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TESTIMONY OF DAVID J. BARRAM, ADMINISTRATOR OF GENERAL SERVICES ADMINISTRATION -- Hearing on 2000

December 4, 2000

Before the Subcommittee on Government Management, Information and Technology


Mr. Chairman, Members of the Subcommittee, I am pleased to talk about the implementation of the Presidential Transition Act, and how GSA plans to assist in an orderly Presidential Transition of 2000-2001.

Under the Presidential Transition Act of 1963, as amended, GSA is the provider of a fully equipped headquarters and a variety of services for the President-elect's transition team. Most of the facilities and services we provide to the President-elect and his transition team are generally the same as we provide to all our customers - office space, telecommunications, IT services and equipment, and furnishings, supplies and other things they need to do their jobs. Because GSA is the custodian of Federal transition funds, we also serve as the financial advisor, accountant and payroll office for the transition.

Under the Presidential Transition Act of 2000, GSA was given two new responsibilities. The first is coordinating orientation activities for high level nominees and appointees. The second is to work with the National Archives and Records Administration on a transition directory.

Congress has appropriated $5.27 million for the 2000-2001 incoming transition to pay for these services and facilities, as well as compensation for transition staff. One million of that will pay for the orientation activities and directory.

In order to facilitate an orderly transition, we have been working with both campaigns since August and we continue to do so on a daily basis. We have leased office space, provided security for it, fully furnished and equipped it, and arranged for telecommunications and information technology services to begin as soon as a President-elect is apparent. We have begun planning the orientation activities and prepared a working draft of the transition directory.

The Presidential Transition Act of 1963 makes it my responsibility to "ascertain" the "apparent successful candidates" for President and Vice President before the funds, services and facilities authorized by the Act become available to the Transition Team. While the Act gives no explicit criteria or deadlines for making this ascertainment, as the legislative history demonstrates, Congress made it perfectly clear that if there is
"any question" of who the winner is "in a close contest" this determination should not be made.�

As Representative Fascell explained during the 1963 discussion of the bill, "in a close contest, the Administrator simply would not make the decision." 109 Cong. Rec. 12238 (July 25, 1963). Representative Fascell went on to explain that " [t]here is nothing in the act that requires the Administrator to make a decision which is in his own judgment he could not make. If he could not determine the apparent successful candidate, he would not authorize the expenditure of funds to anyone; and he should not," id., [i] n the whole history of the United States there have only been three close such situations. It is an unlikely proposition, but if it were to happen, if the Administrator had any question in his mind, he simply would not make any designation in order to make the services available as provided by the Act. If as an intelligent human being and he has a doubt, he would not act until a decision has been made in the electoral college or in the Congress." Jd. at 13349.

Under the Presidential Transition Act, GSA has no role in determining who the next President will be or affecting the contest for the Presidency. The law does not authorize me to pick the next President or predict who the next president will be. Instead, the law creates a simple, common sense requirement for me to identify the President-elect after it is clear that one candidate has won the election. In this unprecedented, incredibly close, and intensely contested election, with legal action being pursued by both sides, it is not apparent to me who the winner is. That is why I have not "ascertained" a President-elect. In extremely close elections, state laws provide for various means to ensure that the results are correct. The Country is going through that process now. I don't intend to predict when it will be apparent who the winner is. But I am confident that we will all know and probably all agree when the winner is apparent.

In extremely close elections, state laws provide for various means to ensure that the results are correct. The Country is going through that process now. I don't intent to predict when it will be apparent who the winner is. But I am confident that we will all know and probably all agree when the winner is apparent.

Both candidates are honorable men and each is convinced he has won this extremely close race. I intend to respect the integrity of their public statements. During the last three weeks, our great American political system has faced a huge test. In my view, our system, as usual, is working. We Americans trust each other enough to believe we can get through this challenge.

Because the President-elect will have a shortened transition period, we at GSA have been working diligently to give the Transition team the tools it needs for a smooth transition. We continue to work closely with both campaigns to shorten the turnover time so that what once took a week or more can now be done in a day or within hours. We talked with both campaigns before the election to ensure we were setting up the space and systems so that they could use them productively. In the last few days we have suggested additional steps to speed the turnover - such things as creating Local Area Network and e-mail accounts and passwords, providing their staffs with remote access to the Transition intranet, preparing financial and contractual documents for goods and services their teams will need, even ordering stationery. We are acting professionally and with no bias toward either candidate, as we have been since August and will continue to do.

With so many rapid technological changes, we think that this may actually be the last transition where the transition team will need 90,000 square feet of office space and 500 computers in one location in Washington, DC. For example, staff of both campaigns are already linked in virtual space. Compare this to the last transition in which laptops were invisible and wireless technology barely existed.

We already see that many of the administrative paper-based transactions of 1992 will now be done electronically, saving time and money for the taxpayers. We think that the preparations GSA has already made, including taking advantage of technology, will help make the 2000-2001 transition, though short, a smooth transition.