Virginia Tech experts in presidential transitions say the speed with which President Trump’s administration implemented his executive order on immigration represents the “predictable conflict between doing it quickly and doing it well.”
“This is symptomatic of what can happen when a new administration places a premium on quick and visible action before necessarily understanding the full complexity of executing an order through a vast, overlapping set of agencies," said Karen Hult, the chair of the Department of Political Science at Virginia Tech’s College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. “It looks from the outside like a transition concern — for example, rejection or neglect of information or advice from the Obama folks — and internal jockeying for position in the White House office among new members of the Cabinet, and in the agencies.”
Charles Walcott, professor emeritus of political science, said it’s generally accepted that a presidential administration has its best opportunities for policy change at its outset.
“However, this is also the time when it is likely to be at its least competent — a predictable conflict between doing it quickly and doing it well. People are just settling into their positions, some hardly know each other, and confusion over who is responsible and who needs to be involved is commonplace,” he said.
“On top of that, the agencies — such as the Department of Homeland Security — are still full of people who were there prior to President Trump and likely aren't fully trusted by Trump's White House staff. The latter apparently feared interference with their plans, and so acted both quickly and covertly.”
Hult serves on the board of the nonpartisan White House Transition Project, which provides information to new White House staffers about making the shift from campaigning to governing, and sharing knowledge of what works and what doesn't from one presidency to the next. She has served as a contributing scholar providing briefing materials to the White House Counsel's Office and the White House Office of the Staff Secretary for transitions dating to 2000.
Her research and teaching at Virginia Tech focuses on organizational and institutional theories, the U.S. presidency, executive branch bureaucracies, the U.S. judiciary, social science research methodologies, and state and local politics and policy.
Walcott also participates in the White House Transition Project as co-author of essays on the White House Chief of Staff and the Office of Management and Administration.
His research interests focus upon the U.S. presidency, especially as it can be understood through organization theory and on organizational governance generally. Walcott's research over the past two decades has focused principally upon understanding the structural evolution and workings of the White House and its offices.
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