- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 6, 2008

Transition vulnerability

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Wednesday that the United States is vulnerable to attack or other incidents during the presidential transition period and that the military is ready to respond.

“When you go back and look at the number of incidents that have occurred three or four months before an inauguration to about 12 months out, back to the ‘50s, it’s pretty staggering the number of major incidents which have occurred in this time frame,” Adm. Michael Mullen said, noting that the danger is compounded by current world conditions.

The Sept. 11 attacks, for example, occurred eight months after President Bush took office, at a time when many key appointments had not been made.

Recent preparations for the transition in the Pentagon were aimed at preventing any attacks, and if an attack or incident does take place, the military is ready to respond, Adm. Mullen told Sara A. Carter, national security reporter for The Washington Times.

Shifts from old to new administrations are “always a challenging time in our country, always have been,” Adm. Mullen said.

“Transitions are always difficult,” he said. “We’ve put a lot of effort into it, and we’re ready.”

The chairman said he is concerned about the transition because of the global threats and opportunities facing the United States at the present time, namely in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I consider this a time of vulnerability, and I’ve worked this for months to have a transition team prepare for a new administration, mindful that this new administration, they don’t take charge until the 20th of January,” Adm. Mullen said.

The four-star admiral, who is the designated chief military adviser, stated that the military serves “one commander in chief always” while at the same time he will be going to “great lengths” to respond to the Obama transition team.

The team is expected to show up “very rapidly in this building,” and Adm. Mullen said he and his staff are ready to help. Adm. Mullen is halfway through his two-year term as chairman.

Leaders’ futures

One of the first decisions President-elect Barack Obama must make is whether to keep Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who plans to leave office unless asked to stay.

“As far as I know, he is still planning on returning to his home in Washington state at the end of this administration,” Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell told Inside the Ring Wednesday.

“But as he has said many times before, he learned long ago never to say ‘never’ and does not rule out the prospect of serving the nation longer if needed.”

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