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Defense Secretary Meets With Obama Transition Team

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

CORNWALLIS, Canada, Nov. 20, 2008 – Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates wrapped up his first session today with President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team leaders, sharing insights about the initial challenges the new defense team will likely face, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said.

Gates met for about 45 minutes this morning at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., with John White and Michele Flournoy, the transition team leaders, before boarding a flight for a meeting here on Afghanistan’s Regional Command South.

Morrell characterized today’s transition session, likely the first of regular meetings, as “very positive,” and noted that it demonstrated mutual commitment to a smooth transition.

The far-ranging discussion touched on the nuts and bolts items such as how the Defense Department is organized and operates. But Gates also offered his personal assessment of how the department has changed, the impact of those changes, and the first major challenges the new administration is likely to confront, Morrell said.

Morrell emphasized that the transition process involves much more than briefings and briefing papers. “This transition is about working together to make sure that the new team is ready to assume the full responsibilities of this office,” he said. “And reading briefing papers ain’t gonna cut it.”

The transition will require close cooperation between the outgoing and incoming team “about what the challenges are that we are dealing with and what the challenges are we expect to be dealing with,” he said.

The transition team started working in the Pentagon earlier this week, and expressed appreciation today for the reception its members have received, Morrell said.

“We have been assisting them in every way possible, from making sure they have all the administrative support they could possibly need, to arranging initial meetings with senior defense leaders such as Secretary Gates,” he said during yesterday’s Pentagon news briefing.

“We are totally committed to ensuring the transition of leadership in this department is as soon and seamless as it can be,” Morrell said. “Our troops on the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan deserve it, and our nation’s security demands it.”

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