- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Obama transition office Wednesday unveiled the leaders of their agency review team, which will examine the inner workings of over 100 government offices and advise President-elect Barack Obama on what he should change or keep the same.

The transition office also announced that Mr. Obama will be represented at the global economic summit this weekend by former Clinton administration Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and by former Republican congressman Jim Leach, of Iowa.

The agency review will be led by three people: Melody Barnes, a senior domestic policy adviser to the Obama campaign who previously worked for Sen. Edward M. Kennedy; Lisa Brown, executive director of the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy and a one time legal adviser to former Vice President Al Gore; and Don Gips, who worked under Mr. Gore at the White House as his chief domestic policy adviser.

The teams will begin work this week, the Obama transition office said, and will “provide the President-elect, Vice President-elect, and key advisers with information needed to make strategic policy, budgetary, and personnel decisions prior to the inauguration.”

They will also “ensure that senior appointees have the information necessary to complete the confirmation process, lead their departments, and begin implementing signature policy initiatives immediately after they are sworn in,” a statement from the transition office said.

Mr. Obama himself was in Chicago Wednesday and had no public appearances. After his usual morning workout, he spent much of the day at his hometown transition offices.

It was also announced that Vice President-elect Joe Biden and his wife Jill will visit Vice President Cheney and his wife Lynne at the Naval Observatory in Washington, where the vice president lives while in office.

In addition to announcing the agency review co-chairs, the Obama transition office released a slew of names who will take part in the examination over the next nine weeks.

In particular, they announced the two-person teams that will oversee the transition into the Defense Department, State Department, and Treasury Department.

At the Pentagon, Michelle Flournoy, a former high-ranking Pentagon official under President Clinton who helped start a new think tank in Washington last year, and John P. White, a deputy secretary of defense under Clinton, will manage the review.

At State, Thomas Donilon, a former assistant secretary of state under Clinton and Wendy Sherman, a close adviser of Ms. Albright during her time as secretary of state, will head up the review.

And at Treasury, investment banker Josh Gotbaum, who worked at the Pentagon, Treasury and White House budget office for Mr. Clinton, and Michael Warren, a former executive director of the White House National Economic Council, are charge of the transition.

The Obama team also announced a 10-person agency review working group, which they said will will “manage and review the Teams’ work and coordinate with other transition teams, including those handling personnel, policy and the budget.”

Obama transition leader John Podesta, a former White House chief of staff under Mr. Clinton, said review team members “will be in the agencies as early as [Monday].”

At the economic summit with leaders from 18 other countries this Saturday, Ms. Albright and Mr. Leach will be available for meetings with heads of state or their representatives on the sidelines of the economic summit Saturday.

Neither Obama representative will attend the summit, and their meetings will take place off-site, an Obama official said.

Ms. Albright and Mr. Leach will “seek input from visiting delegations on behalf of the President-elect and Vice President-elect,” read a statement from the Obama transition office.

Mr. Obama was invited to attend the summit but has chosen not to.

“There is one President at a time in the United States, so the President-elect has asked Secretary Albright and Congressman Leach, an experienced and bipartisan team, to be available meet with and listen to our friends and allies on his behalf,” said Denis McDonough, a senior foreign policy adviser to Mr. Obama.

Ms. McDonough said the summit “is an important opportunity to hear from the leaders of many of the world’s largest economies.”

There were no details on who Ms. Albright and Mr. Leach will meet with, but the Obama office said they will announce that later.

Ms. Albright first served under President Clinton as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and in 1996 was confirmed as the secretary of state. She now teaches at Georgetown University.

Ms. Albright was a strong supporter of the former first lady, Sen. Hillary Clinton, New York Democrat, in her run for the presidency. But Ms. Albright has since come on board with the Obama team.

Mr. Leach served in the Congress for 30 years until 2007, and was an expert on international banking. He co-authored the 1999 Gramm-Leach-Bliley act, which allowed banks to reunite commercial and investment banking, which had been banned from consolidation in 1933.

That law has been criticized by some as opening the door for excessive risk-taking in the banking industry.

But he endorsed Mr. Obama during the election and campaigned for him in historically conservative states.

The Obama team on Wednesday spent its second day in a row knocking down stories leaked to the press from inside their operation that they said were not true.

Former Democratic Sen. Sam Nunn was reported to be hired as the Pentagon transition director, and former Clinton administration Secretary of State Warren Christopher was also reported to be advising Mr. Obama on his diplomatic choices.

But Obama spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter said that those reports were not true.

“There’s a lot of disinformation out there,” she said.

Ms. Cutter said that Mr. Nunn is advising Mr. Obama on his “defense transition,” but on an informal basis, and that Mr. Christopher, while “deeply respected in the United States and throughout the international community … is not playing a role in the transition process.”

On Tuesday, Mr. Podesta told over 100 reporters at a press conference that leaks out of a meeting between Mr. Obama and President Bush also “were not accurate.”

Those leaks, attributed to senior Obama advisers, said that Mr. Bush had withheld support for economic aid packages such as a stimulus and help for car makers in an attempt to get Congress to pass a free trade agreement with Colombia.

The White House also denied those reports, and played down rumors that the president was angry over the leak.

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