Every four or eight years our nation passes the executive administration on to a new leader and cabinet members. This transition typically starts soon after the election but is very limited and superficial in terms of access to national information. The new president and cabinet rarely receives detailed information concerning vital topics and basic structural operations of the White House. There are some minimal legislation concerning Cabinet members, but they are very limited and insufficient. The only one that is available and provides general facility location assistance is the Presidential Transition Acts of 1963 and 2000 given to the General Services. They were enacted right after the Kennedy assassination and the fiasco that transpired when Mr. Clinton left the White House.
Yet, some recent administrations like George H. Bush made documents, communications, and the operational aspects of the White House available to the incoming Clinton Administration. However, he refused and hindered access to the White House when he left. There wasn't any spirit of cooperation with the new administration. This was reported in numerous media outlets, including the many that were ardent and open supporters of him. As a country we can not allow this to happen or our enemies will seize the moment to undermine or even attack us during presidential transitions.
In fact, that is the example of arrogant and self-centered actions revealing the reluctance to turn over the White House. This suggests a need to establish a cooperative agreement between old and new administrations ... a new tradition of executive transition. In essence, presidents should put the country first instead of being bitter and resentful.
This paper argues that a smooth, orderly, and cooperative transition can occur and is in the best interest of the country and the outgoing president's historical record. Withholding negative comments about the former administration and divulging current ongoing or very near decisions made by the outgoing president must remain confidential until after the swearing in.
The incoming president and vice president will meet at the White House within two days after the election.
Within a week the president and president elect will sign an agreement of access to information.
The president, vice president, and cabinet will agree with the new administration to withhold negative comments until after the swearing in.
The outgoing administration will assist the incoming administration with establishing a temporary office headquarters.
The incoming administration will be kept informed about critical intelligence information and response to national disasters.
The incoming administration will be kept informed of military deployment and possible responses to Muslim terrorist or foreign country attacks.
The outgoing administration will reveal and teach the incoming administration about the daily functional aspects of the White House.
The outgoing administration will reveal which foreign leaders are “really” on our side and what they are like personally.
The incoming president and spouse will be allowed to stay in the Lincoln Bedroom during January.
Two days after the national elections the new incoming president and vice president should travel to the White House and meet with the outgoing president and vice president. There they can meet and discuss pressing national issues and exchange contact information between the old and new cabinets. For example, potential threats from terrorists, intelligence activity, troop deployments, and upcoming international meetings during the lame duck period. This is necessary to acquaint the new administration with strategic and vital information concerning national matters. To wait till the end of January puts our country at a disadvantage because the new administration has no time to collect and review important policies and decisions that must be made immediately.
The outgoing president should assist with establishing an office located new the White House for the new administration. Perhaps, this will begin the healing process after the election and show the world that America has continuity with major public policies. While at the same time are reviewed and change direction when needed. The White House does not belong to the president but rather the citizens. So when we change administrators, the people should expect the full-cooperation of the outgoing leaders. They have voted and either want a change and therefore want to expedite this transition, or not hinder their will to continue basic policies.
Within the week, the new administration will sign a legal document which will give him or her access to sensitive and top-secret information. This agreement will prevent the new administration from revealing to the public or media information contained in the White House until after the outgoing administration leaves office in January. Contained in this agreement will be the parameters of information access and the release of it. Such an agreement is necessary to prevent politicizing former policies while the outgoing administration still has legal authority to implement them. This prepares the new administration for vital decisions that need to be made.
For the remainder of November and December the incoming administration should have mutual access to the White House structural operations. Such as communication centers, offices, functional parts of the building, security aspects, and daily living quarters. Perhaps, the outgoing and incoming administrations could meet once a week during this time. This access is meant for the new administration to understand the physical aspects of the White House and be able to make expeditious changes after they assume leadership. In effect, a White House orientation period. For instance, where are the cameras, how do you use the phones, what are contained in the different offices, and what does the new private quarters look like.
Then at the beginning of January, the incoming president and his spouse might be allowed to stay in the Lincoln Bedroom, further getting acclimated to the White House. During this time, as the new administration's cabinet grows, these newly appointed leaders can and should have access to their outgoing counterparts. They too can become familiar with the existing structural components of their new jobs. They should meet on a weekly basis. This is similar to on-the-job training. But is essential to prevent chaos immediately after the swearing in of the new administration should we encounter a national emergency or disaster.
During the time of national emergencies, such as hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes, major transportation accidents, or terrorist attacks the incoming president should be given full-access to national information and our response to major tragedies. It is at these times that there needs to be continuity with national action and reaction. The executive branch must be able to respond when emergency issues occur that will last over the transition period.
At no time will the new administration hinder the operations of the outgoing administration. Rather, this time will be utilized to inform the new administration of the hidden, unforeseen problematic aspects of the White House. It can also provide for the healing of the nation and bring unity again to the executive branch of the government. It will also facilitate acceptance of the outgoing president's leadership is over, and that the squabble of the national campaign has ended. It will show the world that America is united again and that elected democracies are truly the best form of government.
In about nine months, Mr. Obama should embrace the thrust of this paper setting the tone and new tradition of an orderly and cooperative passing of the guard to the new leader and cabinet. This would leave him one historical positive accomplishment by putting the country first. Future Presidents can do their part to ensure that the people's choice of new leadership has the least obstacles while the transition occurs. Much can be done between November and January and this might prevent terrorists from wrongfully assuming we are a little weaker during that time.
By Christopher B. Kuch, PhD
About Author: Dr. Kuch holds a PhD, MA, and MS in criminal justice. He has written about a variety of police issues. He is a four year Vietnam Era Navy Veteran and served as a deputy sheriff in Ohio for seven years. He lives in Istanbul, Turkey and is on the adjunct faculty at Galatasaray University.
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