President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team is evaluating the entire structure of the Executive Office of the President, a source with knowledge of the transition efforts underway told FedScoop.
To be sure, this doesn’t mean the office will definitively change, or positions will be eliminated, the source cautioned, but noted that the team is “evaluating” what positions will meet their needs. Some positions being examined are technology-related, but the team’s efforts will focus broadly on the whole office’s makeup, the source noted.
The EOP includes positions at the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Science and Technology Policy, such as the U.S. CIO and CTO. While these positions have been filled under President Barack Obama’s administration, it does not mean they would necessarily be appointed during Trump’s time in office.
The source noted one of the transition team’s goals is “to make sure that the government is the right size.”
An official working with Trump’s transition team told FedScoop the team is equipped to handle issues related to tech policy and associated appointments, and have been thinking about them.
For one, the team has been developing a “cross-agency focus on technology in their transition effort,” David Eagles, director of the Partnership for Public Service’s Center for Presidential Transition, said in an interview with FedScoop on Wednesday.
The transition team has been planning an effort that would focus on several issues relevant to multiple agencies, such as technology and innovation, Eagles said. The effort would tackle coordination across agencies, he said.
The source with knowledge of the transition efforts underway told FedScoop that team was modeled after the idea of President Obama’s TIGR (Technology, Innovation and Government Reform) Team, which he established early in his presidency.
While IT and technology might not be the top priority to transition team leadership, people “in the trenches” of the transition team are conducting outreach to people involved with technology-related efforts in past administrations, particularly the Bush administration, the source said.
And when asked about the workforce changes that could take place under Trump’s tenure, Eagles said: “I feel good that they’re coming in with both what their policy promises are, but also understanding the critical enablers to those policy promises, one of which is the workforce. And I think they recognize that the workforce is an enabler to those campaign promises. And you have to have that workforce engaged. And so I hope, and I feel confident that it’s going to be a good first conversation and a start to a long-term relationship.”
When it comes to technology and cybersecurity, Eagles said those issues have been on the transition team’s minds.
“The issue of technology and cybersecurity, that has certainly come up,” he said. “That has been a big priority during this pre-election phase, both in what the incoming teams are thinking about but also just issues like security around their documents and files as they’re going through this planning process. And [the General Services Administration] has done an excellent job, just based on our feedback that we’ve gotten from the incoming teams, at providing secure services for these teams so that they can go about their work.”
One ongoing question mark for the technology community has been whether or not new efforts such as 18F and the U.S. Digital Service would continue into the next administration. Opinions widely differ on the fate of those two programs, the source said.
When it comes to the administration’s plans for “early administration quick wins,” Eagles said he feels “reasonably confident that they view technology as a critical enabler to those early promises. And I think that’s a victory for all of us.”
Eagles noted the partnership has been working with both transition teams since around April, what he says was “the earliest, most formal effort that we’ve seen from two incoming teams.”
“And both of them are taking this governing process very seriously, and they were asking good questions, and they’ve organized very effectively as well,” he said.
When it comes specifically to Trump’s team, Eagles said “I feel very confident that we’re in a good place. That team is organized and it’s ready to begin their process of a formal transition, which really means they’re making some quick decisions on their prioritized appointments.”
Indeed, since FedScoop’s interview with Eagles, Trump has named Executive Chairman of Breitbart News Stephen Bannon as chief strategist and senior counselor to the president and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus the White House chief of staff.
FedScoop’s source with knowledge of the transition did note the team is having challenges with scaling, acknowledging that “while they did a decent level of preparation on it, they do have some catching up to do.”
The partnership has been pushing the new administration to nominate a list of what they consider to be the top 100 positions by inauguration day. That list includes top level technology execs such as the future director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the chief technology officer.
Other relevant top 100 positions for the technology community include appointing a Defense under secretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, and a Department of Homeland Security under secretary for science and technology.
Rumors have been swirling about whether or not Trump’s team is struggling to get organized. Trump just on Friday named Vice President-Elect Mike Pence as his new Presidential Transition Team chair, removing New Jersey Governor Chris Christie shortly after Trump was named president-elect.