2008-2009 Presidential Transition Resources
The Presidential Transition Resources website was created under the authority of the Presidential Transition Act of 2000, which empowers the General Services Administration (GSA) to develop a transition directory with the support of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). The site provides, in accordance with the terms of the Act, “a compilation of Federal publications and materials with supplementary materials developed by the Administrator that provides information on the officers, organization, and statutory and administrative authorities, functions, duties, responsibilities, and mission of each department and agency.” Its purpose is to assist the new Administration in dealing with the significant responsibilities that accompany their service to the United States by organizing the tremendous volume of material that is available to it. Adobe Reader is necessary to view many of the resources available, and a link is therefore provided to download the latest version. A portion of the material is organized according to the three branches of government and is taken from the latest edition of the U.S. Government Manual located on the GPO Access website, where one may obtain text or PDF copies of various documents that provide comprehensive information on the structure of each branch. Another portion of the material is organized according to the developmental stages of Federal leadership positions in the Administration, including potential positions, nominees and appointees. Those interested in potential positions are referred to three specific publications: the Plum Book, the Prune Book, and Who’s Who in the Federal Government - a website published by the University of Memphis. Separate links exist for nominees who have been asked to serve as Federal officials but not yet appointed, and for those whose appointments have been confirmed. Resources provided range from the very simple - an organizational chart of the Government of the United States and a list of commonly used abbreviations and acronyms, to the very complex – financial disclosure guidance, standards of ethical conduct, recordkeeping guidance, national security requirements that must be met, and freedom of information laws. Other notable resources provided by the site include links to inauguration information, the Federal Register, www.usa.gov, various political newspapers and journals, and other relevant websites. The site provides fast, easy access to considerable sources of free material, thereby helping not only the new Administration, but also the people of the nation make the transition from election campaign to a new period of governance.
[Author: A. Emerson]
Change.gov is the official site for the Office of the President-elect and Office of the Vice President-elect It is part of the support offered to the President-Elect under the Presidential Transition Act of 1963. The site is quite remarkable in its use of interactive web applications and for the transparency it provides to the transition process. The home page presents such traditional offerings as press releases, coming events, links to administration agenda items, and links to information about in-coming officials, including the President-Elect Obama and Vice-President Elect Biden. But the site ventures into Web 2.0 territory by offering multiple opportunities for public participation via the following links: “Join the Discussion,” solicits public feedback on questions posed by the team. “How Would You Fix…?” seeks volunteers to host community discussions on a specific issues. “Inside the Transition Team” tracks team meetings with interest groups, links to documents provided by the groups, and encourages public comments. The interest groups are searchable by keyword. “An American Moment” and “American Visions” allow citizens to share their experiences and ideas on improving the US with the incoming administration. A recently added link is “Open for Questions” where policy questions submitted by individuals are posted and popular vote determines what question is answered. Comments on 24 specific agenda items of the administration are solicited. For example, the “Revitalizing the Economy” page has a distinctive box entitled “Of the People, By the People” for public comments on the plan. Finally, two additional features allow people to receive notice of volunteer service opportunities and submit job applications. Change.gov is an active site with changing themes, changing photographs, video links, and a blog. The home page requires scrolling to see all the options, but each option is well defined and key options are accessible via two links in different areas of the page. Finally, there is a calendar counting down the days to the inauguration (interested citizens are referred to site of the Presidential Inaugural Committee for details.) The site is directed to all citizens, not just campaign supporters. It provides an easy-to-follow outline of Obama’s strategy and insight into using the Web to harness a national conversation.
[Author: J. Callihan]
PrunesOnline, provided by the Council for Excellence in Government, is a thorough, interactive resource designed to provide guidance to everyone involved on all sides of the Presidential appointment process. The two primary resources provided by the site are the Prune Book and the Plum Book. The Plum Book serves as the official version of the list of presidentially appointed positions and is rarely referred to by its formal name – United States Government Policy and Supporting Positions. It is published alternatively after each presidential election by the U.S Senate’s Committee on Governmental Affairs and the U.S. House Committee on Government Reform, with data provided by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. It lists more than 7,000 noncompetitive national appointments, and includes information about agency heads, their immediate subordinates, policy executives, and their advisors, together with the aides who report to these positions. Originally geared toward the incoming presidential administration, the Prune Book series was initially developed in 1988 to profile the “toughest management jobs in government” and offer insight into the staffing process. Its audience has broadened over the years and the 2008 version is the first to be published entirely online in html as a self-described “Prunes 2.0.” Updated to reflect the changing governmental priorities, such as homeland security and financial regulation, the current Prune Book provides links to the Office of Personnel Management, the Office of Government Ethics, Congress, and a wealth of other resources. The Prune name originally developed in response to the notion that political appointments are “plum jobs.” According to the Council, Prunes are “plums hardened by experience.” The site also includes an updated, electronic version of A Survivor’s Guide for Presidential Nominees, a popular book developed as a collaboration between The Presidential Appointee Initiative, the Brookings Institution (funded by Pew Charitable Trust), and the Council for Excellence in Government. The new version of the Guide includes an interactive Presidential Appointee Roadmap, which offers a thorough explanation of the difference between a political appointment and a career position in the Federal Government, then provides a four step process through which one may learn about the types of jobs and the requirements of each; assess the likelihood of being considered for a position; navigate the application and interview process, and gain an understanding of the nomination and confirmations processes. The site is searchable and a site map is available. PruneOnline also provides an interesting link to a video in which Martha Kumar, current Director of the White House Transition Project, provides a first-hand account of the current Presidential Transition process.
[Author: A. Emerson]
The White House Transition Project is a non-partisan effort established in 1997 by a consortium of public and private universities, together with other research organizations, with funding provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts. Its purpose is to create a venue within which to capture “institutional memory” in order to prevent the loss of acquired knowledge and experience from one Presidential administration to the next, thereby “smoothing the transition of power in the American Presidency.” Resources are generally organized into three report series, including the Institutional Memory Series, the Past Transitions Series, and the Institutional Anatomy Series. The Institutional Memory Series provides information regarding the organizational structure, operations, policies and routines of various White House offices, much of which was obtained through interviews with current and past practitioners with an eye toward passing advice to the new Administration about what was successful and what was not. The Past Transitions Series reviews historical challenges encountered by previous presidential transitions while also discussing the transition process in general. It is authored by various scholars and past presidential advisors. The Institutional Anatomy Series is new for the 2009 transition and focuses on issues and resources identified through discussions with past White House staff, while making use of not just old databases, but also new databases developed since the 2004 transition preparations. The site also includes a current news section with articles tracking the latest developments in the 2009 transition process; archived news articles are provided as well. The site does a reasonable job of maintaining its non-partisan position in order to provide each new presidential administration with the opportunity to begin its tenure without having to reinvent the wheel.
[Author: A. Emerson]
InSITE contributors: J. Callihan, A. Emerson, J. Pajerek (editor)
© 2008 Cornell Law Library
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