Obama’s Cabinet: RFK Jr. to Head EPA? Familiar Faces in Defense Dept.

November 6th, 2008 - by admin

Mike Allen / Politico.com & John T. Bennett / Defense News – 2008-11-06 22:05:26


Obama Considers Stars for Cabinet
Mike Allen / Politico.com

(November 5, 2008) — President-elect Barack Obama is strongly considering Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to head the Environmental Protection Agency, a Cabinet post, Democratic officials told Politico.

Obama’s transition planners are weighing several other celebrity-level political stars for Cabinet posts, including retired Gen. Colin L. Powell for secretary of defense or education, the officials said.

Kennedy’s cousin, Caroline Kennedy, who helped Obama lead his vice presidential search, is being considered for U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, although some Obama officials doubt she would take the post. Obama is indebted to the Kennedy family for a hearty endorsement at a crucial point in the Democratic primaries.

The selection of Kennedy would be a shrewd early move for the new presidential team. Obama advisers said the nomination would please both Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.).

It also would raise the profile of the EPA, which would help endear Obama to liberals who may be disappointed on other issues important to the Democratic left because of budget restrictions.

The EPA enforces clean air and clear water laws. Kennedy, an environmental lawyer and son of the late senator and attorney general Robert F. Kennedy, has long championed a cleaner water supply for New York City.

As an officer and attorney for the environmental watch group Riverkeeper, Kennedy has taken on governments and companies for polluting the Hudson River and Long Island Sound.

Kennedy, a falconer and white-water rafter, also worked as an assistant district attorney in New York City.

Kennedy gained Washington experience by fighting anti-environmental legislation in Congress in 1995 and 1996, when Newt Gingrich took over as House speaker.

The officials were unsure when Obama will make the selection. His transition planners have focused first on top West Wing staff and his economic and national security teams, all of which are scheduled to be announced early in the 76-day transition period. President-elect Bill Clinton was widely criticized for moving too slowly to appoint key staff and Cabinet secretaries during his presidential transition.

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DoD Outlines Transition Preparations
John T. Bennett / Defense News

(November 5, 2008) — As Pentagon officials late last week made final arrangements to begin working with President-elect Barack Obama’s defense transition team, defense insiders in Washington said the list of individuals who could lead his Pentagon team was shortening.

Under directions by Robert Gates, the defense secretary, and Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, several special Defense Department teams have for months been working to ensure the handoff from the Bush administration to the still-forming Obama administration goes smoothly.

“Secretary Gates made it clear early on that the DoD should do more than has ever been done before to prepare the new administration to govern immediately upon taking office and to be ready to respond to any national crisis,” said Cmdr. Darryn James, a Pentagon spokesman.

After Gates issued his instructions over the summer, a special transition task force was established. Mullen also commissioned his own transition group, composed of 14 senior officers from across the services.

Gates was briefed on the Pentagon’s transition preparations Nov. 5.

James said those groups will present various materials to the transition team, including:
* Troop rotations.

* The 2010 defense budget blueprint.

* An “overarching chart highlighting the key departmental actions, events and milestones that the new administration will face during their first 90 days.”

* Narratives from all “key DoD components” that spell out “their major functions” as well as information about major issues on which those entities are currently focused.

“These well-coordinated efforts are designed to shorten the learning curve about DoD operations by establishing a common framework of understanding for the transition team, while allowing the incoming administration to establish its governance processes,” James said.

But before the Obama team can set up shop inside the Pentagon, the Bush administration and the new president-elect’s campaign must ink a formal agreement that sets up guidelines for how the process will be run. At press time, the two sides had yet to reach that accord, though sources said it will be completed soon.

Who’s Up?
Just hours after the Democratic senator from Illinois became America’s first black chief executive, he and his top advisers turned their attention to building his White House team and Cabinet – a group of people who will face daunting challenges, including a global economic meltdown and two ongoing wars.

Asked who might be Obama’s defense secretary, national security insiders last week bandied about names like Robert Gates, the incumbent; Richard Danzig, former Navy secretary; John Hamre, deputy defense secretary under President Bill Clinton; Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee’s emerging threats and capabilities subcommittee; and Sen. Chuck Hagel, the Nebraska Republican who briefly ran for president and has broken with the party line on the Iraq war.

Hagel and Reed, in what was billed at the time as a try-out for posts in an Obama administration, accompanied the president-elect on a trip to Iraq earlier this year. Danzig also joined Obama on that trip, which included stops in the Middle East and Europe.

The president-elect’s decision will be shaped, in part, by a conversation he is expected to have soon with Gates.

Obama is slated to be in Washington on Nov. 11 to meet with President Bush and tour the White House. It is likely he could speak with Gates soon after his time with Bush about, among other things, whether Gates would be the right fit for Obama’s defense priorities.

Gates has sent a mixed message about whether he would stay on in the new administration.

Sources said Gates is the key domino, and how it falls will shape the first incarnation of Obama’s Pentagon team.

Familiar Faces
The remaining names on the short list are all familiar with the Pentagon.

Danzig was one of the new president-elect’s top national security advisers during the campaign. Sources say he has become close to Obama.

“Because they’re close, and because Obama has come to value Richard’s views,” one former Pentagon official said, “it would seem if Richard wants to be defense secretary, he could have it.”

Other defense insiders contacted this week said Danzig recently has expressed greater interest in two other high-level jobs: national security adviser and secretary of the Homeland Security Department.

As for Hagel or Reed, the former Pentagon official noted a Gates departure would likely leave Obama eager to install a “national name” in the E-Ring to lead his desired Iraq withdrawal. Both would meet such a criteria.

Putting Hagel in as the defense secretary would take care of a few things, sources said.

First, it would fulfill an Obama campaign promise to populate his Cabinet with both Democrats and Republicans. And second, as Douglas Macgregor, a retired Army colonel, put it, “Hagel would become the Democrats’ Republican shield that they could hold up while withdrawing from Iraq.”

Macgregor now writes on military reform for the Washington-based Center for Defense Information.

Hagel also is mentioned by some as a dark horse pick for secretary of state.

Hamre is viewed as a strong, nonpartisan manager who national security observers say would be a fine pick for any defense or intelligence agency.

And Reed is viewed as a former Army captain and longtime congressional defense expert who has the expertise and personality to bring reform to the Pentagon.

A well-known wildcard mentioned as a possible defense secretary – as well as for other top jobs like national security adviser – is Colin Powell, a former secretary of state and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. But sources wonder if he would be willing to devote himself to another intensive tour of government duty.

Other Posts
Insiders also are beginning to narrow the list of officials likely to make the final round of consideration for the deputy defense secretary and Pentagon acquisition executive posts.

A top name mentioned in such discussions is EADS North America Chief Operating Officer David Oliver, a former principal deputy undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics.

Also on that list is another Obama campaign adviser: Paul Kaminski, a former undersecretary of defense for acquisition and technology, who now heads Technovation, a consultancy. John Douglass, a former Navy acquisition chief who also served as president of the Aerospace Industries Association, is another individual sources say is being eyed for a top defense post.

Other frequently mentioned names were Jacques Gansler, a former Pentagon acquisition chief, and Whit Peters, a former Air Force secretary. Both advised Obama during the campaign.

Obama’s first major decision as president-elect was his selection of a White House chief of staff: Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., an aide in the Clinton White House. Obama also began constructing his transition team, announcing it would be headed by John Podesta, White House chief of staff under President Clinton; Pete Rouse, chief of staff in Obama’s Senate office, and Valerie Jarrett, an Obama campaign adviser.

The three individuals who eventually are nominated for those posts will inherit a number of issues on which they must quickly render decisions. That list includes whether to buy more than about 190 F-22 fighters; whether to continue with the Army’s prized – but costly – Future Combat Systems program; and whether to buy new DDG-1000 destroyers or upgraded DDG-51 models, along with others.

Insiders last week also were also throwing around a few names that have risen to the top of the list of possible candidates to become Pentagon policy chief.

Michele Flournoy, who was principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategy and threat reduction and deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategy under Clinton, and Kurt Campbell, are the leading candidates for post of undersecretary of defense for policy in Obama’s administration, several sources said.

Both are charter members of the brass at the still-young Center for a New American Security (CNAS), a Washington-based think tank. Flournoy is its president and Campbell is its chief executive officer.

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Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.