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A change is gonna come

Transition machine cranks up before election

January 10, 2001
Web posted at: 1:19 PM EST (1819 GMT)

In this story:

Incoming team

Preparing for two

Clinton changes

Farewell, chief


Before voters cast a ballot in the presidential election, the government begins preparing for change.

It must.

The person who takes over the Oval Office has numerous responsibilities as the leader of the free world, and transition is not nearly as simple as giving up the keys to the White House and learning the location and nature of military operations.

There are thousands of positions to fill, policies to learn, résumés to read, things to do and people to see. But transition goes both ways. The president-elect needs help coming in, and the former president receives assistance in getting out

Incoming team

The Presidential Transition Act of 1963 designates the General Services Administration as the agency to help the president-elect prepare for office.

It provides office space, furniture, office equipment and supplies. The GSA has authority to pay the office staff for the transition office, find experts or consultants that the president-elect might need and pay for printing or postal expenses.

The president-elect is entitled to charter commercial aircraft or the use of government planes on a reimbursable basis when he requests it and it's approved by the president.

This year, the Treasury appropriated $5.27 million for transition expenses.

Before the GSA received that responsibility, the president-elect had to rely on private donations to provide space, staff and money for transition expenses, said Malcolm Saldanha, a spokesman for the GSA.

In cases when a president is re-elected, such as in 1996, transition money returns to the federal treasury, Saldanha said. "The funds are available only if there is a change in presidents," he explained. "That year we had already prepared office space, and it was ready, but they used that space for the inaugural effort."

Preparing for two

The GSA began planning its transition services in summer 2000, and preparations started in earnest September 1.

The agency prepares one office but has different plans depending on the winner, Saldanha explained.

"For example, had Mr. Gore won, we would have had office space, but it wouldn't have to be as detailed," he said, because of Vice President Al Gore's experiences as second in command.

Conversely, Bush's space occupies three floors of a government building. The 1963 transition act states that services and the funds for transition must be available from the day after elections until 30 days after inauguration and after the GSA has determined who the "apparent winner" is.

This year, the "apparent winner" clause had more significance than usual since the "apparent winner" remained a mystery for five weeks after the election.

An aide for President-elect George W. Bush said that transition work began in a private building in McLean, Virginia, before the courts determined who the winner was. After the U.S. Supreme Court decision, Bush moved to the space that the GSA had established.

Because of the election limbo, "the CIA and the National Security Council began briefing Mr. Gore and Mr. Bush shortly after the election," said Juleanna Glover Weiss, a Bush transition team spokeswoman. Bush and Vice President-elect Dick Cheney continue to receive those briefings daily, she said.

Clinton changes

In October 2000, President Bill Clinton gave the GSA two additional responsibilities.

That agency is now charged with coordinating orientation sessions for the nominees that the president-elect selects for the Cabinet and other significant White House positions. It will work with the National Archives and Records Administration to create a transition directory containing information about the federal government.

Bush's Cabinet nominees receive information from teams assigned to gather information about the departments each hopes to lead. And policy advisers secure information about the departments that they then share with Bush, said Glover Weiss.

Farewell, chief

The same act that authorizes the GSA to help the president-elect also charges the agency with providing services for the outgoing president and vice president.

However, part of the money slated for that effort returns to the treasury if the vice president is elected president.

Services for former presidents include providing: office space and staff, a $20,000 annual pension for widows, Secret Service protection, travel expenses and an annual pension.

Poll: Bush enjoying a traditional 'honeymoon'
January 8, 2001
Bush assembles defensive front in advance of Washington move
December 29, 2000
Next presidential team will find 'whistle clean' White House
December 27, 2000
Bush picks Whitman to head EPA; Ashcroft for attorney general
December 22, 2000

Bush-Cheney transition

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