GSA Plays Key Logistical Role in Presidential Transition

GSA Plays Key Logistical Role in Presidential Transition GSA's Key Role in Presidential Transition Administrator Bibb's Common Cents Column Administrator column 7/15/2008 - GSA Plays Key Logistical Role in Presidential Transition

The great soprano Maria Callas once said an opera begins long before the curtain goes up and ends long after it has come down.

So it is with the preparations for a presidential transition.

Common Cents by GSA Acting Administrator David Bibb

The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), generally known as the federal government’s landlord and purchasing arm, also plays a critical role in the peaceful and orderly changeover from one president to the next.

With Election Day approaching, here’s a look at what’s going on behind the scenes.GSA’s job is to provide a fully equipped headquarters and a variety of services (like telecommunications, IT, mail and financial management) for the 600 or so members of the President-elect’s transition team.

GSA’s preparations actually started six months after the last election with the creation of a Steering Committee. In fact, GSA employees are among the first government professionals that many political appointees will get to know. About 40 of our employees are preparing for the transition, and will have around-the-clock responsibility to ensure everything runs smoothly.

GSA coordinates briefings, workshops, and discussions designed to acquaint key prospective appointees with the types of problems and challenges they could face as they move from campaigning to governing.

GSA and the National Archives and Records Administration also prepare documents that help familiarize the incoming Administration with each department and agency. Did you know the President’s Cabinet consists of 15 major departments?

Then there are the celebrations. GSA helps out with logistical support for the team that plans and stages inaugural events such as the swearing-in ceremony, parade, and inaugural balls.

In fact, GSA’s work begins long before the first vote is cast in the general election and continues past January 20, 2009, when it’s time for the new president to move into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

All of this takes some funding. GSA is authorized to spend more than $6 million to get the new political appointees placed, briefed and ready to go. Another $2.2 million is allocated for the outgoing administration.

Besides these tasks, the Administrator of GSA has another prominent role. The head of GSA is responsible for identifying the “apparent winner” when it is clear that one candidate has won the election prior to the meeting of the Electoral College. This is so the GSA Administrator can tell his staff who will occupy the temporary offices on the day after the election

And let’s not forget about the outgoing President and Vice President. GSA provides staffs of both the former President and former Vice President with amenities like office space, communications systems and IT support for up to six months. GSA also helps former Presidents establish and maintain their libraries.

Once the new administration is in place and appointee orientation is completed, GSA steps out of the picture until the process begins all over again.

Dating back to 1797, when George Washington relinquished his office to John Adams, this peaceful and orderly transition from one administration to the next demonstrates the stability of our system of government and the greatness of America. GSA is pleased and honored to be a significant participant.

David L. Bibb is Acting Administrator of the U.S. General Services Administration

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