The Hill: Obama Cans Bush Pentagon Appointees
News in Balance:
WASHINGTON, Dec. 30, 2008 -- The Hill reported Tuesday that despite keeping U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates in the Pentagon, President-elect Obama’s transition team informed 90 Bush appointees their services will not be needed after Inauguration Day.
On December 3, the Pentagon released and then later retracted a news article that reported Gates was staying but the majority of Bush administration's 600 political appointees will be moving on. At the time, it was reported that Gates said the vast majority of political appointees will leave Jan. 20 as planned and said others will remain until their successors are named and confirmed.
On December 23, writing for The Washington Times, Bill Gertz said Gates asked many of the Bush administration's Pentagon appointees to remain on the job until the incoming Obama administration finds replacements.
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said that those not affected by the extension offer had been informed over several days prior to December 23.
The number of Bush appointees reported also dropped from 600 to 250. It is unclear why there is a discrepancy.
Today, The Hill reported that Scott Gration, a senior official on Obama’s transition team, called and emailed several of President Bush’s Pentagon appointees about 10 days ago to inform them they were being dismissed.
Those calls and emails were followed up by an email from Jim O'Beirne, the special assistant to the secretary of defense for White House liaisons, who expressed exasperation that Gration informed the employees directly instead of letting O'Beirne's office know first.(Report from commercial media and Pentagon sources.)
"With regard to the process, I am unable to provide an explanation," O'Beirne wrote on Tuesday in the email, which was obtained by The Hill. "I played no part in it, and I will not speculate why matters were handled as they were."
A spokesman for the Pentagon said Gates was "absolutely satisfied" with the way the transition was handled.
Gates "is sensitive to the fact that a number of appointees will not be able to stay on after [Jan.] 20th," Defense Department spokesman Geoff Morrell said. He noted Gates did request many appointees stay on and the "Obama team was able to cooperate."
But O'Beirne made it clear in the email that in some cases of dismissal, he thinks the employee's politics played a role in their being let go.
[ . . . ]
[President] Bush has repeatedly stated that he wanted to see an orderly transition to ensure that the next president would hit the ground running at a time when the country is fighting two wars and weathering one of the most significant economic crises in modern times.
Until now, that process seemed to be going smoothly as a number of departments have reported efficient and even cordial working relationships between Bush appointees and transition officials. The holiday Pentagon dismissals appear to be the first breakdown.
In the email, O'Beirne tried to assure the soon-to-be displaced employees that the decisions were based on "policy change in the Obama administration" and not based on performance.
However, he said, if employees "harbor residual doubts" then they can "content yourself with the likelihood that it was your outstanding performance as a Bush appointee that drew the opposition's attention to you."
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