Obama announces transition team

President-elect Barack Obama announced his transition team on Wednesday, one day after winning the 2008 election.

The advisers, who have been working informally on the transition for months, will be formally known as the Obama-Biden Transition Project, a 501(c)(4) organization, a nonprofit that can engage in lobbying or political campaigning.

"Among the many projects undertaken by the transition board have been detailed analyses of previous transition efforts, policy statements made during the campaign, and the workings of federal government agencies, and priority positions that must be filled by the incoming administration," the announcement stated.

Three co-chairs -- John Podesta, president and CEO of the Center for American Progress; Valerie Jarrett, a senior Obama campaign adviser; and Pete Rouse, Obama's campaign chief of staff -- will oversee an advisory board and transition team staff.

Paul Light, a professor at New York University's Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, said the quick announcement of the transition team was a sign the Obama camp was shifting smoothly from campaign mode to transition mode.

"Moving political people quickly into positions of significant influence is a good sign they're integrating rather than infighting," Light said. "That the day-to-day activity people were all people involved with the campaign is a good sign for a smooth transition."

Podesta, Jarrett and Rouse will lead an advisory board of individuals from both the private and public sectors: former EPA Administrator Carol Browner, Clinton Commerce Secretary William Daley, Christopher Edley, Michael Froman, Julius Genachowski, Donald Gips, Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, Federico Peña, Susan Rice, Sonal Shah, Mark Gitenstein, and Ted Kaufman. Gitenstein and Kaufman will serve as co-chairs of Vice President-elect Joe Biden's transition team.

John Kamensky, senior fellow at the IBM Center for The Business of Government, said he did not know the advisers, but was "pleased" and "relieved" that the announcement was made so quickly after Election Day.

"They've thought this through and are not having any internal dissension about getting this started," Kamensky said.

And John Palguta, vice president for policy at the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service, said he thought the structure and composition of the team were promising.

"Having three co-chairs, it's looking like this is a divide-and-conquer effort," he said. "Speed and quality are so important."

Colleen M. Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, also praised the group. "Many of the team members have significant government experience which will serve President-elect Obama well," she said.

Senior staff on the transition team are:

  • Chris Lu - Executive Director
  • Dan Pfeiffer - Communications Director
  • Stephanie Cutter - Chief Spokesperson
  • Cassandra Butts - General Counsel
  • Jim Messina - Personnel Director
  • Patrick Gaspard - Associate Personnel Director
  • Christine Varney - Personnel Counsel
  • Melody Barnes - Co-Director of Agency Review
  • Lisa Brown - Co-Director of Agency Review
  • Phil Schiliro - Director of Congressional Relations
  • Michael Strautmanis - Director of Public Liaison and Intergovernmental Affairs
  • Katy Kale - Director of Operations
  • Brad Kiley - Director of Operations
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