Bush Administration Plans Smooth Transition

Tuesday, 28 Oct 2008 03:32 PM

By Bradley A. Blakeman

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When the Bush administration took office on Jan. 20, 2001, many new White House staffer's were welcomed to government service with the Ws missing from government computer keyboards.

This incident may have been seen by some as an innocent prank; however, it was evident of a more deep-seated hatred of the Bush administration, an administration the Clinton/Gore staff saw as illegitimate. As a result, the transition was sloppy and contentious at best.

Clinton/Gore department heads were required to produce briefing materials on the background and function of their offices, so that incoming staff would have a good understanding on governance and staffing. Upon coming into my position as deputy assistant to the president, I never received a briefing book for my department, and I inherited an office that was administratively and operationally dysfunctional.

Although Gore claims to have invented the Internet, the White House I found was operating in the Stone Age with regard to computers, software, and communications.

When I began my government service in 2001, I was told by the president and our Chief of Staff Andy Card to run my office like a business. I was told to be cost conscious, responsible and responsive, and to leave my office to my successor better than I found it. I did just that.

Not since 1952 has there not been an heir apparent to the presidency, which means that change will come in 2009. The key to a smooth transition is W (the president). This president and his staff are committed to the most smooth, extensive, collegial, and professional transition in our nation's history no matter who wins on Nov. 4, 2008, and the work has already begun.

This month, the president signed an Executive Order creating the Transition Coordinating Council. The council consists of about a dozen people including the president’s chief of staff and senior officials with authority and expertise in key areas of government operation and policy including, but not limited to, military, homeland security, national security, and the economy.

The White House is treating McCain's staff and Obama's staff equally leading up to Election Day giving them the tools necessary to get a jump on governing from day one.

Beyond Election Day, the Transition Council is working with the Department of Justice and the FBI to get key personnel security clearances to allow incoming officials to be able to fully operate in their capacities on Inauguration Day.

The council will be turning over government-wide briefing materials on the operation of their offices and making administration personnel available for information and mentoring.

The Bush administration has formed working groups within the White House to outline roles and responsibilities of the various offices and policy councils and has identified the 100 most critical positions that should be filled as soon as possible to be able to govern effectively.

In addition, the president has directed the General Services Administration to form a team of 200 people to help orient the incoming staff of the president-elect with regard to office space, equipment, protection, transportation, computers, and support services.

The Office of Personnel Management has prepared a report of available political appointee positions so that the incoming administration will know exactly what positions need to be filled and where.

The Office of Government Ethics has trained over 250 ethics officials from more than 70 departments and agencies to handle the processing of financial disclosure forms to expedite their processing.

The very hallmark of our democracy is the peaceful and efficient transfer of power from one presidential administration to the next.

With our nation at war, our homeland under constant threat of attack, and our economy facing historic challenges, the Bush administration has put politics aside to ensure that no matter who wins on Nov. 4 there will be a smooth transition.

Nothing will be missing when W turns over the keys.

Bradley A. Blakeman was a deputy assistant to the president from 2001-2004.

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