White House preparing to hand over the keys to a successor

AP News
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Posted: Jun 10, 2016 5:02 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — The presidential candidates still have months of campaigning ahead, but the White House is already preparing to hand over the keys to President Barack Obama's successor.

The White House Transition Coordinating Council met for the first time this week. The committee includes senior officials from across the executive branch tasked with helping to ease the shift from one administration to the next. White House chief of staff Denis McDonough leads the group.

The group will eventually include representatives from the major-party campaigns. But campaign staff won't be invited until after the parties officially nominate their candidates at their conventions in July.

White House officials say the meeting Thursday was part of a process that began ramping up earlier this year.

In March, McDonough convened the Cabinet to review the transition plan, which includes guidance for how agencies should prepare materials — such as budget information, flow charts and logistics — and details on succession plans for when the scores of political appointees leave the government. The plans also include how and when transition teams should communicate with the candidates' campaigns.

In April, Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan asked all Cabinet agencies to prepare and organize the budget information the next administration will need to craft its first budget request, setting a September deadline.

Obama formally created the White House transition council and a similar council for the agencies, the Agency Transition Directors Council, in an executive order earlier this month.

White House officials say the aim is to ensure its house is in order for the next team. They're taking their cues, they say, from the George W. Bush White House, which earned high points from Obama administration officials when it came to handling the transition.

Some tasks, however, will be unprecedented. The rise of email and electronic communication has transformed the records archiving process, a key part of the transition. The White House says it's been holding monthly meetings with the National Archives and Records Administration since 2012 and has been testing the required massive data transfers since January 2015.

Those transfers have already begun, the White House says.