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Defense Officials Plan for Smooth Transition to New Administration

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 4, 2008 – The Defense Department has made extensive plans for a smooth transition from the present administration to that of the president-elect, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said here today.

Pentagon officials are ready to begin briefing a new president-elect’s transition team as soon as he’s chosen, Whitman said.

The transition between administrations comes when the United States is at war, the first time this has happened since 1969, when the administration of President Lyndon B. Johnson transitioned to that of President Richard M. Nixon in the midst of the Vietnam War.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has launched early preparations to minimize disruptions as the administrations change, Whitman said. Gates has created a transition task force that will operate under five guiding principles:

-- Maintaining continuity of operations;

-- Assuring efficient and effective transition of outgoing leadership;

-- Assuring the efficient and effective in-processing of the incoming leaders;

-- Facilitating the transfer of information to the new administration; and

-- Sustaining focus on existing programs and processes while allowing the incoming administration to focus on its governing processes.

“One of the important components of this is ensuring that we’ve identified and highlighted some of the key department events, actions [and] milestones that a new administration will face in its first 90 days,” Whitman said.

These include normal yearly actions such as the submission of the DoD budget in early February to other events that a new administration must work on immediately. “These are recurring or cyclic things that perhaps a new administration needs to be reminded of,” Whitman said.

Gates also has taken an inventory of the political leadership of the Pentagon – roughly 250 people – to see who would be willing to stay on in their jobs if asked by the new administration.

“There are a number of people that have given an indication that if they were asked to stay on and serve as a bridge after Jan. 20 until their replacement is on board, they would do so.”

Whitman said the department has office space for a couple of dozen transition team members and remains leaning forward, ready to help.

“We have troops in harm’s way in the war on terror, and … I know that there will be herculean efforts on the part of this department to ensure that things go as smoothly as possible, so that on Jan. 20, this will be as seamless as possible,” Whitman said.

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