New leadership is needed in America, says Spencer Chretien, associate director of the 2025 Presidential Transition Project, also known as Project 2025.
“We see every day the effects of the current administration, whether it’s the open southern border, rampant inflation, a woke and weaponized government, foreign policy disaster,” he says. “And we need new leadership in this country.”
“And so, while that is true, it’s also important that we get ready for what happens after Jan. 20, 2025, when the new president takes office,” Chretien says, adding:
So, Project 2025 is now more than 70 conservative organizations. It’s organized here at Heritage, but it includes really a ‘who’s who’ of the conservative movement. We have groups involved that are more establishment-friendly, more populist-friendly, more libertarian, social conservative.
(The Daily Signal is the news outlet of The Heritage Foundation.)
Chretien joins today’s episode of “The Daily Signal Podcast” to discuss how presidential candidates have been responding to the project, what the administrative state is and what dismantling it would look like, and his response to criticism of the project.
Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript.
Samantha Aschieris: Joining today’s episode of “The Daily Signal Podcast” is Spencer Chretien. Spencer is the associate director of the 2025 Presidential Transition Project. Spencer, thanks for joining us.
Spencer Chretien: Thank you for having me, Samantha.
Aschieris: So, first and foremost, tell us a little bit about Project 2025 and why it was started.
Chretien: Sure. Well, Project 2025 is a conservative movement’s effort to get ready for the next conservative administration. We see every day the effects of the current administration, whether it’s the open southern border, rampant inflation, a woke and weaponized government, foreign policy disaster, and we need new leadership in this country. And so, while that is true, it’s also important that we get ready for what happens after Jan. 20, 2025, when the new president takes office.
So, Project 2025 is now more than 70 conservative organizations. It’s organized here at Heritage, but it includes, really, a who’s who of the conservative movement. We have groups involved that are more establishment-friendly, more populous-friendly, more libertarian, social conservative. We got everybody.
And the goal is that we are just like a snowball rolling downhill. It keeps building momentum and whoever the nominee is, whoever the next president is, we’re going to be ready on Day One. So that’s the vision of Project 2025.
We are behind the Left when it comes to understanding the bureaucracy, when it comes to working in the government here in D.C., Maryland, Virginia, the political composition is not the best for us. So we are behind the eight ball and we need to build this infrastructure on the Right and train our people up ahead of time so that we’re ready to hit the ground running.
I’ll go into a little more detail. The project is organized into four pillars. The first pillar is right here. It’s “Mandate for Leadership,” this book, it is more than 900 pages. It came out in April 2023 and it’s available for free at Project2025.org.
And what we did in this book is we went chapter by chapter, and every chapter corresponds to one federal agency. So if you really care about the Department of Health and Human Services or the Department of Housing and Urban Development, there’s a chapter on that agency and it outlines what a conservative president needs to do at that agency, what a vision of success looks like for conservatives at each federal agency. … We hope it will become the policy Bible for the next conservative administration.
“Mandate for Leadership” was first published in the 1980 campaign. The legend is that everybody had a copy on their chair at the first meeting of President [Ronald] Reagan’s Cabinet. This time we started early, we got it out in an odd-numbered year before the election, and we have set the pace for the whole field. You see the candidates talking about many issues that are mentioned in this book.
The second pillar is our Presidential Personnel Database. We are doing the next president’s work ahead of time by recruiting people now at all levels to come into the system. And we are identifying the best talent who wants to come to Washington, people who’ve served before and who haven’t. And we will be able to submit whole slates of vetted, endorsed candidates over to the official transition and to the future Presidential Personnel Office, which is my old office. That’s the second pillar.
The third pillar is we’re training people up ahead of time. We have our Presidential Administration Academy, and this is all at Project2025.org. But if you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to serve in Washington, if you’ve ever wondered what the political hiring process is like, this is your chance. We have interactive training courses, that’s pillar three.
And then pillar four is the actual transition binders that we’re preparing for each agency. So taking some of the big ideas in this book and figuring out how we’re going to make them a reality.
So it’s four pillars, more than 70 organizations, and it’s never been done before on the Right.
Aschieris: And just to ask you a little bit more about the early days of 2025 with what could be a conservative president, what can be learned from the transition that President [Donald] Trump and the Trump administration went through? What lessons can be learned from there and how can they be applied or improved on for 2025?
Chretien: That’s a good question. I think in some ways the 2016 transition was a situation in which groups like Heritage stepped in to fill the void. But the Left is always thinking about presidential transitions. They’re always thinking about the revolving door. They’re very well funded. They spend a lot of time thinking about this.
During conservative presidencies, we are always—[it] feels like we’re always playing an away game during the transition, during the presidency. So I think what we are doing through Project 2025 is we’re building on past successes. And there were a lot in the Trump administration. But we’re also learning from those times during conservative presidencies when we’ve left things on the table.
One statistic that I like to point out is, if you look at the two most recent administrations, everybody in President [Joe] Biden’s Cabinet was confirmed by the middle of March 2021. All the Cabinet members were confirmed. That was with only 50 Democrats in the Senate.
During the Trump administration, the last Cabinet member was not confirmed until the end of April 2017, and that was with 52 Republican senators.
So the Biden folks had, I think, 1,200 people start working for the president on the first day. Conservative presidents have had a fraction of that and a landing team, so-called landing team, with four people who arrive at an agency on the first day. That’s not enough. We are doing things bigger and better, hopefully.
Aschieris: Now, as we all know, the 2024 presidential election is fully underway now. So far we’ve had two Republican debates, presidential debates. What has been the response from presidential candidates to Project 2025?
Chretien: We are sharing our work with the candidates and their staff. Everybody has received a copy of the book and we continue to have meetings, conversations, we’ll work with anybody. The candidates are interested in the policies that we’ve put together. They’re interested also in the elements of Project 2025 that are focused on how the president should manage the federal bureaucracy.
One thing that folks at home should know is we always talk about the dangers of an overbearing big government and correctly so. But what we’re actually talking about is you’ve got about 2.2 million full-time, non-military federal employees, between 16 million and 20 million federal contractors. And the number of people traditionally who actually serve at the pleasure of the president is only about between 3,000 and 4,000.
So the candidates are interested in how they and their staff are going to manage this massive behemoth that is a federal bureaucracy.
And then I think the other thing is all of the candidates, all of the major candidates are talking about deconstructing the administrative state. We have kind of made that the No. 1 issue in the campaign.
You see them proposing various different things, but talking about how to reduce the size and scope of these agencies, reduce the federal influence on everyday Americans, and we’re supposed to have three branches of government, not four. And I think the candidates increasingly understand that.
Aschieris: You just brought up the administrative state. I did want to ask you, with dismantling the administrative state, what would that look like? And can you just break down, even before getting into that, what is the administrative state?
Chretien: That’s a good question. The administrative state really is more than 100 years old. It has its origins in the era of President Woodrow Wilson. Woodrow Wilson is called the father of public administration, the grandfather of public administration.
And it’s the view that at its core, it is the view that the government needs to be run by nonpartisan technical experts. That the only thing that really matters is that we have an expert class who are simply concerned with efficiency, with making everything function effectively, and that they should exist independently of presidential elections.
The other view, the second major view of the bureaucracy, is more along the lines of the political administration model. And that is our view. Our view is that you can’t take the politics out of politics. That the management of the bureaucracy is a task that is inherently political and that we actually don’t need more nonpartisan experts.
What we need is robust political control of the bureaucracy. The people vote for a president. The president is entitled to a supportive staff. And the president and the people who work for him or one day her are the people who manage the bureaucracy and set the policy, set the direction. The career technical experts who comprise the administrative state, they don’t get to make policy, and the policy is made by the president.
So the administrative state has become this fourth branch of government, and what it practically is is a roadblock for any conservative change.
We see President Trump, President Reagan, other conservative presidents who have wanted to make significant changes, both in policy and in management of the bureaucracy, have not had an easy road of it because the administrative state or the deep state is there. It exists permanently. It’s the permanent political class. They can just out wait a president. You have a four-year term. Well, they’re there for longer than that. So that’s what it is.
Aschieris: What is your response to critics about Project 2025?
Chretien: My response is, if you’re satisfied with the administrative state, if you think it’s a good thing that people like Dr. [Anthony] Fauci exert so much influence, unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats who exert so much influence over everyday life in America, if you think there’s no waste in the government, if you think it’s true that 99% of federal employees do a fully satisfactory job, which is how they’re currently evaluated by their managers—that’s in Chapter 3 of our book—if you like the current system, then Project 2025 is not for you.
But if you think we can do better, if you want to restore political accountability to this massive federal bureaucracy, then you’re the type of person we’re looking for because we know that we can do better, and we know that the policies we need are contained within this book, protecting life and family, making sure that we have a secure border instead of an open border, rooting out the three-letter acronyms that have infested our federal agencies—the ESG [environmental, social, and governance], critical race theory, [diversity, equity, and inclusion]—all that stuff and more is in this book.
So we are the change agents and we’re the people who are going to restore the Constitution, restore the three branches of government, not four, in 2025.
Aschieris: I wanted to also ask you a little bit more about a piece that you wrote for The Daily Signal back in August. It’s titled “5 Things You Can Do right Now to Help Dismantle the Federal Bureaucracy.” What are these five things?
Chretien: Well, the first is familiarize yourself with this book, “Mandate for Leadership: The Conservative Promise.” It’s available at Project2025.org. If you want to read the whole thing or order a copy, you certainly are welcome to. Most people probably familiarize themselves with one or two chapters that are of most interest to them, but it’s there in its entirety for everybody.
And this will set the policy vision, both for the 47th president and for the people, hopefully, who are going to work for the president.
Second thing is, also at Project2025.org, make your profile in our Presidential Personnel Database. If you want to come to Washington, or even if you are unsure, but you know people who do, and you just want to see what it’s like to serve the president, then make a profile at Project2025.org.
Another thing you can do is sign up for our Presidential Administration Academy, which is related. Get trained up ahead of time. Learn about what it’s like to live in Washington, what the political hiring process is, how to deal with the media, how to avoid the traps that the deep state is going to lay for you. So get involved in the training components of this project.
And then I think the other two things I said were, we’ve got now more than 70 organizations, including The Heritage Foundation, and you can see the full list online. But those 70-plus now conservative organizations, they conduct a lot of their own great events, great programming, and you should check out that.
And then the last thing I said was spread the word. Tell your conservative friends and family and colleagues and neighbors that help is on the way through Project 2025, that we can do better, that the conservative movement has a plan and they can be a part of it. So spread the word.
Follow us on Twitter. We are increasingly going on the road. We were at the Iowa State Fair, but we’re going to do more trips like that and really meet people where they are so that we can get ready to come to Washington and serve the next president.
Aschieris: That’s great. Spencer, any final thoughts?
Chretien: Well, I would just encourage everybody to take heart that Project 2025 has a plan. We’re going to be ready for the next conservative president.
We know that the permanent bureaucracy is going to be ready. We know the deep state’s going to be ready. And all of the Washington interest groups, Big Tech, Big Pharma, Big Business, Wall Street, K Street, the defense contractors, they all have their lists, they all have their plans. They’re all going to be ready for the next conservative president, when the president says, “So help me, God.” They have their agenda. Well, what about us? We can have an agenda. We also can be ready through Project 2025.
Aschieris: Well, great. Spencer, thanks so much for joining us. I appreciate it.
Chretien: Thank you.
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