Former White House officials highlight the value of early planning for presidential transitions
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Former White House officials highlight the value of early planning for presidential transitions

April 6, 2023 | Updated on April 7, 2023

Even though the next presidential election is more than a year and a half away, it is never too early for presidential hopefuls and federal agencies to start thinking about how they will navigate a possible transfer of power in January 2025. Long-term planning is essential for a potential new administration to be ready to govern from the first day in office and carry out its agenda in an effective and efficient manner. 

This view has been expressed by many members of current and former White Houses, and is a central tenet of the Partnership’s Center for Presidential Transition.® As further evidence that it is never too early to plan, two high-level officials in Republican administrations recently authored publications highlighting the idea. 

Christopher Liddell, the deputy chief of staff during President Donald Trump’s administration, wrote an article in the Spring edition of National Affairs headlined, “The Five-year Presidency,” where he details his final days in the White House and why potential presidents should plan early. Liddell refers to the time before a president takes office as “Year Zero.” During this period, presidents “should feature a non-partisan, managerial approach that consciously forms teams built to emphasize not just policy expertise, but effective leadership,” Liddell said. He also said Year Zero offers opportunities to build institutional knowledge for incoming staff members. New leaders do not necessarily know much about the basics of governing, Liddell argues, something recent administrations have often discovered only after they take office.   

Drawing from his leadership experience on former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s transition team in 2012 along with other historical examples, Liddell offers insights into how a transition team should be structured, how decisions should be made, how policies should be prepared and how new presidents must be ready to handle unforeseen crises.  

Former National Security Advisor Stephen J. Hadley edited a new book entitled, “Hand-Off: The Foreign Policy George W. Bush Passed to Barack Obama,” which has contributions from Bush and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The book includes 30 declassified transition memos about Bush administration policies from 2008 and 2009 and made public for the first time. Hadley and others use the transition memos to examine whether Bush officials met their own goal to support and prepare the incoming Obama administration during a time of two wars, a major financial crisis and evolving challenges of terrorism.  

The book illustrates the need for outgoing and incoming administrations to work together—despite ideological or partisan differences—to deal with a wide range of crises and national priorities.  

The transfer of power from one administration to another is an incredibly important component of American democracy and one that takes extensive planning and forethought. For new presidents to govern effectively and fulfill their duty to the country, they must be prepared to lead immediately upon taking office. As Liddell and Hadley demonstrate, transition planning needs to be organized and intentional in order to face pressing world challenges and the requirements of governance upon taking office. 

The Partnership for Public Service’s Center for Presidential Transition serves as the premier nonpartisan source of information and resources to help presidential candidates and their teams lay the groundwork for a new administration or for a president’s second term. To learn more, visit 

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