GSA creates private network for transition teams
- By Matthew Weigelt
- Oct 24, 2008
Although the president-elect's transition team will not have immediate access to government systems, due to security regulations, they will have computers and key applications via a secure network, a government official said Friday.
Federal officials planning the upcoming transition between administrations have created a virtual private network, which is separate from other government networks, so the president-elect’s transition team members can immediately start work with Internet access and e-mail, Gail Lovelace, senior career executive for presidential transition at the General Services Administration, told Federal Computer Week.
GSA, which is in charge of the huge task, has built the network because an estimated 500 people who will work on the transition most likely won’t be federal employees and so can’t have access to secure federal computer networks and the sensitive information on those networks.
But “we’ve got to allow them to do their work,” she said. “In my view, no one can do work today without having access to the Internet or e-mail as well as some other things that are desktop functions.”
The teams must go through clearance checks, which GSA does not conduct, to get access to the VPN, as well as the office space GSA already has reserved for them, Lovelace said. However, she couldn’t give many details about the clearance process or how long it takes to get clearance.
“Let me just be clear: We have a way to help them hit the ground running pretty fast,” she said about the process. The transition teams in the past have not arrived en mass the day after the election, but as the president-elect’s transition director recognizes a need, the director appoints or adds people to the team, she said.
Soon after Election Day, Nov. 4, the transition teams begin the enormous task of organizing the president-elect’s new administration -- facing major decisions on how to do that. They have policies to read and vast amounts of information to comb through for each agency. They also must figure out how they will fill the numerous positions and jobs throughout the government.
“They’re trying to set up for their new administration, so, come Jan. 20 at noon when the new president takes the oath of office, they are ready to be the new administration,” Lovelace said.
The transition teams have 77 days from Nov. 4 to Jan. 20 to get the new administration running. After taking the oath of office, the transition is complete. Lovelace said however that GSA has the legal authority to support the transition up to 30 days after the inauguration. But immediately after the ceremony, GSA will begin ending its support with office space and the VPN.
“We’ll have an orderly process to shut everything down,” she said, although she didn't know when exactly officials would close the private network.
Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.