“New and more efficient ways of getting the job done”

President-elect Obama today announced the creation of a new White House position, Chief Performance Officer, and his intention to nominate Nancy Killefer to fill the post.

“During the campaign, I said that we must scour this budget, line-by-line, eliminating what we don’t need, or what doesn’t work, and improving the things that do,” President-elect Obama said. “As the first Chief Performance Officer, working with Peter Orszag and Rob Nabors at the Office of Management and Budget, Nancy Killefer is uniquely qualified to lead that effort.”

President-elect Obama also announced he intends to nominate Killefer as Deputy Director for Management at the Office of Management and Budget. You can watch this morning’s announcement and read President-elect Obama’s full remarks below.

Download higher resolution .mp4 file (67 MB) here.
Also available on Vimeo.

Remarks of President-Elect Barack Obama - As prepared for delivery
Announcement of Nancy Killefer
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Washington, DC

Good morning.

By now, we all know that we are facing a crisis in our economy, one that requires immediate and decisive action to spur the creation of new jobs as we lay the foundation for future growth.  And with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan that Congress will soon be debating, we intend to deliver that change.

But we committed to more change than that.  We committed to change the way our government in Washington does business so that we’re no longer squandering billions of tax dollars on programs that have outlived their usefulness or exist solely because of the power of a lobbyist or interest group.  We can no longer afford to sustain the old ways when we know there are new and more efficient ways of getting the job done.

Even in good times, Washington can’t afford to continue these bad practices.  In bad times, it’s absolutely imperative that Washington stop them and restore confidence that our government is on the side of taxpayers and everyday Americans.

Just today, the Congressional Budget Office announced that the deficit we are inheriting for this budget year will be $1.2 trillion.  And we know that our Recovery and Reinvestment plan will necessarily add more.  My own economic and budget team projects that, unless we take decisive action, even after our economy pulls out of its slide, trillion dollar deficits will be a reality for years to come.

But as I said yesterday, our problem is not just a deficit of dollars.  It’s a deficit of accountability…a deficit of trust.

So change and reform can’t just be election-year slogans.  They must become fundamental principles of government

That’s why the appointment I’m announcing today is among the most important I will make.

During the campaign, I said that we must scour this budget, line-by-line, eliminating what we don’t need, or what doesn’t work, and improving the things that do.

As the first Chief Performance Officer, working with Peter Orszag and Rob Nabors at the Office of Management and Budget, Nancy Killefer is uniquely qualified to lead that effort.

For nearly thirty years – as a leader at McKinsey & Company, and as Assistant Secretary for Management, Chief Financial Officer, and Chief Operating Officer at Treasury under President Clinton—Nancy has built a career out of making major American corporations and public institutions more efficient, effective and transparent. 

Nancy is an expert in streamlining processes and wringing out inefficiencies so that taxpayers and consumers get more for their money.  And during her time at Treasury, she helped bring the Department into the twenty-first century, modernizing the IRS and preparing systems for Y2K. 

But Nancy also understands that at the end of the day, government services are delivered by people.  That’s why she’s always worked tirelessly to empower employees to take matters into their own hands: to rethink outmoded ways of doing things, to embrace new systems and technologies, and to take initiative in developing better practices. 

When Nancy was offered her first position at Treasury, she responded, “If you’re willing to embrace significant change, then you’re looking at the right person.  But if you just want to keep the trains running on time, don’t ask me to do this job.” 

When I heard that, I knew I’d chosen exactly the right person for the challenges we face.  And I will be instructing members of my cabinet and key members of their staffs to meet with Nancy soon after we take office – and on a regular basis thereafter – to discuss how they can run their agencies with greater efficiency, transparency and accountability. 

I will also see to it that we apply these principles of budget reform to the Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Plan.  This plan will call for dramatic investments to revive our flagging economy; save or create three million new jobs, mostly in the private sector; and lay a solid foundation for future growth.  In order to make these investments that we need, we’ll have to cut the spending that we don’t – and I’ll be relying on Nancy to help guide that process.

In the end, though, meeting the challenges of rebuilding our economy and bringing a new sense of responsibility to Washington isn’t just about rearranging numbers on a balance sheet – it’s about renewing people’s trust in their leadership.  Because in order to restore confidence in our economy, we must restore the American people’s confidence in their government – that it’s on their side, spending their money wisely, to meet their families’ needs.  I am confident that with Nancy’s leadership, and the efforts of leaders on both sides of the aisle, we will do just that. 

Thank you.

No earmarks

President-elect Barack Obama said today in a meeting with members of his budget team that he will ban earmarks from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that will soon go before Congress.

The President-elect also said he expects his administration to inherit a budget deficit of up to $1 trillion.

He was joined in the meeting by Peter Orszag, Director-designate, Office of Managment and Budget; Christina Romer, Christina Romer, Director-designate, Council of Economic Advisors and Lawrence Summers, Director-designate, National Economic Council, among others.

Below are pictures and video from the event.

Download high resolution .mp4 file (42 MB) here.

“We have to do things in a new way” (Update: video)

President-elect Barack Obama held a meeting with his top economic advisors today at the Presidential transition team office in Washington D.C.

"Not only do we need to act boldly, swiftly and with sufficient magnitude to make a difference, but we also have to do things in a new way," President-elect Obama said.

In his meeting, President-elect Obama underscored the importance of his proposed American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan to create jobs and spur the type of lasting economic change that our country needs.

President-elect Obama also noted that he is "confident" that legislation dealing with his economic plan will maintain "unprecedented transparency."

"Not only will Congress tell exactly what’s in the bill, but we’re exploring steps, for example, like putting on a website very detailed information about what kind of projects are taking place," President-elect Obama said.

Key members of the President-elect's economic team attended, including Treasury Secretary-designate Timothy Geithner, Domestic Policy Council Director-designate Melody Barnes, and many others.

See pictures and video from the meeting below.

Download high resolution .mp4 file (117 MB) here.

Sitting down with Speaker Pelosi

President-elect Barack Obama met with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) today at her office in the Capitol to discuss the scope and timing of the economic recovery package.

On their way out of the meeting, they came across a morning tour of the Capitol, and the President-elect shook hands with a young man named Carter.

See pictures from the meeting below.

Keeping college affordable

Claiborne Pell, a Rhode Island senator whose achievements brought about lasting change both at home and abroad, died on January 1st, 2009, at the age of 90.

In a statement, Vice President-elect Joe Biden honored Sen. Pell's many accomplishments, noting that, "few Senators have done more to expand opportunity in America."

Pell's domestic efforts led to the establishment of the Pell Grant, a federal higher education subsidy that has defrayed the cost of college tuition for thousands of American students since their establishment in 1973.

In 2000, nearly 30% of public university students were Pell Grant recipients.

Still, many students and their families worry that the worsening economy will increase the burden of tuition and other college costs.

Carolyn from California shared some of her concerns:

"With the state of our current economy my parents are worried with how they are going to be able to support me and my younger brother as he goes off to college. We are considered upper-middle class (I think) and if we are having a hard time, I can only imagine what other families are facing. Please continue to support federal funding for higher education including the Pell Grant Program. Your proposed changes to the Financial Aid application would be very helpful, but at the same time increased funding of federal programs is necessary."

Making higher education more affordable is a priority for the Obama-Biden administration. Use the discussion forum below to tell us some of your concerns about education costs:

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Meeting with Congressional leaders

President-elect Barack Obama will meet this morning with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Capitol Hill.

Later this afternoon, Vice President-elect Joe Biden will join a meeting with Democratic and Republican congressional leadership, including Senate Majority Leader Reid and Speaker Pelosi, as well as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin, Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, House Minority Leader John Boehner, House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn. and House Minority Whip Eric Cantor.

President-elect Obama will also meet this afternoon at the Transition office in Washington, D.C. with top economi advisors, including Melody Barnes, Director-designate, Domestic Policy Council; Carol Browner, Assistant-designate to the President for Energy and Climate Change; Former Senator Tom Daschle, Health and Human Services Secretary-designate and Director-designate, White House Office on Health Reform;  Rahm Emanuel, Chief of Staff-designate; Timothy Geithner, Treasury Secretary-designate; Ron Klain, Chief of Staff-designate, Vice President-elect; Peter Orszag, Director-designate, Office of Management and Budget; Christina Romer, Director-designate, Council of Economic Advisors and Lawrence Summers, Director-designate, National Economic Council.

We'll have pictures later today.

The Obama family gets ready for the first day of school

Earlier this morning, President-elect Barack Obama and Mrs. Michelle Obama helped their two daughters, Malia (10) and Sasha (7), get ready for their first day of school.

Download high-resolution versions (JPG): 1, 2, 3

American Recovery and Reinvestment

In this week's weekly address, President-elect Barack Obama lays out the challenges that face us in the new year, and his plan for taking them on.

"We need an American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan that not only creates jobs in the short-term but spurs economic growth and competitiveness in the long-term," he says. "And this plan must be designed in a new way -- we can’t just fall into the old Washington habit of throwing money at the problem. We must make strategic investments that will serve as a down payment on our long-term economic future. We must demand vigorous oversight and strict accountability for achieving results. And we must restore fiscal responsibility and make the tough choices so that as the economy recovers, the deficit starts to come down. That is how we will achieve the number one goal of my plan -- which is to create three million new jobs, more than eighty percent of them in the private sector."

Watch the full address or read the text below.

Also available on Vimeo.
Download high resolution .mp4 file (43 MB) here.
Audio mp3 available in English and Spanish.

Remarks of President-elect Barack Obama
Weekly Address
January 3, 2009

As the holiday season comes to end, we are thankful for family and friends and all the blessings that make life worth living. But as we mark the beginning of a new year, we also know that America faces great and growing challenges -- challenges that threaten our nation’s economy and our dreams for the future. Nearly two million Americans have lost their jobs this past year -- and millions more are working harder in jobs that pay less and come with fewer benefits. For too many families, this new year brings new unease and uncertainty as bills pile up, debts continue to mount and parents worry that their children won’t have the same opportunities they had.

However we got here, the problems we face today are not Democratic problems or Republican problems. The dreams of putting a child through college, or staying in your home, or retiring with dignity and security know no boundaries of party or ideology.

These are America’s problems, and we must come together as Americans to meet them with the urgency this moment demands. Economists from across the political spectrum agree that if we don’t act swiftly and boldly, we could see a much deeper economic downturn that could lead to double digit unemployment and the American Dream slipping further and further out of reach.

That’s why we need an American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan that not only creates jobs in the short-term but spurs economic growth and competitiveness in the long-term. And this plan must be designed in a new way -- we can’t just fall into the old Washington habit of throwing money at the problem. We must make strategic investments that will serve as a down payment on our long-term economic future. We must demand vigorous oversight and strict accountability for achieving results. And we must restore fiscal responsibility and make the tough choices so that as the economy recovers, the deficit starts to come down. That is how we will achieve the number one goal of my plan -- which is to create three million new jobs, more than eighty percent of them in the private sector.

To put people back to work today and reduce our dependence on foreign oil tomorrow, we will double renewable energy production and renovate public buildings to make them more energy efficient. To build a 21st century economy, we must engage contractors across the nation to create jobs rebuilding our crumbling roads, bridges, and schools. To save not only jobs, but money and lives, we will update and computerize our health care system to cut red tape, prevent medical mistakes, and help reduce health care costs by billions of dollars each year. To make America, and our children, a success in this new global economy, we will build 21st century classrooms, labs, and libraries. And to put more money into the pockets of hardworking families, we will provide direct tax relief to 95 percent of American workers.

I look forward to meeting next week in Washington with leaders from both parties to discuss this plan. I am optimistic that if we come together to seek solutions that advance not the interests of any party, or the agenda of any one group, but the aspirations of all Americans, then we will meet the challenges of our time just as previous generations have met the challenges of theirs.

There is no reason we can’t do this. We are a people of boundless industry and ingenuity. We are innovators and entrepreneurs and have the most dedicated and productive workers in the world. And we have always triumphed in moments of trial by drawing on that great American spirit -- that perseverance, determination and unyielding commitment to opportunity on which our nation was founded. And in this new year, let us resolve to do so once again. Thank you.

New challenges, new opportunities

As a new year begins, many Americans are reflecting on 2008 while looking ahead to the challenges and opportunities we'll face in 2009.

The past year brought change to our country. Millions of Americans participated in our political process for the first time. Folks came together to work for common goals, and the bonds of citizenship grew stronger in cities and towns across the country.

But alongside these accomplishments, many Americans also faced tremendous economic hardship.

Too many families are dealing with the strain and loss stemming from this financial crisis. In 2009, our nation must come together to forge solutions to the challenges we face.

To start off the new year, tell us your goals for 2009 in the discussion forum below:

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HHS Secretary-designate Daschle hears from Indiana on health care

Note: If you held a Health Care Community Discussion and have not reported back yet, please do so here!

On December 5th, Health and Human Services Secretary-designate Tom Daschle spoke at the Colorado Health Care Summit in Denver and announced that the Transition would host Health Care Community Discussions across the country over the holidays to help his Policy Team put together their final recommendations for the new administration. Daschle told the summit that “We have to make this as inclusive a process as possible,” and DeAnn Friedholm of Consumers Union observed that “This strategy of getting out of Washington and engaging real people will help overcome the vested interests that have stood in the way of reform for way too long.” President-elect Obama also made clear that the community discussions would form a central pillar in the development of any major reform:

“Providing quality affordable health care for all Americans is one of my top priorities for this country because our long-term fiscal prospects will have a hard time improving as long as sky-rocketing health care costs are holding us all down. Yet in order for us to reform our health care system, we must first begin reforming how government communicates with the American people. These Health Care Community Discussions are a great way for the American people to have a direct say in our health care reform efforts and I encourage Americans to take part if they are able. I am looking forward to hearing back from you and from Senator Daschle in the coming weeks.”

Now, with the Holidays winding down, thousands signed up to hold discussions and hundreds have already reported back. Yesterday Daschle attended a discussion in Dublin, Indiana, and even a glimpse of the coverage shows how powerful and important each of these meetings is.

Indianapolis Star:

Daschle spent most of the meeting, which lasted more than an hour, listening to the comments and concerns of area residents, firefighters, emergency medical technicians and physicians. He sometimes asked follow-up questions and took notes. Reid Hospital Chief Executive Officer Craig Kinyon facilitated the discussion.

Daschle was affected by hearing about the difficulties Jill King of Cambridge City had getting new medical insurance because she has had three past cancers, the decision Dolly Sweet of Cambridge City made to forgo a $35,000-a-year cancer medication because of its high cost, and how Dr. James Bertsch feels forced to make decisions about a patient's care based on what insurance will pay for, not what he thinks is best.

"These (stories) are really hard to listen to in many ways," Daschle said, adding that hearing them also is a necessary part of changing health care. "We need to change the paradigm from illness to wellness."

He quoted Nelson Mandela, who said, "Many things seem impossible until they are done," and then said, "I believe it is not impossible ... together it can be done."

WRTV 6News, Indiana:

With skyrocketing costs or no coverage at all, Fire Chief Bob French was one of several people who told Daschle that people are suffering.

"Older people, they either pay their rent or buy their medicine," French said. "We don't ask if they have insurance. We put them in the ambulance and we take them in the hospital and take care of them."

Sweet said her health problems have her down a bit, but not out.

"I've got a marvelous family. I've got a husband who has learned how to cook," she said.

Daschle said he plans to attend several more forums all over the country. He and a transition team will gather information and make reform recommendations to Obama.

Associated Press:

Deanna Russell of Cambridge City said her son, Kyle, was born with a heart condition that has required several surgeries and other treatment.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills were covered by her health plan at the Visteon auto parts plant in Connersville, but the plant has closed and she is substitute teaching. She's concerned that when he begins working, his employer's medical insurance won't cover him because of the condition.

"In many cases, that could be deadly or fatal to him," she said.

Joe Fouts, office manager for a medical practice in Cambridge City, said he regularly has patients that come into the clinic with new insurance coverage only to discover it won't pay for pre-existing condition treatments.

"People leave crying," Fouts said.

Washington Post:

Even before taking office or introducing concrete policy proposals, the administration-in-waiting is moving to build public support around the broad notion that the U.S. health system needs an overhaul. To Washington veterans, the approach may seem backward, or even naive, but Obama is betting that the energetic, technology-savvy supporters who fueled his candidacy will act as a potent counterbalance to the traditionally powerful special interests that have defeated similar reform efforts.

New York Times:

After listening for nearly 90 minutes, Mr. Daschle said the system could be changed by citizens’ active participation.

“When we combine all the stories we heard in this small town of Dublin and multiply that by 300 million people, we can begin to imagine the scope of the problem,” he said. “But I’m hopeful that the country has come together to say: ‘Enough already. We have to fix this.’”

Again, the Transition’s health care team is going through each and every report we get back, so if you held a community discussion please let us know what you talked about and learned. We will also have video from the Indiana meeting and others within the next week, so check back, and in the meantime here are some photos from a discussion Secretary-designate Daschle attended today in Washington, DC.

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