The Iron Triangle

Tracking Power, Money and Influence in U.S. National Security

Candidates’ Transition Teams Prepare to Take the Reins

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By Nick Schwellenbach

Clay Johnson III, deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget

Clay Johnson III, deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget

Both presidential campaigns are preparing to take the reins of the executive branch on January 20, the president’s inauguration, said a senior White House transition official at an event on Wednesday.

The official, Clay Johnson III, spoke the same day as staff from the campaigns of Senators Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) met with a White House council created to facilitate the change in the government’s leadership.

In the months following the election, there will be a massive churn in scores of senior government positions while the nation faces multiple challenges in the economy and in national security.

“This is the first presidential transition since 9-11,” said James Thurber, professor of government and head of American University’s Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies. “It’s the first transition, since the Vietnam War, that we’re in a hot war, two hot wars. It is the first transition when we’ve got a financial crisis and threats to homeland security.”

There are 77 days between the election this November and the swearing in of the new president in January. During the Bush administration it took approximately 90 days to nominate and confirm political appointees, said Johnson, deputy director at the White House’s Office of Management and Budget.

Though there are about 1200 political appointees who need to be confirmed by the Senate, the president’s transition team needs to focus on filling the 100 or so critical economic and national security positions, said Martha Kumar, a Georgetown University professor of political science and director of the non-partisan White House Transition Project.

Due to provisions in the 2004 intelligence reform law, the Bush administration has provided key aides in both campaigns with security clearances so they can be given intelligence briefings on threats that face the country.

Bush wants “the next president’s team to be able to govern effectively, as quickly as possible,” White House Press Secretary Dana Perino told Politico.

Treasury Department officials in President Bush’s administration will meet with the new president-elect’s staff on how to smoothly pass the economy’s baton the day after the election, said Johnson.

“It’s important for everyone in the country that this person be a really, really good president,” said Johnson, who was head of President Bush’s transition team in 2000-2001.

“I think Clay had the best presidential transition under the toughest circumstances, if you consider what happened in the election in 2000,” said Thurber.

Johnson was the keynote speaker at a day-long conference sponsored by the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies, AU’s Kennedy Political Union, and the liberal non-profit Center for American Progress.

He said the next president and his transition team need to set specific goals, assign individuals to be responsible for those goals and communicate those goals to the entire executive branch, Congress and the public.

Johnson also urged that the transition team start practicing to run the government before the inauguration.

“The first time you do something should not be the first time it’s for real,” Johnson said.

While introducing Johnson, AU Provost Scott Bass told the audience that this transition could redefine the government’s role in the American Dream.

“This is a transition like no other,” said Bass.

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Written by schwellenbach

October 15, 2008 at 10:33 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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