WASHINGTON — While Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates will stay in office in President-elect Barack Obama’s administration, other Bush administration political appointees will move on, a Pentagon spokesman said today.
More than 600 political appointees work in the Defense Department, 49 of them in positions requiring Senate confirmation. The Senate confirmed Gates in December 2006, and he does not have to go through that process again.
During a news roundtable yesterday, Gates said the vast majority of political appointees will leave Jan. 20 as planned. Others will remain until their successors are named and confirmed, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters today.
“There may be a very small number of folks that are asked to stay beyond that,” Whitman added.
Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England announced yesterday that he will leave Jan. 20 or upon confirmation of his replacement. The defense undersecretaries for policy, personnel and readiness, intelligence, comptroller, and acquisition, technology and logistics -- as well as most of the assistant defense secretaries -- are expected to leave then also. “I would expect to see a new team,” Whitman said.
Some positions will be “gapped” – meaning that the incumbent will leave the position Jan. 20 and it will be left vacant until the Senate confirms the nominee. Some positions are so important, however, that the secretary may ask the incumbent to remain in place, Whitman said.
“At this point, I am not aware of any that he has asked to do that,” Whitman said. “We will see in the days ahead whether that becomes necessary and how quickly the new team gets aligned and is ready to come into position. If there are some positions that the secretary feels he cannot gap and instead [needs to] bridge with somebody, [he will see] if those individuals are willing to do that.”
Those bridging the gaps will not have definite dates for departure, and therefore would not be able to make plans with potential new employers, Whitman explained. But he expressed confidence they would remain until their successors are in place if necessary. “The people in these positions have a tremendous sense of duty,” he said.
Gates will be involved in the president-elect’s DoD staffing process, Whitman said, interviewing the senior people and giving his opinion to Obama.
“Still, the people nominated will serve at the pleasure of the president, and Obama will have the final say,” Whitman said.
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