Monday, December 1, 2008

Obama’s National Security Team Will Face Multiple Challenges


Dec. 1, 2008 – 12:46 p.m.

As President-elect Barack Obama announced his national security team Monday, he faced two early hurdles: The Senate must confirm most of his nominees, and they must help him chart a new course on defense, foreign policy and homeland security.

The latter will no doubt be the more difficult task.

Obama made official his selections of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton , D-N.Y., 61, to be secretary of State; Robert M. Gates , 65, to stay on as secretary of Defense; James L. Jones, 64, retired Marine Corps commandant and Supreme Allied commander, Europe, as national security adviser; Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano , 51, as Homeland Security secretary; former deputy attorney general Eric Holder, 57, as attorney general; and Susan E. Rice, 44, former assistant secretary of State and one of his top foreign policy advisers, as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

“The national security challenges we face are just as grave — and just as urgent — as our economic crisis,” Obama said.

Among other immediate tasks, this team will have to figure out how to implement Obama’s plan to withdraw most U.S. forces from Iraq in 16 months and renew focus on the war in Afghanistan.

“As Bob said not too long ago, Afghanistan is where the war on terror began, and it is where it must end,” Obama said, referring to Gates.

The nominees are not expected to face much opposition in the Obama-friendly, Democratic Senate.

“Given the range of threats that we face — and the vulnerability that can be a part of every presidential transition — I hope that we can proceed swiftly for those national security officials who demand confirmation,” Obama said.

Richard G. Lugar of Indiana, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which must approve Clinton and Rice, praised the picks.

“I think they’re excellent selections. I think it will be a strong team,” he said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” adding that the attacks in Mumbai, India, gave a new sense of urgency to approving Obama’s picks.

For the full version of this story, and the latest coverage, please visit CQ Politics.

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