Homeland Security issues contract for presidential transition planning help

Nonprofit group will organize a bipartisan advisory panel and develop a plan to prepare for the next administration.

The Homeland Security Department has hired a Washington-based nonprofit organization to help plan for the changeover to a new presidential administration in January 2009.

DHS awarded a sole-source contract to the Council for Excellence in Government to conduct a range of activities aimed at ensuring a seamless transition to new leadership, according to a procurement notice posted online last week. The one-year contract is worth $305,000, and asks the organization to create an advisory blue-ribbon group, hold workshops for key governmental leaders and help with a Homeland Security transition plan.

"A presidential transition is a very significant event. You basically have a complete changing of the political guard pretty much at one time," said Patricia McGinnis, the council's president and chief executive officer. "When it comes to national security and homeland security, obviously a smooth transition -- having people who are coming into place already understanding what the existing processes and protocols and communications [are] around any kind of threat or emergency -- is very important."

The bipartisan blue-ribbon panel will help guide the work. The council will run 30-person, interactive workshops beginning next July, at which federal officials and other experts will go through potential scenarios and discuss a curriculum of what they need to know to make the transition smooth.

At a minimum, incoming appointees should know what information they need in an emergency, the people with whom they need to communicate and the method of communication, McGinnis said.

"As we saw with Hurricane Katrina, you really have to have people understanding their roles and responsibilities before something like that happens in order to be able to protect people and save lives," she said.

The procurement notice said the council was the only responsible source that could meet the department's requirements.

The council releases the quadrennial Prune Book, a guide for political appointees. The organization also helped orient presidential appointees at the request of the Clinton and Bush administrations, McGinnis said. And the council ran the pilot version of the DHS Fellows program, which convened up-and-coming senior managers from across the department. Finally, the nonprofit worked with government groups, businesses and citizens to produce the Readiness Quotient, an online tool that measures disaster preparedness.

Former DHS secretary Tom Ridge, former Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator James Lee Witt and 9/11 commission co-chairman Lee Hamilton are among the council's trustees.

McGinnis said the organization typically helps incoming political appointees in the midst of a transition rather than this far in advance, and she commended DHS for asking for this work 15 months before the actual changeover.

Many observers are concerned about how DHS will handle the coming transition, because it is the first change in administrations for a department that already has suffered from a high level of turnover in leadership positions. According to a June article in National Journal, this problem is exacerbated by the department's high ratio of political appointees -- who likely will leave when this administration ends -- to career employees, who will stay.

The 180,000-employee DHS had more than 360 political appointees in September 2004, compared to only 64 appointees at the 235,000-person Veteran Affairs Department, according to that article. Deputy Secretary and Chief Operating Officer Michael Jackson, who has played a key role in running DHS, announced his resignation last week.

During a transition between administrations, career officials often ascend to take over on an acting basis leadership positions usually held by political appointees.

"The whole nomination and confirmation process does take a while so there is a fairly extended period where you have a mix of some new people [and] acting people," McGinnis said.

Mike Hopmeier, a former adviser to various agencies and president of the Mary Esther, Fla.-based consulting firm Unconventional Concepts Inc., said writing a transition plan is an inherently governmental function and should be handled internally by the department.

"Periodically transition plans are contracted out," he said. "It almost always ends up in failure."

DHS spokesman Larry Orluskie said the contract was necessary.

"They're not writing the plan, they're helping us in engaging other federal agencies," Orluskie said. "To have a staff do that within the department, someone has to be taken away from their duties…. Or you can contract someone who has the experience to do that, and that's what the Council for Excellence in Government is going to do: share that past experience with large federal agency transitions."

McGinnis added that the process would be collaborative.

"We're not a consulting firm," she said. "We don't see ourselves as the usual contractor."

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.