Posts Tagged ‘White House’

Working in the White House

December 19, 2008
by Brad Patterson

by Brad Patterson

Today, President-Elect Obama will largely wrap up his cabinet nominations.  He’ll likely start filling out his White House staff next.  This will number around 900 or so folks.  What do they do and how do they work together? 

There’s a great new book out by Brad Patterson, “To Serve the President: Continuity and Innovation in the White House Staff,” that should be the bible of every new White House staffer (and any Administration appointee who is trying to figure out how the White House works).  It should be part of every orientation given to new White House staffers.

Patterson’s book is full of facts and good advice.  He started working in the White House under President Eisenhower, so he brings a seasoned perspective.

Did you know there are 135 different offices in the White House that serve as the primary support units for the President?  Of these, 95 are policy units.  The newest, created by President Bush, include the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, the Office of the USA Freedom Corps, and the Office of Homeland Security and Counterterrorism.  The other 40 units are comprised of nonpolitical professionals and constitute three-quarters of the White House staff.  These include grounds-keepers, the visitors center, records management, photographers, military support, and the mail room.  In total, nearly 6,600 staff work for the White House.  By Patterson’s definition, this does not include staff in the seven statutory offices that are part of the overall Executive Office of the President, such as the Office of Management and Budget or the Office of the US Trade Representative. 

Patterson’s book details what each of the 135 different offices do and provides some historical context of how they evolved.

Patterson says his goals were to “provide the president-elect with an accurate picture of the contemporary White House,” and to “paint a factual, nonpartisan picture of the White House at work.”  He concludes: “Before launching any innovations, future White House managers need to know what it is they are reforming.”  His book serves as the definitive baseline of understanding.

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Transition Team Resource Guide

November 4, 2008

white-house-south-lawn By the end of the day, we’ll know whose transition team picks up the keys to the transition office in downtown Washington DC tomorrow.

(UPDATED: November 15, 2008).

The transition team itself will start to grow quickly.  Based on past history, it could range in size from 300 to over 1,000 members.  Most will be volunteers, some will be paid, few (if any) will be federal employees.  So, most won’t know their way around the federal government.  Here’s a quick resource guide:

The GSA Presidential Transition Website.  The General Services Administration is the designated administrative resource for the transition team.  This site provides basic background information on the transition and GSA’s role. 

The Presidential Transition Resources Directory.  This site is a joint effort between GSA and the National Archives to provide the transition team with baseline information about how the government works.  This will be the “go to” place for government information.

The Obama Transition Website.  Here is the Transition Team’s official website. — change.gov.  It encourages visitors to contribute their impressions, a blog, information on the progress of the transition, and a place to submit interest in working in the Obama Administration.

The Plum Book.  The Senate worked with the Office of Personnel Management to develop this inventory of all policy-making and political appointments.  It will be the baseline for identifying where positions will be available, by agency.  It will become a hot item for all transition team staffers.

The Prune Book On-Line.  The non-partisan, non-profit Council for Excellence in Government has created a guide to a subset of 114 key jobs listed in the Plum Book.  It describes the challenges of what previous office-holders have faced in those positions (such as the head of the IRS) and what skills would be most useful to be successful in those jobs. 

Agency Performance Links.  The Office of Management and Budget created a useful “go to” webpage with every agency’s strategic plans, performance plans, performance reports, and program-level assessments.  A useful baseline of what’s going on!

Wiki Inventory of Think Tank Transition Efforts.  The 1105 Government Information Group has created a wiki inventory of what different think tanks and other groups are doing to provide insights and recommendations related to management improvements in government.

Political Appointee Roadmap.  The Council for Excellence in Government has created an interactive roadmap for potential political appointees.  It tailors a checklist of action steps to be taken, depending on whether you’re looking for an appointment for a Presidential Appointment with Senate Confirmation, or a lower-level Schedule C position. 

The Operator’s Manual for the New Administration. The IBM Center put together this manual to help incoming agency leaders navigate their way around their agency’s main management systems.  It can be helpful to transition team members, especially those in “parachute teams” visiting agencies, to frame a quick understanding of what’s going on.

Getting It Done:  A Guide for Government Executives.  Another IBM Center resource, this guide helps incoming agency leaders gain a quick understanding of how to get things done.  It can be a useful resource for prospective appointees so they can understand who the key stakeholders are that they’ll need to be dealing with, and initial steps they can take to be successful in their jobs.

White House Staff Guide.  Brad Patterson has updated his 2000 book that inventories office-by-office what goes on in the White House complex.  For anyone working in a White House, this is a detailed “how to” manual that provides a baseline for how it works today.  This 475-page book can be order from the Brookings Institution.

If there are other great links you think would be helpful to the transition team, let me know and I’ll add them here or in the wiki!

Transition Coordination Council Meets

October 28, 2008

The Transition Coordination Council, created by an Executive Order signed by President Bush several weeks ago, meet today for the second time.  They heard from a series of experts as well as from past White House Chiefs of Staff.  The White House released a Fact Sheet on what’s been done to date.

Transition Advice from Experts

July 3, 2008
The July-August 2008 issue of Public Administration Review contains a trio of articles offering advice to the presidential candidates’ transition teams.  Each of the articles offers advice based on experience and history.  As might be expected, there are many parallels.

 

  Dr. Martha Kumar, who directs The White House Transition Project, did an article, “Getting Ready for Day One,” which offers historical insights into what candidates’ transition teams should be doing, starting now!  These include:

·      Campaign commitments can affect the ease or difficulty with which the president-elect establishes the direction of the Administration and staffs the offices.

·      The importance of an information-gathering operation prior to the convention to identify information on personnel and timetables for decisions to be made.

·      Monitor the actions of the incumbent president and administration to be aware of issues that may come to the fore in the early days of the new Administration.

·      Focus on the White House decision-making process, key White House positions, and budget officials.

·      Coordinate both people and policy around the president’s agenda.

 

Harrison Wellford, who helped manage President Jimmy Carter’s transition – both in and out of the White House (and served as an advisor to subsequent presidential transition teams) – wrote “Preparing to Be President on Day One.”    He offers advice on the attributes of a successful transition team.  For example, the transition leader should have a close relationship with the candidate and be trusted by the campaign.  He also advises establishing a relationship of mutual respect and cooperation with the outgoing administration, and learn from the institutional memory of both outgoing teams as well as from senior career executives.  Pointing to the Clinton transition, he notes “Avoid musical chairs in transition leadership after the election!”

 

And finally, Clay Johnson III, who was President George W. Bush’s transition director in 2000 and, as deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget is helping manage the transition out for this Administration, wrote an authoritative: “Recommendations for an Effective 2008 Transition.”  Johnson based his insights on the latest transition:  a cost of at least $9 million, a staff of at least 800, an influx of at least 75,000 resumes.  He offers practical advice about schedules, priorities, and communication.  For example, he notes “Expect a lot of advice from member of previous administrations, ‘experts,” interest groups, lobbyists, governors, legislators, donors, and the like.”  He advises the incoming transition team to clearly inform such advisors on the best ways to communicate with the team.  But his key advice, like both Dr. Kumar and Mr. Wellford, is to start preparing to govern months before the party nominating conventions.

 

Note:  Links to the articles cited are used with the permission of the American Society for Public Administration.

 

Fixing the Nomination and Confirmation Process: Part II

June 19, 2008

John Kamesnsky, Senior Fellow, IBM Center for The Business of Government This is the second entry in a two-part review of the federal appointee Nomination and Confirmation Process.

 

 What’s the Process That Needs Fixed?

 First, there’s the nomination process.  After someone is selected by the White House personnel office (or the president-elect’s transition team), they have a number of forms to complete.   Dr. Alvin Felzenberg notes: “The typical appointee must complete a minimum of three forms: SF-278, a financial disclosure statement; SF-86, a form that begins an FBI background investigation; and the White House Personal Data Statement Questionnaire. Although the White House and FBI are free to modify their forms, information on the financial disclosure form is required by statute.”  The nominee’s information is reviewed by the White House counsel, the FBI, the IRS, and the Office of Government Ethics.

 

 Paul Light says that there are about 60 pages of forms with about 240 questions, many overlapping.  Each of the different Senate committees each has its own forms to fill out.   Appointees who need national security clearances have additional forms to complete, as well.  Some of the forms require a typewriter to be completed; others must be hand-written because, according to Light, the White House personnel office rejects typed or computer-generated versions.  Light says that about half of the delay in the overall nomination-confirmation process is due to the Executive Branch. 

 

Once nominated, then there is the Senate confirmation process.  If there is no controversy, sometimes the delay is in scheduling a hearing; other times, it is the press of business of the committee or the full Senate.  And other times, appointees are held hostage pending resolution of a policy issue that is unrelated to the individuals being confirmed.  According to the Washington Post, in May 2008 there were 200 appointments awaiting confirmation. 

 

What Action Has Been Taken? 

 

As I mentioned in my August blog entry on this topic, the last concerted effort to reform the process was in 2000 when the Brookings Institution supported the Presidential Appointee Initiative.  Unfortunately, the website from this 4-year, $3.9 million project is no longer active; it used to have valuable resources, such as an appointee survivor’s guide!  But the project leaders wrote books that are available.  The project was led by Dr. Light.  Dr. G. Calvin MacKenzie, an academic specialist in the topic, was a senior advisor to the project.  Each wrote a book about their research findings.

 

Dr. Light’s 2000 research project included interviews with hundreds of past appointees about their experience.  Based on the research, Dr. MacKenzie wrote a book,” Innocent Until Nominated: The Breakdown of the Presidential Appointments Process.”  

 

The research project did generate some action.  In late 2000, Congress required the Office of Government Ethics to prepare a report identifying ways to simplify the financial reporting process that appointees undergo.  Its mid-2001 report identified both administrative as well as legislative fixes.

 

The Brookings Presidential Appointee Initiative also convened a bipartisan panel to develop recommendations.  In early 2001 it offered 11 specific actions in its report:

 

§ Create a permanent Office of Presidential Personnel in the Executive Office of the President.

§ Simplify and standardize the information-gathering forms used in the presidential appointments process, and develop and maintain online, interactive access to all such forms and questionnaires for persons going through the appointments process.

§ Reduce the number of positions requiring FBI full-field investigations.

§ Undertake a comprehensive review of the ethics requirements imposed on political appointees, with the goal of striking a balance between concerns for the integrity of those who serve and the need to eliminate intrusive or complex disclosure requirements.

§ Ensure annual changes in executive-level salaries equal to changes in the Consumer Price Index.

§ Reduce the number of positions requiring Senate confirmation.

§ Limit the imposition of “holds” by all Senators to a total of no more than 14 days.

§ Require Senate confirmation votes within 45 days after receipt of a nomination.

§ Allow nominations to be reported out of their respective Senate committee without a hearing upon the concurrence of a majority of committee members of each party.

§ Reduce the number and layers of political appointees by one-third.

§ Grant the president renewed executive reorganization authority to de-layer senior management levels of all executive departments and agencies.

 

Senate hearings were held in early 2001 on the results of the bipartisan panel and the OGE report.  In late 2001 legislation was drafted.  The bill was S.1811.   Hearings were held again in early 2002 and the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee reported out legislation to the full Senate.  The legislation died there.  The Brookings project closed its doors in 2003.   Now it’s 2008.

 

So what’s the next step?  Do you have any friends in high places that want to help the next president be successful?

Fixing the Nomination and Appointment Process: Part I

June 17, 2008

John Kamensky, Senior Fellow, IBM Center for The Business of GovernmentThis is the first entry in a two-part review of the federal appointee Nomination and Confirmation Process.

 

I’ve been mulling over what Dr. Paul Light advocated last week when he opined on the broken presidential nomination and appointment process at an event hosted by the National Academy for Public Administration.  Though I wrote about this topic in an earlier blog, I think, given its importance for the next administration, it is a subject worth revisiting in a bit more detail: getting this right is critical for either candidate.

 

Last month, a Washington Post article described how half of the top 600 jobs in Washington are already vacant.  Recruiting and appointing that number of people in the waning days of the Bush Administration seems unlikely.  When paired with another statistic – that it took on average 8.5 months to confirm new appointees at the beginning of the Bush Administration – it becomes clear that the prospects for any continuity in leadership in government seems dicey, no matter who’s president.

 

Reduce the Number of Appointees? 

 

One of Dr. Light’s key suggestions is to reduce the number of appointees.  He has carefully documented the growth in the number of appointees over the past few generations.  While reducing their number may be an ideal, it seems impractical given the institutional forces that generate the increasing number of appointees, especially those that are Presidentially-appointed and Senate-confirmed (called “PAS” positions by insiders). There are about 1,100 of these positions that are full-time jobs. The White House office of presidential personnel is typically reluctant to reduce its own scope of authority.  For example, during the Clinton Administration, it blocked an effort to convert U.S. marshals to career civil service positions, even though there was professional consensus that it would be better to fill these jobs with civil servants with appropriate law-enforcement experience.  In addition, Senators like the ability to hold individuals accountable via the appointment process.  A recent example in a pending bill is a provision creating a director of operational energy plans and programs” in the Defense Department who will oversee DOD’s energy requirements.

 

So what do we do?  A first step is to understand what’s been done to date to attempt to fix the process, if it is not politically possible to reduce the number of appointees.

 

Much Research Little Action… 

 

I surveyed some recent reform efforts focusing on the nomination and confirmation process. My research confirmed plenty of studies, a host of recommendations, and even legislation drafted to do it, but little action.   In 2001, Dr. Alvin Felzenberg wrote a piece for The Brookings Institution describing the recommendations of the six most recent commissions.

 

The best time to attempt to reform, according to experts, is before an election when both candidates have a stake in being able to recruit and quickly fill vacancies.  That’s why Dr. Light said that the two candidates – who are both sitting senators – should act on legislation before their respective conventions distract them from spending time on this.  Former Senator Tom Daschle, who attended Light’s presentation, seemed to be supportive, as well.

 

In my next posting, I will shed more light on what exactly is broken and outline in more detail what’s been proposed to fix it….

Transition Lessons: Pre- and Post-Election

May 6, 2008

White HouseScholars have studied presidential transitions over the past 40 years, which I’ve reflected in several earlier blog posts. While it might seem to be an obscure niche of scholarship, their efforts have been vitally important every 4 to 8 years. What have they learned that could be helpful to the upcoming transition?

Dr. Martha Kumar and several of her colleagues collaborated in 2001 on an interesting paper summarizing their years of work up to that point.

First, they note that the institutional presidency matters. However, the absence of any institutional memory in the White House that accompanies a transition means the incoming president needs to rely on veterans of previous White House operations in order to be effective. Think tanks can help provide some insights into the institutional presidency, but people with experience are vital.

Second, they caution that having a good pre-election transition planning effort is not necessarily predictive of an effective post-election effort. They point to several past transitions where the pre-election and post-election transition players were not well-connected with either the candidate or the campaigns and this caused the post-election transition efforts to stumble.

Pre-Election

The literature on past transitions is helpful and offers several lessons:

Build a Bridge.A key pre-election step is to ensure there is trust between the leadership of the campaign staff and the pre-election transition planning group. The most publicized disconnect occurred when president-elect Jimmy Carter’s hand-chosen pre-election transition planner was displaced after the election. The most effective was the George W. Bush transition, where a close friend led the effort both before and after the election.

Watch Commitments. A second important cautionary note raised by academic observers is for the candidate to avoid making commitments that will constrain their ability to govern. The classic example is Bill Clinton’s campaign promise to cut the White House staff by 25 percent and to impose strict ethics pledge on his appointees (which reportedly led many capable people to reject offers to join the Administration, and which was repealed in the waning days of his Administration so leaving officials could find employment).

Draw Up a List. A third lesson was the importance of developing a list of key positions to be filled, and the order in which groups of appointments should be decided upon. There are about 7,800 political positions, of which about half are part-time jobs on boards and commissions. The transition team will receive between 40,000 and 70,000 resumes to fill these jobs. About 1,200 are appointments requiring Senate confirmation (cabinet secretaries, assistant secretaries, judges, ambassadors, district attorneys, US marshals). About 1,400 are Schedule C; 800 non-career Senior Executives; and 800 White House staff. GSA will work with the pre-election transition teams to identify automated software to handle the post-election surge.

While figuring out which jobs to fill first will be important, but equally important is coming up with a selection process that is seen as fair by those rejected. Past experience shows that a process seen as unfair leads to end-runs and a breakdown in the process itself.



Post-Election

What about post-election? Flipping the switch from campaigning to governing means the new president-elect needs to be up and running day after election. He or she will have 77 days to form a White House staff, designate senior cabinet officials, prepare an inaugural address, define an agenda, and begin developing a $3 trillion budget to send to Congress.

About 600 staff can be involved in a transition – some paid, and many volunteers. But this number varies greatly. The Reagan transition involved more than double that number while the George H.W. Bush transition was about half that size. Observers say that about 600 for a transition between parties seem to be a manageable number.

Pick Key White House Staff.Academic observers say a key lesson is that the selection of top White House staff should be the first order. When that did not happen, there was endless jockeying for position and little commitment to substantive action on the president-elect’s policy agenda. If the key goal during the transition is to develop a set of policy initiatives and a decision-making process to be used in the early White House, then the president-elect needs to have key White House staffing decisions out of the way. Focusing on the selection, vetting, confirmation process for the 15 cabinet members is seen as secondary.

Develop Policy Proposal Process. A second lesson is the importance of developing a strategic plan for the policy proposals to be put in place. This means developing a prioritization and decision-making process – and only then focusing on substance. An advantage of having these in place early is that they can also be used as a screen to help hire new appointees and get their buy-in up front on the president-elect’s agenda. The most effective policy teams have a plan for the first 3 weeks, the next 3 months, and the following 6 months.

Decide on Governance Style.A third lesson is making some early institutional decisions on how the president-elect wants to govern. It is easier to make these decisions at the outset rather than having to change course later. These decisions would include questions such as:

  • What is the role of the cabinet vs. White House policy councils?
  • What should be the role of key staff (e.g., will the chief of staff be an honest broker, a gate keeper, a controller of the information flow, a step in the decision-making process, etc.)?

Learn From the Outgoing Team. A fourth lesson is taking the time to glean lessons from the outgoing team. This is more likely to happen at the top levels, since the mid-level positions in most agencies will not be filled for 6 to 9 months. The outgoing team will have an institutional sense of responsibility, but past experience says the incoming team generally won’t be interested in listening to them (I know; I had first hand experience being ignored). These lessons are all useful and grounded in practice. Dr. Kumar and her colleagues are in the process of updating their research and this will be available this Fall to the incoming transition teams.

If you’ve had experience with a transition, what advice would you add?

Transition 1988: George H.W. Bush

March 3, 2008

President George H.W. BushThe Reagan to Bush transition has been characterized as a “friendly takeover.” This may have been true at the very top levels, but people I knew who were “on the ground level” in agencies saw it as being more difficult than a changeover between political parties.

Pre-Election

Transition planning began almost a year in advance; Chase Untermeyer raised the topic during a Christmas party at the Bush residence and was subsequently asked to explore what needed to be done. No work was begun until April 1988 after the primaries left Bush as the clear candidate. Untermeyer’s work was limited: he was told not to address personnel or policy issues, or White House organizational issues. He was to focus on the stand-up of the transition headquarters and lay out the structure for making personnel and policy decisions during the transition period.

In parallel, President Reagan’s staff undertook efforts for an orderly transition. The director of Presidential Personnel met with Untermeyer on the organization and operation of the Office of Presidential Personnel, going through each department, job-by-job. President Reagan’s chief of staff developed a checklist for the incoming transition team, as well.

Post-Election

President-elect Bush unveiled his key transition team the day after the election. He appointed Craig Fuller (his vice presidential chief of staff) and Robert Teeter (a key campaign strategist) as co-directors, with Untermeyer and C. Boyden Gray as deputies. Untermeyer headed the personnel function and Gray served as legal counsel.

Untermeyer recommended a small transition staff of about 100, but it ultimately grew to about 225 (GSA had prepared office space for 500!). Untermeyer was asked to provide 3-5 names for each cabinet position and 50 state recruiters were encouraged to come up with “fresh faces.”

Because there were no large agency teams, President Reagan’s chief of staff sent out a memo to agency political appointees to provide requested briefing book information. Binders were prepared for incoming cabinet appointees with information about their jobs and advice on proper behavior during the transition period.

Sub-cabinet positions were filled later; the selections were made jointly between the incoming secretary and the White House Office of Presidential Personnel, with the White House office suggesting potential appointees. Lower-level appointments were more highly controlled by Presidential Personnel.

President-elect Bush asked John Sunnunu to be his chief of staff 9 days after the election. Bush had wanted a strong chief of staff, but there was tension among his close associates immediately after the election about who should fill the position. According to media reports, both Fuller and Teeter were opposed to Sunnunu’s selection and chose to not join the new Administration. Instead, they both left after the transition.

In the end, according to historian John Burke, “The president-elect had assembled a cabinet and staff populated with longtime friends, most with a high degree of prior governmental experience.”

*** This story was abstracted from John P. Burke’s book, “Presidential Transitions: From Politics to Practice.” If you were involved in this transition, please feel free to add your stories, as well! ***

Implementer-in-Chief

January 15, 2008

Bob Tobias, the director of American University’s Institute for the Study of Public Policy Implementation, wrote a short piece in the Washington Post last month about how it is important that the next President create a focus on implementing policy, not just creating it.  He recommends regular meetings with cabinet secretaries to review their department’s performance goals as one way of demonstrating commitment.

Are there better ways for a President to ensure things happen as a result of policies made?  After all, the President has multiple responsibilities – head of state, commander-in-chief, policy leader, etc.  How can he or she be expected to engage in the time-consuming job of ensuring things get done by government, other than the occasional disaster or crisis?

What are some of the options?

Tobias suggests one-on-one meetings between the President and each cabinet secretary on his or her Department’s performance.  Historically, the President has met one-on-one with secretaries on policy development, on specific problems, and on budget appeals.  Adding “performance” meetings to mix might be a stretch, but worthwhile.

Another approach, which has never been used very successfully in the U.S., would be to convene regular cabinet meetings.  While attempted by past Presidents, such as Jimmy Carter, these meeting tend to oftentimes be more symbolic than substantive, since the substantive interactions have typically been carried out through White House staff and OMB.

A third option would be to restructure an existing communication channel between a secretary and the President.  Most Presidents receive a weekly summary of “what’s going on” from their cabinet secretaries, which are collected by the Cabinet Secretary – a White House official who coordinates all communications between the Cabinet and the President.  The President could ask the Cabinet Secretary to have these informal weekly notes be more structured and organized around outcome-oriented themes, such as those outlined in each agency’s strategic plans.  In the past, Presidents would receive dozens of pages of unstructured information from their cabinet members, on important issues, but not necessarily around outcome-oriented, or implementation-oriented themes.  While this creates a more structured information channel, it does not necessarily result in regular interaction.

A fourth option, used by President Bush, is the use of publicly-available scorecards on how well programs work.  The scorecard approach rates individual programs and the management capacity of major agencies.  This approach creates a White House-level focus on results, but this is agency- and program-specific.  It does not capture how government works across boundaries.

A fifth option, discussed with more frequency, is the adaptation of the Baltimore CitiStat approach at the federal level.  This approach could create a strong focal point for cross-agency and cross-program implementation efforts around selected major policy initiatives.  But doing this would require some institutional changes in the how the White House staff is structured and this would need to be done early in a new Administration, maybe even in the transition when all the White House staff positions are vacant (and able to be reallocated).

There are probably more options, but the notion that Tobias raises – having a President who creates and uses institutional mechanisms to ensure policy implementation occurs – is appealing.  The means for doing this, however, will depend more on the leadership style and strategy of the next President.

One Year and Counting

November 6, 2007

White HouseA year from now, a president-elect will have already frantically launched his or her transition team for the 77-day transition period.   But before then, the die will have already been cast on his or her management approach, which, according to presidential scholar John Burke, can determine the success of his or her first year as president.

There will be at least four forces that will contribute to framing that management approach:

The President-Elect.  The candidates will start to put into place their transition teams by spring or summer of 2008, after each party has winnowed down their respective fields. Traditionally, these efforts have been very low profile because none of the candidates will want to give the impression to the public that they are so confident in winning that they are planning to launch a transition team before the election results are known.  However, history also tells us that any winning candidate who has not started at least six months before the election will be woefully behind come the day after Election Day.  Dr. Burke’s book on the transition process concludes that the best-run transition effort was conducted by Ronald Reagan.

The composition of the transition team, both in its planning stages as well as its implementation, will strongly influence the first six months of the new president’s term of office.  Also influencing the management agenda will be the new president’s campaign promises as well as the potential appointees who will be jockeying for position.

The Bureaucracy.  The Presidential Transition Act gives the General Services Administration a prominent role in the transition.  It provides temporary office space and equipment to the transition team, but GSA and the National Archives are also given joint responsibility for pulling together information on how the government works to provide to the incoming president-elect’s team.  In 2000, for example, they created a website with agency-by-agency information.  The Act also authorizes funding to provide training to new political appointees, such as how to work effectively with Congress, the media, and career executives.

The agencies traditionally prepare back-up books for the incoming administration.  The outgoing administration can also make the transition easier by having agencies update their strategic plans, etc. in advance.  It can also selectively recommend funding to be set aside for the incoming president’s team so it has the flexibility to move quickly.  For example, the Office of Management and Budget’s budgeting system is antiquated and funding would be needed to begin an upgrade.  If the request for funding is left to the new president, that funding would not be available for at least a year after taking office, with implementation occurring far later than that.

The Congress.  The Congress has a strong influence on the success of the new president’s management efforts.  Will it update and fund the provisions under the Presidential Transition Act?  Will it provide some discretionary funding for updating White House internal operations?  Will it streamline its requirements for the confirmation of new political appointees?  Will it adopt new laws that will be left for the new president implement?

External Think Tanks.  The Washington think tank world predominantly focuses on policy issues.  However, a sub-set of “good government” groups (including the IBM Center) often provide insights for the incoming administration on management issues. 

Past efforts have helped new administrations get a jump-start on management issues, as well.  For example, in 2000, the Council for Excellence in Government sponsored forums on electronic government that helped the incoming Administration frame its e-government initiatives.  In 2008, similar efforts may be launched around improvements to acquisition systems and human capital, as well as technology.  In addition, the good government groups will likely offer guidance and training materials on management issues as well as assisting new appointees understand the context of working effectively in Washington.  For example, the Council plans to update its “Prune Book” describing the context and needed qualifications for the 40-50 most difficult jobs in the government.  In another example, Brookings Institution in 2000 published a book, “The White House Staff,” by Brad Patterson that examines in detail the functions of each of the offices in the White House.  He is planning an update in 2008. 

What other things do you think should be added to a check list of things the candidates’ transition teams should be watching for in the coming year?