- The Washington Times - Friday, January 9, 2009

PENTAGON

Obama taps lobbyist for defense post

President-elect Barack Obama, who deliberately distanced himself from lobbyists during his campaign and his transition, appointed a defense contractor’s lobbyist Thursday to become his No. 2 official at the Defense Department. Mr. Obama acknowledged that his choice appeared to break with his self-imposed rules to keep lobbyists at arm’s length.

William J. Lynn III, Mr. Obama’s choice for deputy defense secretary, was senior vice president for government operations at Raytheon Co. and lobbied as recently as June on issues including missiles, sensors and radar, advanced technology programs and intelligence funding.

Mr. Obama has vowed that no political appointees in his administration would be permitted to work on areas that “directly and substantially related to their prior employer for two years.” His transition team said Mr. Lynn was worth the apparent exception to the spirit of Mr. Obama’s anti-lobbyists policy.

TERRORISM

Attacks in India a model, FBI warns

The deadly attacks in India may have provided a low-frills but bloody blueprint for other violent groups to follow, U.S. anti-terrorism officials told Congress on Thursday.

The FBI’s chief intelligence officer told a Senate hearing that the November siege showed that well-trained assailants with simple weaponry can cause massive casualties.

“I think we can expect that groups will look to that as a model for themselves,” Donald Van Duyn said at the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs hearing. “We sometimes focus on tactics that may be exotic and esoteric, … but for most terrorists, they’re looking for what works.”

His counterpart at the Homeland Security Department, Charles Allen, told senators that “the sheer brutality of this attack, I believe, is the kind of thing that can be conducted against soft targets around the world.”

LETTER

Obama wants delay in digital TV switch

President-elect Barack Obama backs a move to delay a mandatory switch to digital television signals on fears viewers are unprepared and as the government has run out of coupons to help pay for converter boxes.

“The Feb. 17 cutoff date for analog signals should be reconsidered and extended,” John Podesta, co-chairman of the Obama-Biden transition team said in a letter to key lawmakers Thursday.

Congress mandated the Feb. 17 switch to digital television, which will affect some 20 million consumers who do not already use the technology. Owners of older television sets receiving over-the-air signals must buy converter boxes, replace their TVs with digital models, or subscribe to satellite or digital cable service.

But the government said earlier this week it had run out of $40 discount coupons for consumers to help pay for converter boxes needed to keep their sets from going black, leading a major consumer group to call for a delay of the analog switch-off.

DIPLOMACY

Biden huddles with Kuwait leaders

Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. has met with leaders in Kuwait on his way to southwest Asia.

A Biden spokeswoman said Mr. Biden and Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, arrived in the Middle East emirate Thursday. The two met with Kuwait’s prime minister and foreign minister to discuss Iraq, Iran and international relations.

Mr. Biden is traveling in his role as a U.S. senator from Delaware. He takes office as vice president Jan. 20 but has not yet resigned his Senate seat.

To protect his security, Biden aides are not saying which countries he plans to visit. The public description of the trip suggests destinations such as Afghanistan, Pakistan or India.

MEXICO

Obama, Calderon plan to meet

President-elect Barack Obama plans to meet with Mexican President Felipe Calderon on Monday, according to a source familiar with the planning for the meeting.

The source noted that there is a longstanding tradition in which U.S. presidents have met with the Mexican leader prior to their inauguration.

SURGEON GENERAL

Conyers works to block Gupta

A key Democratic House member is rallying opposition to Dr. Sanjay Gupta becoming the next surgeon general, contending the 39-year-old CNN correspondent lacks experience.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr. of Michigan urged Democrats to sign onto a letter to President-elect Barack Obama urging him not to nominate Dr. Gupta, who is CNN’s chief medical correspondent.

“It is not in the best interests of the nation to have someone like this who lacks the requisite experience needed to oversee the federal agency that provides crucial health care assistance to some of the poorest and most underserved communities in America,” Mr. Conyers wrote in a letter released Thursday.

Mr. Obama has approached Dr. Gupta to become the next surgeon general, the cable network has said. Mr. Obama has not yet announced his choice for the position, which typically disseminates public health information.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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