The Atlantic

An Easy Way to Avoid Foreign-Policy Mishaps

Presidential transitions have helped bring disasters from the Bay of Pigs to the Middle East—all because of inadequate intelligence briefings.
Source: William J. Smith / AP

Coming every four to eight years, the transition of power between presidents represents the most acute period of vulnerability for the United States. From the moment a new president takes the oath of office, the incoming administration assumes responsibility for national security—the area of U.S. policy in which the executive branch has the widest authority. Only the president can send American men and women into battle, authorize covert operations, or, under the most extreme circumstances, approve the use of nuclear weapons.

Preparing to become commander-in-chief is, therefore, a paramount priority for any president-elect during the 73-day period between Election Day and Inauguration Day on January 20. To facilitate that herculean task, the president-elect is authorized to receive intelligence briefings, including

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