Jordan LaPier
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Report to Improve the Presidential transistion Process Calls for Major Changes to Ensure Well-Being of Americans

January 13, 2010

WASHINGTON – The Partnership for Public Service today released a report on improving the presidential transition process – a process that relies too much on “hope and luck,” according to the organization’s president, Max Stier.

Based on interviews with key transition officials from both the Obama and McCain campaigns, and the Bush White House,Ready to Govern: Improving the Presidential Transition, examines the transition beginning in early 2008 through President Obama’s first year in office. The report takes a behind-the-scenes look at President Obama and John McCain’s transition operations and their successes and shortcomings.

“Hope and luck are not a strategy,” said Max Stier, Partnership for Public Service president. “During such volatile times with countless national security threats, economic woes and the increased demand on our government, we need to dramatically overhaul our transition system so new presidents can quickly get their teams in place.”

According to the report, even the most successful presidential transition efforts have not been adequate enough for newly elected presidents to be ready to govern on day one. Best practices cannot be left to chance.

“While the Bush White House and Obama team did a remarkable job on the 2008/2009 transition, the process must be institutionalized so it isn’t dependent on personality,” said Stier. “Doing it right will require nothing less than a cultural shift so that early planning is imperative.”

The lack of an operational framework to guide the process from pre-election through the president’s first year in office has left the country vulnerable in today’s world, according to the Ready to Govern report. Approaching the first year anniversary of the Obama administration, about 200 of the roughly 500 top Senate-confirmed administration positions are still vacant, including key spots at many Cabinet agencies.

Report recommendations to Congress, the White House and campaigns include making major fixes to the Presidential Transition Act. Additionally, the report calls for:

  • Starting the transition process earlierand making it more transparent so there is no longer a stigma on preparing. The report calls for Congress to allocate pre-election funding for campaigns to use on transition planning; for presidential candidates to publicly name a transition director after their nominating conventions; and for agencies to name transition directors. Also recommended is the establishment of an Agency Transition Directors Council to ensure early and meaningful planning across government.
  • Reducing the number of Senate-confirmed politically appointed positions. About 1,140 positions are Senate-confirmed, far too many according to the Ready to Govern report. The report calls for Congress to take the lead and work with the administration to reduce the number of positions.  
  • Congress and the White House to agree on a calendar of appointments so 500 key officials are confirmed at the six month mark, rather than the current norm of over a year. The report recommends that an administration’s first 50 key appointments are in place on or immediately after Inauguration Day, followed by 100 appointees confirmed at the 100 day mark, with all 500 officials confirmed by the summer congressional recess. 

In addition to getting a new administration’s team in place, the Ready to Govern report calls for instituting an early orientation and training for incoming political appointees who will be managing the departments and agencies.

To download a copy of the Ready to Govern report, please go to
The Partnership for Public Service works to revitalize the federal government by inspiring a new generation to serve and by transforming the way government works.  For more information, visit