WASHINGTON (CNN) – As administration transition teams around Washington crank into high gear, Pentagon officials are insisting that the complicated transfer of power from the Bush administration to the Obama administration - the first during a time of war since Vietnam - will go smoothly.
Teams in both Secretary of Defense Robert Gates' office, as well as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, have been working on the transition for months now, according to Pentagon officials.
"We are preparing to make this as smooth a transition as we can," Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said earlier this week.
While officials say the transition is in good hands, little is being said about what discussions will occur between the Pentagon teams and President-elect Barack Obama's transition teams when they begin showing up within days or weeks.
"There is a recognition that given that we are a nation at war, that energy and effort [should] be sufficiently placed to ensure that we don't drop any balls, because national security and supporting our fielded forces that are engaged in combat is of paramount importance to this country," Whitman explained.
Robert Rangel, special assistant to Gates and the deputy secretary of defense, is in charge of the transition process in the Pentagon while Marine Brig. Gen. Frank McKenzie, who reports to Rangel, is leading the effort for the Joint Staff.
Last month, Gates issued guidelines for the transition, stressing that the department must maintain its continuity of operations during the handover, and must ensure efficient and effective transition between the outgoing political leaders and the incoming administration, according to Whitman.
The Pentagon has opened new offices for Obama's transition staff. The non-descript offices are just down the hall from the secretary of defense's office and have been readied with computers, phones and filing cabinets.
The offices remain empty until staff is designated by Obama's team and cleared through the White House.
"The initial contact point for the Obama transition team will be through the White House and there will be a discussion on the way forward on the transition and what will happen out of that will be a memorandum of understanding that says 'these people will be working with the Defense Department' so we know who has been sanctioned and designated by the president-elect," Whitman said.