Barack Obama’s Cabinet selections complete

By Michelle Austein Brooks

Washington — Barack Obama began 2008 in the wintry state of Iowa with sixteen others vying for the presidency. His win in the state’s January 3 caucuses was the first of many propelling him to the White House.

As the year comes to a close, Obama already has taken numerous steps to prepare for his presidency, which begins January 20.

Top priorities for the new president will be the economy and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But there are many other important domestic and international concerns. (See “Work Begins Immediately for Next President.”)

Immediately following his election, Obama began naming and meeting with advisers who will help guide him on these tough issues. These primary presidential advisers, most of whom carry the title “secretary,” will oversee some of the most important departments of the U.S. government, including the departments of State, Defense and Treasury.

Most of these advisers, including all Cabinet members, will have to be formally nominated by Obama once he becomes president and confirmed by the Senate. Obama has announced his selections much sooner than did most of his predecessors.

To help new Cabinet members familiarize themselves with their respective government agencies, the Obama transition team has established agency review teams that will complete a thorough review of more than a hundred departments and agencies. (See “Dozens of Advisers Will Guide Next U.S. President.”)


With the economy to be a top concern early in his presidency, Obama’s first post-election announcements focused on members of his economic team. Among them will be Timothy Geithner as secretary of the treasury, pending confirmation.

In turning to Geithner to oversee the financial security of the United States in a time of turmoil, Obama chose a treasury secretary who has already been closely involved with many of the key decisions in the Bush administration’s response to the crisis. As head of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Geithner has been the Federal Reserve’s main liaison with Wall Street. The Federal Reserve is the U.S. central bank. (See “President-elect Obama Announces Top Economic Advisers.”)

Calling for fresh ideas and perspectives on the U.S. economic situation, President-elect Obama also created the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board to provide outside expertise and advice. The board will be chaired by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, and its chief economist and staff director will be Austan Goolsbee, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago. (See “President-elect Obama Forms New Economic Advisory Board.”)


Obama’s national security team will feature some familiar faces, among them Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of State-designate Hillary Clinton.

Obama asked current Secretary of Defense Gates, who helped shape U.S. efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, to remain in his post. Obama said Gates and the U.S. military will be asked to responsibly end the war in Iraq “through a successful transition to Iraqi control,” and to “ensure that we have the strategy — and resources — to succeed against al-Qaida and the Taliban.”

New York Senator Clinton was Obama’s principal rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, then campaigned on his behalf after he became the party’s nominee. She was first lady of the United States between 1993 and 2001.

If confirmed, Clinton would be Obama’s chief foreign policy adviser as well as the top diplomat representing the United States on the world stage. Clinton would manage the 260 embassies, consulates and other U.S. posts in 188 countries as well as oversee U.S. international assistance programs.

“Hillary’s appointment is a sign to friend and foe of the seriousness of my commitment to renew American diplomacy and restore our alliances,” Obama said. “There is much to do — from preventing the spread of nuclear weapons to Iran and North Korea, to seeking a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians, to strengthening international institutions.”

Obama also announced Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano as his choice for secretary of homeland security, former Marine Corps General James Jones as his national security adviser and Susan Rice as the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. (See “National Security Team Announced by Obama.”)


During the transition, Obama has stressed his commitment to science, technology and curbing climate change.

Among those who will lead the way on scientific and climate issues is Secretary of Energy-designate Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist. Other scientists will play a role in numerous Obama administration offices. (See “Obama Announces Science and Technology Team.”)

The incoming president’s Cabinet picks are diverse. They include two Republicans, five women, three Hispanics, three African Americans, two Asian Americans and an Arab American.

Obama will begin 2009 in a much warmer place than Washington: Hawaii. The Obama family has been spending their holidays in the president-elect’s birth state.

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