Obama and Trump Teams Spool Out Transition Detail

President-Elect Donald Trump and President Obama shake hands after meeting at the White House Thursday. President-Elect Donald Trump and President Obama shake hands after meeting at the White House Thursday. Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

As President Obama and President-Elect Trump held a historic White House meeting on Thursday, both of their transition specialists unveiled fresh planning detail as they embarked on the 73-day handover of power.

An org chart floated around the capital showed that the Trump team has set up six prongs for agency action, as Politico reported. Work on these areas will be led by Boston Consulting Group adviser Ron Nicol. The groupings of possible new appointees include categories of Defense, National Security, Economic Issues, Domestic Issues, Management/Budget, and Agency Transformation and Innovation. 

On Sunday—two days before anyone knew the election results—the Trump transition team went live with a website greatagain.gov—where it is now offering transition updates, with one headline reading, “Help Wanted: 4,000 Presidential Appointees.”

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The Obama White House staff on Thursday released a new fact sheet reviewing and updating its transition efforts, beginning in early 2016—even before the new transition law was signed in March. It noted the regular meetings of the new White House Transition Coordinating Council, the new Agency Transition Directors Council, and additional transition meetings of the President’s Management Council. 

Though all agencies are somewhat involved, the key players are the Office of Management and Budget, General Services Administration, Justice Department, Office of Government Ethics, National Archives and Records Administration, Office of Personnel Management and the Homeland Security Department. 

“As with past presidential transitions, following the election, the federal government has begun to engage with the President-Elect’s Transition Team,” the fact sheeted noted. This week, Agency Review Teams selected by the president-elect will begin to reach out to their designated counterparts at agencies across the government.” Those teams will “receive detailed, agency-specific briefings that have been prepared by current administration officials.”

On top of the traditional national security briefings delivered before the elections to both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, the Obama administration is hosting two interagency exercises to inform and familiarize the incoming administration on domestic incident management practices now being used.

The White House also stressed its desire to rope in “engaged agencies not traditionally included in the formal transition planning process” in a “whole of government” approach. For the first time, the White House wrote, the transition effort includes “formal transition planning meetings with smaller agencies, boards and commissions across the government who are not otherwise represented on the two councils.” This group of more than 200 entities has been engaged fully in the transition process and met regularly over the past several months.

The Obama staff updated its efforts at archiving records. It has transferred about 283 million files, or 122,000 gigabytes of data, to the National Archives, while beginning to move Obama’s physical records to Chicago, where his future library will be built.

Finally, the White House gave special emphasis to proper off-boarding of current personnel, including benefits counseling. “In support of the well-respected principle that the incoming president selects her or his own team,” the fact sheet said, “the president has asked appointees to submit resignation letters effective no later than the inauguration of the new president.”

Across the government, agency heads are also communicating transition messages and information. For example, Defense Secretary Ash Carter on Wednesday sent a memo to all Pentagon staff saying he is committed to an orderly transition now that a new president has been elected. That “it happened freely and peacefully is a testament to the great work of this department,” he wrote. “I am very proud of the way each and every one of you conducted yourselves during this campaign, standing apart from politics and instead focusing on our sacred mission of providing security.”

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