Feds worry transition to second Obama term will break their stride

The White House

Uncertainty over top-level vacancies during transitions between administrations can impede progress, even if a president is elected for a second term, according to nearly half the federal employees responding to a survey by Government Executive’s research arm.

Past transitions slowed the progress of federal initiatives, according to 48 percent of the 500 experienced agency employees and managers answering a Nov. 7 survey from the Government Business Council. The same percentage said they had waited more than six months during previous transitions for a key position in their department to be filled, and 10 percent had seen their supervisor replaced.

Those who have previously been through a transition point to leadership as the main cause of problems. Fifty-five percent of respondents indicated that poor communication from leadership was a challenge, and 41 percent cited a lack of transparency. Respondents did not feel that the responsibility rests with employees. Just 26 percent said employee resistance to change complicated past transition efforts.

More than half (53 percent) reported they were “concerned” or “very concerned” about the current transition’s impact on morale; some 43 percent voiced similar concern about its impact on national security.

The Obama administration is mulling replacing leaders at the Defense, State and Treasury departments, and has named a new head of the Securities and Exchange Commission. It is evaluating acting leaders at the CIA; the Commerce Department; the Internal Revenue Service; Office of Management and Budget; and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

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