Officials Guiding the Process Are Named

By Anne E. Kornblut and Michael Abramowitz
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Obama transition team yesterday rolled out a new list of officials who will help guide the process, singling out the Treasury, Defense and State departments as its first three areas of focus.

The transition team also set in motion a plan to review the policies and budgets at federal agencies and prepared to hire new personnel.

Three policy-oriented Democrats -- Melody Barnes, Lisa Brown and Don Gips -- will serve as co-chairs of the agency review process, the office of President-elect Barack Obama said. They will consult with an 11-member agency review working group, also announced yesterday. "Team leads" were announced at the first three agencies, a sign of how central they will be as Obama assumes the presidency in the midst of two wars and an economic crisis.

At the helm of the Treasury Department transition team are Josh Gotbaum, an adviser to investment funds who held various Senate-confirmed positions during the Clinton administration, and Michael Warren, chief operating officer of Stonebridge International LLC.

Heading the State team are two veterans of the Democratic foreign policy establishment, both intimately familiar with the people and machinery at Foggy Bottom. Both Thomas E. Donilon, a partner at O'Melveny & Myers, and Wendy R. Sherman, a business partner of former secretary of state Madeleine Albright, had senior positions in the Clinton-era State Department.

Donilon served as chief of staff to Clinton's first secretary of state, Warren Christopher, and as assistant secretary for public affairs. He has been close to Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. for years and has been a player in national Democratic politics at the presidential level. He led the Obama campaign's preparations for the three debates with John McCain this fall, a role Donilon also played in the 1992 Clinton campaign.

Sherman was one of Albright's closest assistants during Albright's tenure as Clinton's second secretary of state, serving as department counselor, a wide-ranging troubleshooting role that included a key role in diplomacy aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear program. She also served a stint as the assistant secretary in charge of congressional relations.

Leading the Defense Department review are Michèle A. Flournoy, president of the Center for a New American Security, and John P. White, chair of the John F. Kennedy School of Government's Middle East Initiative at Harvard University.

Flournoy served in the Pentagon during the Clinton administration as deputy assistant secretary for strategy and threat reduction. Afterward, she was a distinguished research professor at the National Defense University, where she founded and led a working group to develop insights for the Pentagon's 2001 Quadrennial Defense Review.

She was a co-founder of the Center for a New American Security, which quickly emerged as an influential voice in military and defense circles, attracting several leading military thinkers and hosting high-profile speakers. "She's as good and bipartisan and reasonable a choice as you can make, very insightful, smart and balanced, and particularly good with uniformed people," said a senior defense official.

Flournoy was recently invited to Iraq along with other experts to advise top U.S. commander Gen. Ray Odierno on military, economic and political priorities for the war.

The naming of White, the other leader of the Pentagon transition team, was not as widely expected at the Pentagon, according to senior officials. In the Clinton administration, he was deputy secretary of defense from 1995 to 1997. He also served from 1978 to 1981 as deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, and as the Pentagon's deputy assistant secretary of manpower and reserve affairs under President Jimmy Carter.

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