Obama crafts world s most powerful govt

November 12, 2008 12:00 am

, WASHINGTON, November 12 – US president-elect Barack Obama is sending evaluators to study the sprawling US bureaucracy to help him determine how best to meet his administration’s goals when he takes office on January 20.

Obama’s 450-strong transition team will scour more than 100 departments and agencies for data to underpin new policies once his presidency gets underway.

Transition co-chair John Podesta promised that Obama would publish the names of aides due to begin burrowing into government monoliths such as the State Department, Treasury and the Pentagon as early as Monday.

"This is part of our commitment to make this the most open and transparent transition in history," Podesta said at his first post-election press conference.

"Under president-elect Obama and vice president-elect Biden, the American people will see a transition of government that is efficient, that is organised, that is bipartisan and more open and transparent than others before."

Podesta said the transition team would employ around 450 people in the US capital and Obama’s hometown Chicago, with a budget of $12 million.

Podesta said more than 100 interim security clearances had already been issued to transition personnel, part of an accelerated effort to get the government up and running at a time of international turmoil.

During his first post-election press conference last week, Obama said he would move with "deliberate haste" to fill cabinet positions.

He has yet to make any nominations, though White House staff announcements are expected soon before the major cabinet posts are announced.

The president-elect, honouring protocol that there is "only one president at a time," will stay away from the weekend’s international economic summit in Washington. Some of his aides however will likely meet foreign delegates.

On Tuesday, Obama advisors tried to dispel suggestions of tensions with the White House after it emerged that he had pressed President George W. Bush for immediate aide for struggling US auto giants in private talks the day before.

The New York Times cited unnamed sources as saying the president may agree to new funding for the troubled sector and a new economic stimulus package if Democrats pass a Colombia free trade pact which is stalled in Congress.
Obama aides denied Bush had offered the Colombia pact as part of a deal.

"The topic of Colombia came up. There was no quid pro quo in the conversation," Podesta said.

The Bush administration, which has promised unprecedented cooperation with the Obama transition team, has invited aides to the president-elect to shadow outgoing officials.

Podesta, a former Clinton administration chief-of-staff, also said the nascent administration was working through complicated issues involved in his campaign pledge to close the Guantanamo Bay "war on terror" camp in Cuba.
"It’s under review … when we have something to say about that, we’ll say it," he said.

"I think that moving the process forward and undertaking the review of how one would exactly accomplish that is a project that the transition will undertake, and then will be implemented by the new administration."

The Democratic president-elect is under fierce pressure from human rights groups to close the controversial high-security facility, but faces a legal minefield in deciding where to house inmates and how to try them.

Obama’s presidential transition team on Tuesday sidestepped a flurry of speculation that he would ask Defence Secretary Robert Gates to stay on in his administration.

Gates has been praised in both parties for his role since taking over the job two years ago, and the Wall Street Journal cited two unnamed Obama advisers Tuesday as saying the president-elect was leaning towards keeping Gates.

Podesta said Obama had "great respect" for Gates, but would wait to hear the findings of experts he is sending to probe Defence Department operations.

But a report in Wednesday’s edition of the Washington Post said the current Director of National Intelligence, Mike McConnell, and CIA chief Michael Hayden both expected to be replaced by Obama.

The Post story cited unnamed senior US intelligence officials.

Names being floated in the media as possible replacements include retiring Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, and John Brennan, a former top CIA official who heads Obama’s intelligence transition team.



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