Cabinet secretaries get White House office space

As a second-term innovation to more effectively integrate President Bush's Cabinet secretaries into White House operations, Chief of Staff Andrew Card recently overhauled space in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building and invited Cabinet members to each spend at least two hours a week working just a stone's throw from the Oval Office.

Heidi Marquez Smith, who was director of presidential correspondence before her promotion to special assistant to Bush, will head the five-person Cabinet Liaison Office. Shortly after Smith took the reins on February 24, Card convened the Cabinet in its new conference suite on the first floor of the EEOB and encouraged the members to conduct regular business there. The conference room, with sophisticated audiovisual capabilities, seats 17. An adjoining office is sized for one visiting honcho.

The White House says that all Cabinet members have used the space already. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns, who is learning the D.C. ropes, schedules his White House office hours every Tuesday afternoon.

The Cabinet heads, particularly the nine newcomers, can use the opportunity to meet with Bush's senior advisers, attend West Wing meetings, eat in the White House mess, and hold meetings with interest groups and constituents in a more dazzling setting than their offices across town.

White House officials explain that Card wanted Bush's lieutenants to work face-to-face with his tightly knit West Wing team, especially because the president holds formal Cabinet meetings only four or five times a year.

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