If Biden wins in November, he will likely face the most challenging transition in modern times. A Biden administration will confront a singularly taxing agenda, with the threefold crises of the moment layered upon the hefty portfolio any president normally inherits, including securing the nation’s nuclear weapons and managing ongoing military operations overseas. In grappling with this daunting docket, Biden will be hampered by a federal bureaucracy damaged by four years of institutional decay and, potentially, a hostile, Republican-held Senate antagonistic toward his new personnel appointments.
Biden may also face an outgoing administration that hinders his efforts, whether because of incompetence or malign intent. Planning, coordination, and information-sharing across government agencies and functions is vital to a successful transition. With an administration that remains dramatically understaffed, senior Trump officials may simply lack the bandwidth to reach into their bureaucracies to collect data on personnel and policy, collate it in neat binders, and brief its contents to successors. If the president is not reelected, and especially if he behaves as a sore loser, some of his appointees may begin shirking their responsibilities as they start searching for new opportunities and lose interest in fighting for a lame-duck agenda.
The risk of information loss is particularly acute for matters of national security—an area where the president’s pique toward the intelligence community and the so-called deep state might make him particularly resistant to cooperation.