WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI), Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced bipartisan legislation to improve coordination and access to timely information, guidance, and services for federal officials who are required to prepare for transitions during a presidential election year. Since 2001, bipartisan national security officials – including those on the 9/11 Commission – have indicated that a smooth presidential transition process is critical to national security. Since its adoption in 1963, Congress has made numerous bipartisan updates to the Presidential Transition Act – including in 2016, 2020, and 2022 – to ensure that transition planning starts early in an election year, involves agency stakeholders, and requires current administration officials to coordinate with presidential candidates and federal agencies. This bill follows that precedent and builds on the changes made last Congress through the bipartisan Electoral Count Reform and Presidential Transition Improvement Act that was co-authored by Senator Collins and Senator Joe Machin (D-WV) and signed into law in December 2022.
“Effective presidential transitions are a key pillar of our democracy, ensuring that the government can continue serving the American people without disruption,” said Senator Peters. “Improving the transition process has been a routine and bipartisan undertaking for decades, and this bill will take important steps to continue strengthening our democracy.”
“Facilitating an orderly transition of executive power is of critical importance for any democratic nation,” said Senator Collins. “By clarifying transition timelines, improving coordination, and enhancing congressional oversight, this bipartisan legislation would improve the resilience of our democratic processes.”
“After each presidential election, the Partnership for Public Service and our Center for Presidential Transition identify lessons learned and work with Congress on how to improve planning for a potential transfer of power. We commend Senators Peters and Collins for continuing the bipartisan tradition of refining the Presidential Transition Act. Their suggested changes will ensure that effective transition planning across the government occurs well before Day One of an administration and reinforce the principle that nonpartisan planning, for a transition to a first or second presidential term, is in the best interest of the American people,” said Max Stier, President and CEO of the Partnership for Public Service.
The bipartisan Agency Preparation for Transitions (APT) Act will ensure all federal agencies are prepared for a smooth transition process by clarifying the timelines for the delivery of key transition services. The bill would also allow Congress to make future improvements to the transition process by requiring the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to review the efficiency and effectiveness of transition resources every four years. The bill would create new guidance and requirements for transition stakeholders, including presidential transition teams, federal agencies, and incumbent administrations. This information will help improve the transition process in times of uncertainty, such as a national emergency or if an election outcome is delayed. The APT Act would also require the timely appointment of career agency transition officials, regular meetings of agency and White House transition councils, and would require agency briefing materials to be prepared on faster timeline than current law. It would also make recommendations for cybersecurity best practices during a transition and requires incumbent administrations to prioritize records management leading up to an election.