At DoD, Gates Works on Transition to Himself
By Ann Scott Tyson
Defense Secretary Robert Gates is "recalibrating" President-elect Barack Obama's transition team efforts at his department in light of the fact that he will be "transitioning to himself," Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said today.
"This is no longer transitioning to a to-be-determined secretary of defense. This is transitioning to himself. And there are certain things he needs," said Morrell, who will be staying on as Gate's press secretary for "the forseeable future" as part of the unusual handover effort.
Specifically, Morrell said, Gates "needs greater insight into the national security agenda of President-elect Obama" as he seeks to restock the department's array of top positions and build "an Obama-Gates Defense Department."
Gates took a step in that direction in a meeting yesterday with Vice President-elect Joseph Biden, in which the Pentagon chief offered insights to the incoming veep on how to run the nation's "national security operations, everything from how to conduct meetings, appropriate participants, those kinds of things," said Morrell.
The meeting "really was an opportunity" for Biden "to call upon the secretary's vast experience in national security operations," Morrell said.
Gates, who also held a working lunch today with the Obama transition team, is playing "a key role" in identifying and interviewing candidates for top jobs in the department -- and is hoping to have them in place soon, Morrell said.
"That requires more than Secretary Gates being the lone guy on the watch," he said. "The last thing I think we want is a situation where you have Secretary Gates at the helm and no one around to assist him during this transition phase.
"So that either requires getting new appointees in here in, you know, record fashion in terms of speed or it requires some sort of holdover for some number of existing Defense Department officials."
Posted at 5:23 PM ET on Dec 9, 2008
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