Thursday, 29 January 2009

My Discussion with John Podesta

Fresh from his work as co-Chair of Obama's transition team, John Podesta has returned to the Center for American Progress to answer questions about his time there. I'm please to say that my question was one of the ones he took the time to answer (thanks for that, John).

My original question was as follows:


Firstly, congratulations on a hugely successful and smooth transition process. I know that you had already given a lot of thought to how the inherent instability of a Presidential Transition can be overcome, and that careful study really showed in the systematic approach you guys took.

My question is this: did you exclusively approach the process by looking at the list of jobs and searching for candidates, or did you also look at the structure of cabinet level positions to maximalise efficiencies? For example, I know that a decision was taken to elevate the UN Ambassador position back up to Cabinent level, but did you ever consider scrapping or massively reorganising Cabinent level positions? Specifically, did you consider eliminating the Department of Commerce and subsuming its responsibilities under other departments? What about breaking the Department of Homeland Security back into its constituent parts? What about combining the Energy and Environment portfolios?

Were you thinking along these lines at? Why or why not?

Many thanks,


That was abridged to, “Did you ever consider scrapping or massively reorganising Cabinent level positions?”

I thought his answer (which starts at 3:18) was interesting.

Summarising the response, I think what he is saying is that they were looking at ways of making the offices as effective as possible as quickly as possible, so the only reorganisations they looked at were those that were necessary to make departments function in the near term. However, I do think he made clear that there may well be reorganisations to come, but that they will led by the Cabinet Secretary and will occur once they have had an appropriate period of review.

Noteworthy - I was interested in his suggestion that maybe FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) might be taken out of the Department of Homeland Security.

Good stuff.

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