WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — Months before any president is sworn in, their transition teams are hard at work making sure their administration is ready to begin work on day one.
“Every four or eight years we do a complete transition of the entire leadership of the federal government,” said Chris Lu, Director of the 2008 Obama/Biden transition team. “The fact that we’re able to pull this off every four to eight years is a testament to the planning that goes on behind the scenes.”
Lu said most transition teams focus on laying out candidates’ policy goals, filling important administration roles, and preparing to lead more than one hundred federal agencies. He said the process is remarkable.
“Literally at noon on January 20th, the top 4,000 in the federal government leave their jobs and a new group comes in,” said Lu. “You need to make sure government programs continue to run.”
“People say, ‘on the first day I become president, this is what I’m going to do.’ There’s probably four months of work that needs to go in to be ready to actually do that,” said Mike Leavitt, who led Republican Candidate Mitt Romney’s transition team in 2012. Leavitt says the transition itself sets the tone for every incoming administration.
“The truth is any administration that does not do good planning often never recovers,” said Leavitt. “I’ve studied transitions going back to Kennedy, and that’s a very solid truth.”
It’s not only the challenger who establishes a transition team. An incumbent running for re-election, like President Trump, is required by law to put two transition agencies together from the White House. The first is called the White House Transition Coordinating Council.
“They’re just determining what the general policy is going to be,” said Martha Kumar, Director of the White House Transition Project, a nonprofit that offers guidance to incoming administrations on how to run a successful transition.
The second transition entity the President is required by law to establish is the White House Agency Directors Council. Kumar says this team works to put the policy goals of the Coordinating Council into action.
According to the Center for Presidential Transition, an incumbent president’s transition teams also works with the White House on second term policy goals, should the incumbent win on election day.