Wednesday, November 12, 2008

GSA: First Stop to An Obama Administration

On July 1, 1949 the GSA was born as part of the legacy of alphabet agencies from another three letter president, FDR. Everything in the government seems to boil down to an acronym to the point of needing a translator. It comes from the time of the deepest agonies arising from the Depression as a young energetic cousin of a former president took the reigns of power in March of 1932. To get America back on its feet again a plethora of agencies under a Work Projects Administration (WPA) came from Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal. Bill Clinton did an awkward version of this called a New Covenant with the public for the most part allowing it to die of a natural political cause, a distinct lack of interest.

GSA or the General Services Administration is tasked with the responsibility of finding the components needed to house and sustain the inner workings of government down to procuring the erasure on the desk up to completing a renovation of the White House from the inside out under President Truman's direction. Today, GSA is an civil servant army of 12,000 strong as they incorporate the quadrennial need for an inauguration into their regular duties of facilities
management for 8,300 grayish nondescript hut outposts to the White House complex, procurement and contracts, the governments formal internet communication platforms and just under a quarter of a million vehicles.

Everything is transparent for the 2008-2009 Presidential Transition Resources as they list this website to see who does what and when if one is selected to serve in an Obama Administration. This site lists the branches of government in a PDF file to explaining the most commonly overused acronyms in an attempt to make it comprehensible. It breaks it down by office, roles and responsibilities and disclosure forms in text or PDF formats compiled by the GPO or Government Printing Office. For those in the know, the Plum Book, a listing of all the jobs available ought to be a big download in the coming weeks.
Senate Report 106-348 clarifies that the directory is intended to "assist in navigating the many responsibilities that fall on a new administration" that is "confronted by an overwhelming amount of material."

The Presidential Transition Act of 2000 amended the Presidential Transition Act of 1963. It authorizes the General Services Administration (GSA) to develop and deliver orientation activities for key prospective Presidential appointees, and requires GSA, in consultation with the National Archives and Records Administration, to develop a transition directory.

The GSA has already turned over the secured offices near the White House in NW Washington to the Obama team. The exact address is 450 5th St, according to this source. The entire 11 story building or 482, 130 square feet is dedicated to the Obama Transition and they metaphorically got the keys and fancy cards on Wednesday. It's kind of cool symmetry that the economy is in the crapper and the location of the building is the former home of the Security & Exchange Commission - charged with regulating Wall Street. Hopefully, the SEC panhandled into a smaller place as nobody was minding the store during the Bush years as Wall Street binged and purged. The GSA has a budget of just under 5,000,000 USD to ensure the lights are on, the copiers work, the phones are secure with people cleared to use them, and the president-elect has a place to start the filing system and archives that will one day be part of his presidential papers in an Obama Presidential Library. This building will be the place tens of thousands a quarter million resumes electronically invade and many final job interviews will take place. There is a transition office in Chicago too, but the one in DC is the "secure" one meaning the FBI reports, the phones are there en masse. High-powered John Podesta is Obama's point man on the transparent transition who painted a pale red target on lobbyists' ambitions to serve in the transition.
As odd as the setting seemed, the process of presidential transition is even stranger. Obama, Podesta and their team must build a government in just 77 days, if you count both New Year's and Christmas. At the first briefing about this process Tuesday, Podesta said that he expects to spend about $12 million on the effort, most of which will be paid for by private donations from individuals who are not registered lobbyists in sums of $5,000 or less. (Congress kicks in $5.2 million to the effort.) All that money will pay for about 450 staff in Chicago and D.C. offices to do reviews of the major federal agencies, create dossiers on potential appointments, and otherwise set up the personnel for the future of the U.S. government, which included in 2004, 15 secretaries, 24 deputy secretaries, more than 275 assistant secretaries and more than 2,500 additional presidential appointees not subject to Senate confirmation.
Since there is only one president at a time, one is packing up their White House bric-a-brac contemplating what being a civilian is again as the other is packing up a private life to step into the harsh glare of the world's spotlight as Commander In Chief on a federal holiday dedicated to him, January 20, 2009. Maybe, that is why George Bush teared up as he expressed the sentiment to make this the smoothest transition in a time of war ever because terrorists were watching. Power is a visceral thing in DC. How and by whom it is wielded is the thing that consumes Washingtonians waking hours. That includes an obsessed media, Obama's professional stalkers, will watch the doors to see who goes in and out and how long they stayed. Who at the Washington Post will have the guts to say or print in one of their notorious What or Who is In/Out as administrations Change editions, Eugene Robinson In, Bob Woodward Out.

The Transition's formal website for Team Obama is called appropriately enough but without O's campaign in mind, Change with a message from President- Elect Obama.
Today we begin in earnest the work of making sure that the world we leave our children is just a little bit better than the one we inhabit today.
Course Correction is burgeoning as being an American and knowing how the country operates is cool once again. The most important Obama website for the next few weeks is set up by the GSA, general service administration, to list and inform about all things related for the peaceful transfer of power from one administration to the next. It is the must go to place for a job or data on the upcoming 44th presidency. To know how tightly interwoven it all is Obama's limited edition T-shirts use the insignia from the official government change site. Hint, Barack Obama and crew will post inaugural details at this site as well. CSPAN will become the most powerful news organization as it will provide no punditry, just an unfiltered lens to show the House of Representatives, Senate Chambers and the presidency foibles and fabulous alike. Barack Obama has steeped himself in economic details of the transition and made mention of his requests during his first and last Oval Office meeting before becoming president himself.

Presidential transitions are studied in great detail by preeminent presidential scholars as it is the foundation of how a president sets up an administration to operate the US government. As we approach the bicentennial of Lincoln, it provides a number of helpful clues for the incoming Obama Administration as perilous times escalated out of control into a Civil War. Abraham Lincoln, President Elect: The Four Critical Months from Election to Inauguration from Larry D. Mansch is about how Lincoln coped with building a government in the midst of secessions while keeping his world view of American unity.

This is part of The Transition Series to the presidency of Barack Obama

(posts at the link above are stored by date) Please leave some hints about other topics to explore through the transition!

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