Transition documents can be an important part of transition assistance. Outgoing administrations frequently prepare transition books and briefing documents for the incoming administration.

Below are general guides on what the National Governors Association (NGA) has found to be best practices on preparing briefing materials for the Governor-elect (and family), the incoming transition team, counterpart gubernatorial staff and incoming cabinet officials and staff.

Please note, NGA does not advocate one single correct way to organize briefing materials, but suggests integrating best practices with the style and traditions of individual states and administrations.

Department Transition Memo and Template for 2022

Agency Transition Planning


To effectuate a smooth transition between administrations, both the incoming and outgoing Governors’ offices should complete a landscape analysis that identifies the strengths, challenges and opportunities in each of their executive branch departments, agencies, and offices. Transparent communication from each will enable a more seamless operational transition


  1. As part of their overall transition activities, both the outgoing and the incoming Governors should identify transition leads for each department and agency. If that transition lead comes from outside state government, to the extent practicable, that lead should be paired with an official within the department being reviewed to ensure a full picture of operational strengths, weaknesses and opportunities. An assessment should be made on whether it would be helpful to also include a departmental budget official in those transition activities.
  2. The outgoing Governor should begin their landscape assessment by the spring of the year of the election so that the necessary materials and analysis are ready to be handed off immediately after the election.
  3. While this schedule will essentially let the outgoing Governor drive what information is collected and at what level that information is collected, both should understand that transition is a process – and that the incoming administration may require additional information or executive unit breakdowns.
  4. Each state has different administrative structures with different cabinet memberships and organizational units. To the extent practicable, the transition landscape analysis should be completed by function and statutory responsibility. The transition landscape analysis must strike the appropriate balance between including enough detail to make it meaningful and too much detail that renders it overwhelming. States should consider organizing their transition documents on a department or cabinet basis – with the cabinets or department responsible for assembling the information for offices, agencies and subagencies located within each department or cabinet office.

Deliverables and Implementation Process

  1. The outgoing Governor should require a transition landscape analysis for each executive branch agency or department to be prepared and ready to be delivered immediately following the election. Following discussions with the incoming Governor, these materials should be forwarded by the outgoing Governor or the outgoing transition lead to the incoming Governor or the incoming transition lead.
  2. The incoming Governor or transition lead should assign each of the outgoing Governor’s department and agency landscape analyses to the appropriate transition leads for the new administration.
  3. The incoming Governor’s department or agency transition leads should use the materials to develop their own landscape analyses to the incoming governor at least one-month prior to the beginning of the new administration. The incoming transition leads should use that time to thoroughly review the materials provided by the outgoing administration, request clarification or additional information if necessary, and match the information assembled to the priorities of the incoming administration.
  4. Each department and agency landscape analysis should be formally presented by the department or agency transition lead to the incoming governor and his or her transition team with an opportunity given for questions and further development. 

Suggested Template

Both the incoming and outgoing Governor’s transition offices may wish to consider using the following template to gather and organize information for the transition landscape analysis:

Department of ___________________

2022 Briefing Book

I. Department Structure

a. Department Description

  • i. General mission and role of the department within state government
  • ii. Description of all major component parts (agencies, bureaus, divisions, etc.)

b. Organization Chart

  • i. Top Level organizational chart of department
  • ii. Organizational chart down to a defined level for major component parts (agencies, bureaus, divisions, etc.)

c. Legal Authority/Major Statutes Administered by the Department

d. Federal Interactions and Delegated Authority

II. Operational Overview

a. Staffing Levels (by department and by unit)

  • i. Include appropriated, filled and anticipated vacancy fills

b. Summary of Budget (by department and by unit)

  • i. Description of primary revenue streams (GF/SAF, restricted funds, federal funds, grant funds)
  • ii. Timing and key formulas regarding federal funds
  • iii. Description of non-lapsing anticipated unexpended balances
  • iv. Description of fund mobility
  • v. Identification of budget challenges (structural and one-time)

c. Timeline of Key Department Events

  • i. Timeline of major grants issued by department
  • ii. Timeline of major federal grant application processes

d. Map of key office locations and approximate size of workforce in each location

e. Description of recent and pending audits (State, Federal, internal)

f. Description of on-going or scheduled process review/LEAN initiatives

g. Description of on-going or scheduled rule revisions

h. Key Performance Indicators

  • i. Current Metrics/Dashboard
  • ii. Strategic Plan (if available)

III. Department Relations/Issues

a. Inter-Department Relationships

b. Contractual Relationships and RFPs

c. Issues Needing Immediate Attention

  • i. Pending contracts or grants or contract/grant expirations
  • ii. Major constituent/stakeholder issues/permits/enforcement action
  • iii. Decisions to be made in first 60 days

d. Outstanding/Pending Litigations

IV. Employees, Appointees and Unclassified

a. Names, job specifications and salaries of all Unclassified/Paid Appointees

b. Names and job specifications of all contractual employees above a defined level with salaries and term

c. Name and expiration date of all paid board and commission members

d. Board or Commission appointments held by Department Director and department leadership

V. Talent Assessment

a. Anticipated key scheduled retirements

b. Identification of other possible retirements or departures that could significantly impact operations

c. Identification of “utility infielders” able to step into leadership roles

d. Identification of rising talent that can or should be groomed for growth in the department

Executive Office Transition Template

I. Facilities

a. Locations of Governor’s Offices

  • i. Address/Floor/Telephone Numbers of all designated offices
  • ii. Layouts, size, and space configurations

b. Residence

  • i. Location(s) – Address/Telephone Numbers
  • ii.Layouts, size and space configuration
  • iii. Public v. private spaces
  • iv. Budget – state/private funds

    • 501(c) for support
    • State budget line item

  • v. Staffing Levels

    • State Employee Staff
    • At-Will Staff
    • Docents

  • vi. Public Access – Times/Tours
  • vii. Restrictions on Use of Space
  • viii. Security
  • ix. Vendors

    • Food Service/Catering
    • Grounds
    • Cleaning

c. Administrative Services Contacts

  • i. Accounting and financial Services
  • ii. Building Facilities

c. Contracts and Vendors

  • i. Internet/Cable
  • ii. Telephones
  • iii. Copy Machines
  • iv. Signature Machines
  • v. Supply Ordering (accessing statewide contracts)
  • vi. Print and Graphic Ordering
  • vii. Coffee Service
  • viii. Legal Services and Databases

d. Governor’s Security Detail

  • i. Responsibilities, contacts and expectations

II. Staff Personnel and Reporting Requirements

a. Civil Service or Office of Personnel Management contact if applicable
b. Sample personal services contract
c. Personnel Services Requirements and Training

  • i. Timekeeping
  • ii. Travel Expense Reporting

III. Office Procedures

a. Emergency Evacuation and Shelter Plans (for each site)
b. Flag Order Procedures
c. Mail Handling and Processing (including suspicious package process)
d. Protest Protocols
e. Executive Orders and Directives
f. Extradition Process
g. Commutation and Pardon Processes
h. Flag Lowering Protocols
i. Judicial Appointments

IV. Databases (vendor, support, manual for use)

a. Appointments
b. Constituent Services
c. Legislative Tracking
d. Scheduling
e. Mail Receipt
f. Communication Platforms
g. Tributes and Proclamations
h. Project Management/Metrics

Transition Out Timeline (Transitioning Out in 2022)

Timeline Overview

  • January 2022

    • o Governor appoints a Transitioning Out Director/Lead
    • o Legal Counsel advised of role in transition activities

  • February/March 2022

    • o Transition Director communicates with Cabinet on transition expectations
    • o Transition Director disseminates and explains Agency Transition Templates

  • April/May 2022

    • o Governor’s office appoints internal lead on office transition and disseminates Governor’s Office Transition Template

  • July 2022

    • o Governor’s team finalizes “to be completed list”
    • o Begin process for assisting staff in their own transitioning process
    • o Assign staff to assist Governor and Governor’s spouse with their personal transitions

  • After Primary Election (timing varies by state)

    • o Reach out to BOTH primary winners to explain in general terms what information is being pulled together and when it will be delivered and ask if there is additional information the candidates desire for post-general election

  • September/October 2022

    • o Draft Agency Transition Templates and Governor’s Office Transition Template due to Transition Director
    • o Transition Director reviews submissions and, if necessary, directs changes or additions by mid-October
    • o Each Cabinet Agency finalizes out-going transition team designations to assist incoming administration

  • After General Election

    • o Reach out to incoming Governor to arrange handoff of transition materials
    • o Arrange personal meeting(s) with incoming and outgoing Governors and Spouses


  • Politics has no place in the transition-out process

    • o The actions and attitude, positive and negative, of each person in the administration reflects upon the Governor and his/her team
    • o Regardless of who wins the election, the state’s residents expect and deserve a respectful and professional transition of power

  • The Governor is in charge until the new Governor is sworn in; the out-going Governor is responsible for, and controls, the transition-out process

    • o A well-defined process must govern who will be responsible for each action, what information will transfer to the new administration and how the information will be communicated

  • All transition-out plans and actions also include the Lt. Governor and his/her office
  • The bulk of the transition-out work should be completed by election day

    • o Briefing books and contacts for follow-up questions and information should be provided to the Governor-elect and his/her transition chair as soon as possible after the election
    • o Given that there is much work to be done and the strength of Governor’s team may lessen in the final year as staff members move on to new jobs, the transition-out process should begin by January 1 of the year of the election (assuming November election)

Transition-Out Structure

  • Governor names a Transition-Out Chair and staff to assist the Chair in overseeing and managing the process

    • o Typically, the Chair is a trusted senior official or advisory or staff member that knows the Governor well and has a good knowledge of the state’s government processes
    • o Staff should focus on the day-to-day details of the transition and assure the plan is being followed

  • Each department and agency should recommend to the Chair one or more transition-out coordinators, in addition to the department/agency head

    • o The Chair assures that each agency/department has the right people in charge of the process

  • Competent legal counsel from within the Governor’s Office, or outside, should advise the Chair and the Governor throughout the process (what information to provide to the Governor-elect, what records to retain in what format, etc.)

Transition-Out Process

  • Establish a detailed budget for all transition-out activities

    • o May be a combination of state and private funds (if allowed)

  • Identify critical decisions and actions that must be taken by the Governor and his/her administration in the final six months of the term

    • o This “to do” list should be compiled no later than July 1 of the year of the election
    • o Assign a lead person for each item on the list; monitor the list closely to assure progress/completion; recognize that the leads assigned may or may not remain in their positions until the end of the term

  • Set clear policies and guidelines on what information is to be saved at each department/agency, what is to be archived and what can be deleted/destroyed (e.g. duplicate copies, etc.)

    • o Legal counsel and state records retention experts can provide guidance
    • o Determine what can be kept in electronic format and what must be kept in paper format
    • o Assign an official to oversee this process
    • o Understand FOIA implications

  • Detailed briefing books for each department/agency ready to be presented to Governor-elect after the election

    • o Overview of the primary functions of the department/agency
    • o Organization charts and descriptions of the organizational structure

      • List of positions appointed by the Governor, including functions, terms of office, etc.

    • o Overview of the department/agency budget

      • Detailed information on the current budget for each function/program
      • Information on known issues that will likely impact the upcoming budget to be presented by the next administration

    • o Information on each major issue the department/agency is currently working on or will face in the near future

      • Describe the issues, the steps that have been taken and any key decisions that will need to be made within 3-6 months after the next Governor takes office

    • o The department/agency coordinators as well as the department/agency heads should personally review all information provided to assure accuracy that the appropriate issues were identified and personal commentary or opinions are not included
    • o The Chair and transition-out staff should review each book in draft form to assure it contains all the required information in a clear and professional format

  • The contact information for the Chair, staff and department/agency heads and contacts should be shared with the Governor-Elect and his/her transition chair after the election as these individuals are responsible for further exchanges of information

    • o No information should be provided to the incoming administration or transition team without the knowledge and approval of the Governor’s team in order to assure timely and clear responses to requests or questions and to prevent inaccurate or inconsistent information

  • Starting in July of the election year, provide transition support for appointed staff in the departments/agencies and Governor’s Office

    • o Through the Department of Civil Service (if applicable) or Office of Personnel Management, provide counseling on how to apply for State positions, determine which positions individuals may qualify for, explain the State hiring process, etc.
    • o If private funding is permitted and available, may provide outside career counseling and job search services
    • o Establish a process for providing job references and letters of recommendation

Transitioning Out the Governor’s Office and the Governor and First Spouse

  • The Governor and First Spouse will need to meet, and share information, with the next Governor and his/her spouse

    • o At a minimum, invitations for one-on-one meetings should be extended after the election
    • o Further efforts will depend on the willingness and availability of the Governor and the First Spouse

      • Coffee, lunch or dinner with the Governor-Elect and spouse
      • Additional meetings to discuss roles, responsibilities, balancing work and personal lives, etc.
      • Offering a mentor type of relationship before and after the next Governor takes office

    • o The Lt. Governor will also need to determine his/her willingness to reach out to the Lt. Governor-elect

  • In addition to the briefing books and follow-up information provided by all departments/agencies, the Governor’s Office has additional responsibilities:

    • o Identify the records and files that are official state documents that should be kept in the office for the next administration or should be sent to the state archives (e.g. extraditions records and other legal documents)
    • o Identify files that the Governor would like to pass on to the next Governor, even if he/she is not required to do so (e.g. files on issues that required decisions soon after the next Governor takes office)
    • o Identify files and records that are the Governor’s personal papers

      • These should be professionally organized and labeled according to professional archival standards
      • The Governor decides where his/her personal papers will be stored and the terms for releasing the information contained in the papers; a written agreement should be signed with the organization housing the papers

  • Assign one or more staff members to assist the Governor and First Spouse in their personal transitions

    • o Compile a list of items to be completed (e.g., moving personal items from the offices and residences, sharing new contact information with identified personal and professional contacts, etc.)
    • o If needed, set up and staff a transition office in a state or state funded facility in accordance with budgetary and statutory provisions