. The Act also requires the outgoing Administration to prepare a classified report of specific operational threats pending at the time.

Rollins also notes that outgoing President Bush may want to create a Presidential Transition National Security Coordinating Council to oversee national security-related transition activities. This might include the coordination of training and orientation, and offering lessons learned from past national security activities.

The incoming President-Elect should develop a prioritized list of names to fill key national security leadership positions and Congress should act on them quickly. Rollins notes that at the time of the 9/11 attacks in 2001, less than half of the key positions in the government had been filled.

Rollins noted that the law allows federal career employees to be detailed to the incoming President-Elect’s transition team for national security purposes. He also noted that Congress required the Department of Homeland Security to develop a transition and succession plan (section 2405) to be presented to the incoming Secretary and Undersecretary for Management, and this plan is due December 1, 2008. (A recent media report notes that some members of Congress want to see that plan now).

Reorganizing the Government

January 8, 2008

org_chart.gifWill the next President want to reorganize the government?  Some encourage it. Others claim it is a waste of time and energy.   But what’s been the recent history on this?

In 2003, the House Government Reform Committee proposed legislation to grant the president reorganization authority.  The legislation went nowhere. In 2005, President Bush proposed legislation to create a series of government reorganization commissions.  That too, went no where. In 2007, a legislative proposal to create a grand reform commission fell short, as well.  But the topic still seems to be alive.

The most celebrated government-wide reorganization effort was 60 years ago — the 1947 Hoover Commission — which resulted in a major restructuring of many federal functions.  While the Government Accountability Office has been urging the President and Congress to “re-examine the base of government,” the conventional opinion is that there seems to be little appetite to do anything big.  Well, at least that’s what it seems on the surface.

In fact, there have been significant restructurings in recent years and more seem to be on its way.  The difference from the Hoover Commission, though, is that these reorganization efforts are more mission-specific as opposed to a general reorganization of domestic agencies.

The most celebrated of the recently reorganization efforts was the creation of the Department of Homeland Security:  This grew out of the political reaction to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  But the groundwork was laid by the Hart-Rudman Commission, officially called the U.S. Commission on National Security in the 21st Century, which released its report shortly after President Bush took office in early 2001.  That reorganization effort – which was reputedly run secretly out of the basement of the White House — resulted in a new cabinet department.

Following close behind was the creation of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which serves as a coordinating function for the 16-member Intelligence Community.  This reorganization effort – creating largely a virtual agency — stemmed from recommendations in the 2004 report of the 9/11 Commission. 

 A more current restructuring effort is the reexamination of the foreign aid functions in the federal government.  Legislation created the HELP Commission to propose a restructuring of federal foreign assistance programs.  It released its report in early December 2007, claiming the existing structure of the State Department needs upended.  This issue will likely be left to the new President to address, unless legislation is adopted in the coming months. 

Finally, there is another national security reform effort, which is to release its report before the Fall 2008 elections.  Called the Project on National Security Reform, it is sponsored by the Center for the Study of the Presidency and has a series of working groups with a goal of revising the National Security Act of 1947 – which originally created the Defense Department.  Again, this is likely to be an issue that will face the next President.

Are there any lessons for how to do this right?  While each reorganization effort has its own dynamics, there are at least a trio of reports that can help, all prepared by the IBM Center. 

The first is a report by Hannah Sistare, “Government Reorganization:  Strategies and Tools to Get It Done.”  This report looks at different approaches used historically to decide on how to reorganize, then it describes different options for how to structure any reorganization.  The second report, by Peter Frumpkin, “Making Public Sector Mergers Work” picks up after a reorganization is underway.  It offers advice to the agency heads involved, addressing what their options are and how should they move forward.  And the third report, by Tom Stanton, “Moving Towards More Capable Government:  A Guide for Organizational Design,” which can help policymakers decide between what kind of an organization to create, once a decision is made to restructure.

So, while the next president may not have reorganization on his or her agenda, it might wind up on the agenda anyway.  After all, the last two major reorganizations weren’t on President Bush’s agenda!