This section provides an overview on positions subject to change, assigning Federal employees to a transition team, providing continuity in key operations through overlapping assignments, and separating political appointees. In a January 11, 2016, Memorandum to Heads of Departments and Agencies, the Director of OPM asked agencies to review all personnel actions to make sure they meet the requirements of civil service laws, rules, and regulations and are free of impropriety. The Director reminded agencies of their obligation to undertake personnel actions in a manner that conforms fully to the merit system principles and does not involve prohibited personnel practices. [See Appendix B for a copy of this memorandum, which is also available at https://www.chcoc.gov/content/appointments-and-awards-during-2016-presidential-election-period.]


Positions that are generally subject to change during transitions are listed in a document called United States Government Policy and Supporting Positions, commonly known as the Plum Book. OPM prepares this document every 4 years at the request of Congress. It is published after the election in November and is available on OPM’s website (https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/senior-executive-service/facts-figures/#url=Plum-Book).

There are four broad categories of individuals or positions that may be changed during a transition:

  • Presidential appointments made with the advice and consent of the Senate (PAS) to positions in which the incumbent serves at the pleasure of the President;

  • Other Presidential appointments (PA) to positions in which the incumbent serves at the pleasure of the President; Noncareer Senior Executive Service (SES) appointments; and

  • Appointments to other positions in which the incumbent serves at the pleasure of the agency head. These positions, commonly known as “Schedule C” positions, are excepted from competitive service rules by OPM based on their responsibility for determining or advocating agency policy, or their confidential character.

Positions in these four categories normally include Cabinet officers and heads of other executive branch agencies; Under Secretaries; Assistant Secretaries; Directors of bureaus and services; and chairpersons and members of boards, commissions, and committees. Incumbents of most of these positions customarily resign at the request of the new incoming administration or before a new agency head takes office. It also is common for an incoming administration to ask certain persons to remain in their jobs during the transition to ensure continuity during the initial period of staffing.

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Details to the Transition Team

The Presidential Transition Act of 1963, as amended, establishes the transition team as a Federal entity to provide for the orderly transfer of power between administrations [3 U.S.C. 102 note]. In addition to providing that the transition team may hire its own staff, the Act provides for the detail of Federal employees to the transition team after the November election as follows:

  • Any employee of any agency of any branch of the Government may be detailed to the office staff of either the President-elect or the Vice President-elect.

  • The employee must be detailed on a reimbursable basis, and the detail must be with the consent of the lending agency head.

Overlapping in Key Positions

Agencies cannot employ two individuals in the same position at the same time (“dual incumbency”). However, to provide continuity in key positions and meet other transition needs, agencies can use the following options:

  • When an incumbent’s intention to leave has been documented, an agency may establish a different position to employ a designated successor for a brief period pending the incumbent’s departure. For example, when an office director is leaving, the agency may establish a temporary special assistant position for a short period to facilitate orientation of the incoming director to the office’s operations.

  • OPM may authorize the use of SES limited appointment authorities for short periods of time for temporary executive positions. [5 CFR 317.601(c)(2)]

  • Agencies may also establish temporary transitional Schedule C positions for similar non-executive positions to help with transitions. [5 CFR 213.3302]

Involuntary Separations and Resignations

Presidential Appointees and Immediate Staff: When the President accepts the resignation of a Presidentially-appointed policy-making officer, the separation is involuntary. A separation is involuntary at any time the resignation is submitted and accepted, whether or not it is related to a change in Presidential administrations. Further, when it is known that a Presidential appointee is leaving, the resignation of a noncareer SES or Schedule C employee who works for that Presidential appointee is involuntary. Agencies should include documentation with a retirement application that the President has accepted the resignation of his appointee, or that the Presidential appointee for whom a noncareer SES or Schedule C appointee works is leaving.

Requested Resignations: When an agency separates an employee who submits his or her resignation in response to a request from a recognized representative of the new Presidential term, that separation is involuntary for retirement purposes. The representative must have the authority to request the employee’s resignation, and the resignation must be requested specifically from that employee. The agency should attach a copy of the request for the resignation with the individual’s retirement application. Unsolicited resignations, i.e., those based on an anticipated request for a resignation and those prompted by personal choice, are voluntary for retirement purposes.

Caution about Separations: For legal reasons, notices of dismissals should avoid a tone that implicates in any way an employee’s reputation. Agencies should consult their own General Counsel or legal office for guidance in this area. [See Appendix C for a sample separation notice.]



Contact Information:
Telephone: 703-692-9060
E-mail: whs.pentagon.em.mbx.dod-presidential-transition-support-office@mail.mil

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