Previous presidential transition efforts focused on vetting would-be appointees, assembling hefty policy briefing books and making sure politically reliable operatives were assigned as liaisons to departments and agencies. That’s largely the path Democratic candidate Barack Obama has chosen, assigning dozens of advisers to working groups. The participants have strictly delineated responsibilities and must abide by specific conflict-of-interest rules.
But aides say Sen. McCain’s transition team, headed by former Navy Secretary Lehman, has a different, less-structured approach. Mr. Lehman and a small group of aides are concentrating on the logistics of swiftly taking control of the U.S. national security apparatus.
If Sen. McCain wins on Tuesday, aides say his transition effort will be partly geared toward getting Congress to approve the top four dozen or so national-security appointees during the first month of a McCain administration.
Sen. McCain is reluctant to set up formal transition teams for individual departments and hasn’t asked for specific recommendations of possible appointees, according to aides. They said that at this stage, domestic agencies aren’t the top priority and the team is staying away from compiling formal lists of candidates for choice jobs. Instead, aides said, Mr. Lehman’s plan focuses on the mechanics of bringing a new administration up to speed on the most pressing intelligence questions, terrorism-related developments and broad national-security issues.