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After Donald Trump's surprising win, Pentagon launches immediate transition

Election Day ended just a few hours ago, but transition work at the Pentagon begins this morning.

With only 68 days before the inauguration, transition teams from the campaign of president-elect Donald Trump are headed to federal departments today, immediately developing plans and priorities for how to take over operations at each agency.

That work is especially complicated at the Defense Department, where military missions continue in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and elsewhere despite the change in power in Washington, D.C.

"We're ready today to transition on big programs, on the budget, on the way forward," Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said late last month during a panel discussion with other top defense officials. "There's no luxury of having a couple of days after the inaugural to figure things out."

Army Secretary Eric Fanning, who was confirmed for that post in May, said his staff has spent weeks developing briefings so the next president’s advisers can start immediately.

"It kicks into high gear the day after the election, when teams actually show up," he said.

"Then you really are focused on making sure the needs of those teams are met as they try to get a sense of … what the issues are, what issues we're concerned about, what issues they're concerned about, what the budget is, what the budget maybe should be or how it should be organized differently."

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said one of the first priorities will be a strategic review of threats facing the nation, and to ensure overseas operations aren’t disrupted by political reorganization back at home.

That will include, in the coming weeks, a nuclear posture review from her staff to the new administration's most senior officials.

"It's a centralized effort for us," she said. "So the Office of the Secretary of Defense is running this effort, gathering up these papers and documents. Each of us has thoughts about what the next team needs to know about.

"When the time comes, we'll be ready to go."

Video: 13,000 troops will provide security, ceremonial support for presidential inauguration

Inauguration platform construction officially started with The First Nail Event on Wednesday morning. However, according to Maj. Gen. Bradley Becker, security preparations for the inauguration started long before that. (Isabella Alvarenga/Medill News Service)

Video by Isabella Alvarenga/Medill News Service

Fanning said most travel for key Pentagon staff "dries up right after the election, so that we can make the transition as smooth as possible." Mabus noted that his staff has already planned for a host of one-on-one meetings, to give in-depth explanations of procedures and challenges.

And while transition work ramps up for the new commander in chief, the Pentagon still has two more months under Obama to worry about too. James said as she meets with the new teams, her staff will also be lobbying the lame duck Congress to finish the annual defense authorization bill and a defense appropriations measure.

"We'll be continuing to focus on the internal deliberations within the Pentagon about next year's budget, and what final decisions that have to be made [before inauguration]," she said. "... It's get back to work and do the very best you can to complete the important work while you still have the time."

Leo Shane III covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He can be reached at lshane@militarytimes.com .

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