White House initiates transition planning with meetings, data transfers

The White House Transition Coordinating Council (WHTCC) will hold its first meeting June 9.

The first meeting of the White House Transition Coordinating Council (WHTCC) will take place June 9, kicking into gear the high-level planning needed to prepare for the next president.

A White House official confirmed the meeting of the council that President Barack Obama established in his May 6 executive order.

Additionally, the first meeting of the Agency Transition Directors Council took place June 3. The President’s order also created the ATDC.

“In addition to an overview of the administration’s transition planning efforts to date and upcoming milestones, participants discussed the roles of the various councils and agencies with cross-cutting transition responsibilities,” the official said. “Following this meeting, agencies will work in coordination on a range of transition-related activities, including the development of agency briefing materials and information relating to the Presidential transition, succession planning, and providing logistical support to eligible Presidential candidates and the President-elect.”

This council is responsible for developing an interagency strategy for the transition of appointees and providing the candidates’ representatives with whatever information they require.

These initial meetings were part of the ramp up for a busy summer and fall timeframe.

The official said White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough held a meeting in early March with the President’s Cabinet and other senior staff to discuss the development of a transition plan based on the best practices and lessons learned from past administrations.

Agencies also are preparing for the change of administration in other ways. For instance, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has been leading monthly planning meetings since 2012 to ensure the preservation of electronic data from the Obama administration. The first “test-run” of presidential data happened in January 2015.

The White House also is beginning to transfer presidential records to NARA’s Electronic Records Archive. The White House official said this is the earliest that the Executive Office of the President has ever begun transferring substantial quantities of electronic records to NARA.

All of these efforts come at a good time as planning for the transition can’t start early enough, said David Eagles, director of the Center for Presidential Transition at the Partnership for Public Service.

Eagles told the Federal Drive with Tom Temin on June 1 that having instruction manuals and briefing books, especially around national security and diplomatic issues, will be key to a smooth changeover.

Additionally, the Office of Government Ethics is adding training programs for its employees and agency ethics officers to help them vet and process applications for new political appointees.

And the Presidential Transitions Improvements Act of 2015, which became law March 18, requires presidential candidates to set up a team with agency leaders at least six months before Election Day. A senior career appointee at the General Services Administration will lead the candidates’ transition teams.

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