OMB has laid out requirements for agencies to prepare for the end of the current Presidential term, including an admonition that federal employees are not to have direct contact with campaign officials unless they receive approval.
Memo M-20-33 says that “To ensure proper, consistent, and equitable dissemination of information to the authorized representatives of the eligible candidates, federal employees should refer any inquiries from the campaigns to their agency transition director or presidential transition communication point of contact.”
“Federal officials should not engage with candidates or their authorized representatives on any matter related to their official duties without prior written approval” from OMB or the federal transition coordinator, it says, adding that any requests for information from a campaign must be reported on the presidential transition directory site.
While the memo doesn’t specifically mention the Hatch Act, the Office of Special Counsel for example last year brought a complaint under that law against an employee who had provided a guided tour of a federal facility to a candidate seeking a partisan political office to provide the candidate with information to be used for the campaign. Earlier this year a settlement was reached in which the employee agreed to resign with a three-year ban against returning to federal employment.
It meanwhile reminds agencies that they must have in place by September 15 a succession plan is in place for each senior noncareer position in the agency and that by November 1 they must finalize briefing materials including an overview of the organization; the top five to ten most pressing operational items a new administration will have to handle immediately after Inauguration; a budget overview; the current leadership team; and congressional considerations.
The memo adds that agencies “should approach the work in ways that are responsive to the ongoing needs of the current administration while balancing the preparations for a potential new administration.”
If there is a change in administrations, campaign transition staff “will review briefing materials and meet with internal agency transition teams to develop a better understanding of each agency and its current state of affairs. Not all agencies should expect to receive agency review teams, and we will work with the President-elect’s transition team to identify the respective agency review list,” OMB said.
“Agencies that have historically received agency review teams should begin making the necessary preparations so that by November 1, 2020, the resources are in place to provide the agency review teams with logistical and administrative support, including building access and work spaces,” it said.
Agencies also are to provide guidance on the records management responsibilities of departing political appointees and brief them on considerations including post-federal employment ethics policies and benefits such as health insurance and retirement.