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The 2008-2009 Presidential Transition: Preparing Federal Agencies


Clay Johnson was the deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget from 2003 to 2008, and the person charged in 2008 to prepare federal agencies for the transition to a new administration. Previously, he was assistant to the president for presidential personnel and, prior to this, the executive director for President George W. Bush's transition into office.


While scholars study the transitions into office of new presidents and their teams, there has been less interest in how sitting presidents and their administrations prepare to leave office. The 2008-2009 transition is particularly important to study because the preparations made by the incumbent president began earlier than previously was the case and involved all agencies in the administration. Clay Johnson, former deputy director for management in the Office of Management and Budget, was charged in April 2008 with preparing federal agencies for the transition. In this essay, he explains how the administration did so. First, Johnson discussed responsibilities and timetables for the transition preparations with the 22 agency members of the President's Management Council. Then, in July, based on information generated in the council sessions, Johnson sent a letter to agencies with goals for the transition and guidelines for achieving them. He and Gail Lovelace, the transition official in the General Services Administration working with career employees, subsequently made certain that their goals were met.