x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Old guard paves way for Obama transition

Jo Biddle Washington // Senior politicians, former ambassadors, top business leaders and lawyers will lead special teams into US government departments and agencies to prepare the ground for Barack Obama's presidency, his office said. An army of specialists - including senior members of the Democratic former president Bill Clinton's 1993-2001 administration - is set to fan out across the treasury, state department and Pentagon.

Even the White House will be assessed as the 450-strong transition team examines more than 100 departments and agencies. The aim is to provide Mr Obama and his vice president, Joe Biden, "with information needed to make strategic policy, budgetary and personnel decisions prior to the inauguration". Facing two wars and the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, Mr Obama wants to be able to implement policy changes as soon as he becomes president on Jan 20. He has made it clear that the faltering economy will be his top priority.

So far Mr Obama has only named his White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, but there has been fierce speculation as to who might fill other key posts. Names floated include John Kerry, a Massachusetts senator who was the Democrats' presidential candidate in 2004, and the New Mexico Governor, Bill Richardson, for state; Chuck Hagel, the retiring Republican senator, Jack Reed, a Democratic senator, and retired general Colin Powell, all Vietnam War veterans, for defence; and Larry Summers, the treasury secretary between 1999-2001, and Timothy Geithner, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York chief, for treasury.

Heading the treasury agency review will be the former treasury staffer Josh Gotbaum, who is an an adviser to investment funds focusing on restructurings. At the Pentagon, John White, the former deputy secretary of defence from 1995 to 1997, will lead the transition investigation. Trey Obering, the Pentagon's missile defence chief, said he was looking forward to reporting to Mr Obama that the US anti-missile system was "workable", and to setting the president-elect's mind at ease.

"Our testing has shown not only can we hit a bullet with a bullet, we can hit a spot on a bullet with a bullet," he said. * Agence France-Presse