Ron Edmonds/AP file photo

Obama Signs Bipartisan Bill to Smooth Presidential Transition

New law clarifies GSA role and creates interagency council by this summer.

President Obama on Friday signed a bipartisan bill to smooth the presidential transition process that begins in earnest this summer.

The Edward “Ted” Kaufman and Michael Leavitt Presidential Transitions Improvements Act (S. 1172), which cleared the House Feb. 29 and won final Senate approval of an amendment March 8, aims to help future presidential candidates navigate the transition process while clarifying the nonpartisan support role of the General Services Administration. It originally passed the Senate last July.

Named for a previous Democratic senator from Delaware and a holder of two Cabinet posts under President George W. Bush, the law requires that a White House-led senior-level interagency transition council be in place at least six months before Election Day, and that a standing, working-level interagency group develop an integrated strategy for transitions.

The measure—co-sponsored by Sens. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., and Tom Carper, D-Del. -- also requires GSA to designate a career employee to serve as federal transition coordinator to support the incoming president and his or her team. Agencies must designate a senior career official for each major component or subcomponent to oversee the transition by this summer. The law also expands training for incoming presidential appointees.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest has said Obama is committed to ensuring a smooth transition.

Max Stier, president and CEO of the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service—one of several groups monitoring this year’s transition—said by signing by bill, Obama had “launched the 2016-2017 presidential transition.” Stier called the changeover “a time of great vulnerability for our country, with immense implications for national security, the economy and our nation as a whole. Even during this raucous primary season, the presidential candidates must start planning now for the transfer of power,” he added, calling on all presidential candidates still in the race at the end of March to “designate a transition chairman by the first week of April and prepare to take full advantage of this important legislation.”