Obama Team Begins Work On Presidential Transition

With less than six months to go before he would be sworn in as the nation’s 44th president, Sen. Barack Obama has directed his aides to begin planning for the transition.

"Barack is well aware of the complexity and the organizational challenge involved in the transition process and he has tasked s small group to begin thinking through the process,” a senior campaign adviser said. “Barack has made his expectations clear about what he wants from such a process, how he wants it to move forward, and the establishment and execution of his timeline is proceeding apace.”

Last month, the Post’s Shalaigh Murray reported that campaign advisers were sounding out John Podesta, a former White House chief of staff to President Bill Clinton and currently the president of the Center for American Progress, for his advice.

An aide confirms that Podesta will probably be asked to head the transition team, which would take over from the campaign if Obama wins in November, and would be tasked with ensuring a smooth handover of power.

Podesta’s Center for American Progress is working with the Third Way think tank on a Homeland Security Presidential Transition Initiative; its director is Michael Signer, a former senior policy aide to Ex-Sen. John Edwards.

Cassandra Butts, a longtime Obama friend who is a CAP executive vice president, is working closely with Podesta.

Butts, via e-mail, would not confirm her participation in the project.

Podesta remains a close friend of both Clintons and his participation will help assuage the concerns of Clinton-era Democratic policy and political appointees who might have felt abandoned in an Obama administration.

New Presidents have only three months to complete a herculean remaking of the equivalent of ten of the world's biggest companies. Most presidential candidates don’t spend precious campaign time thinking about to do, so the questions come fast and furious: how do you your turn your ideas into policy? What do you do first? What does Congress expect? What last-minute executive orders should you overturn? What will your first 100 days look like? How will you vet and when will you appoint major cabinet secretaries and political appointees? What’s he proper balance of power between executive department? Budgets, costs, logistics?

A campaign spokesperson confirmed that transition planning had begun but would provide no further details. An adviser said that the campaign wants to keep the process as low profile as possible in order to minimize distractions.

A public announcement is planned for the fall.

“Given the myriad challenges that will face the next president, Barack would encourage Sen. McCain to begin to undertake a similar process,” the adviser said.

A McCain spokesperson said the campaign would not discuss the subject with reporters.