WASHINGTON (CNN) - The new National Security advisor, Gen. Jim Jones, says the challenge he will face in working with high-profile Cabinet members - including the new secretary of state, Sen. Hillary Clinton, and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates - will be to achieve consensus among the disparate members of President-elect Barack Obama's national security team.
In taking the job and in the name of consensus, Jones also had to temper his own opinion on withdrawing from Iraq.
In an interview with CNN on Monday, Jones said he needs to ensure the president-elect's vision is achieved.
"At the end of the day, (on) the major issues, he will make the decision and everyone will salute smartly and carry it out," Jones said in a phone interview soon after the official announcement in Chicago of Obama's national security team. "I think the national security advisor can make certain that the president's priorities are clearly understood and articulated and carried out so that we actually arrive to some conclusion that is well understood and well supported."
Jones himself was in disagreement with Obama about the senator's proposal to withdraw troops from
Iraq within 16 months of taking office as president.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - At the Pentagon they call it “burrowing”.
Political appointees– typically low level - are scrambling to hold onto their positions in the next administration by getting their job description changed from “political” to “career civil service”.
Political appointees serve at the pleasure of president, while career civil servants are hired on merit, and are supposed to be non-ideologues who serve any administration.
There have been accusations leveled at the White House that the appointees of doing so to further the Bush administration agenda, which the White House denies. But here in the halls of the Pentagon they see another motive. Already there’s some grousing from long-time Pentagon staffers who see relative newcomers angling to keep their plum jobs.
“It’s a lot of 20-something who have jobs where they get someone coffee”, harps one veteran of several transitions.
“I know two people in political jobs who are bragging they will be staying,” the staffer told CNN on condition of anonymity.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Just when we thought it would be hard to tell the faceless bureaucrats in the Obama transition office from other the 24,000 faceless bureaucrats who already work in this building, the Pentagon Pass office made it simple.
The new arrivals have been issued “Purple” badges, which make then stick out like a sore thumb.
Most pentagon badges are white. Contractors get pink.
And the press badges are blue.
Perhaps that will help the purple badge people know to shut up when they see someone with a blue badge.
The transition team –we’ve been told - is under strict order not to talk to news reporters.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - In the best tradition of the CIA spymaster he once was, Defense Secretary Robert Gates is still holding his cards close on whether he has had any discussions with President-elect Obama about remaining at his post in the new administration.
Speaking tersely to CNN in a Pentagon hallway Friday, Gates said, "Nice try," when asked if he or his staff had spoken to the president-elect or his staff.
He said he had "nothing to add" to a statement he made earlier this week in which he told reporters, "I have nothing new to say on that subject."
But Gates' non-answers are a change from earlier in the year, when the idea seemed more remote.
"The circumstances under which I would do that are inconceivable to me," Gates craftily replied in an April 2008 Pentagon news briefing.
(CNN) - As each day passes, the buzz is building that Robert Gates might be asked - and agree - to stay on as defense secretary, at least for a while.
Gates himself left the door open this year, when I first asked him whether would consider serving in the next administration.
"The circumstances under which I would do that are inconceivable to me," Gates craftily replied in an April Pentagon news briefing.
When I asked him again later in the summer while touring Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado, he gave the same answer but added an all-important qualifier: "I've learned never to say never."
Well, those circumstances that seemed "inconceivable" back then appear all too conceivable now. In fact, it's the talk of the Pentagon.
What we know from some of the few people who have actually discussed this with Gates is that he IS willing to stay, although not too long.
But the former spymaster is playing his cards very close to the vest. Almost no one at the Pentagon knows what's really going on over the back channels.
(CNN) - The Pentagon is all abuzz with talk of the "transition," so - along with some other reporters - I got a sneak peak at the transition office the Pentagon has set aside for the advance team from the Obama camp.
The "office" is series of new, but nondescript cubicles on the E-ring of the 3rd deck of the Pentagon, not far from the Secretary of Defense’s office.
Room 3E971 to be precise.
Nobody has moved in yet, but the office is equipped with phones, computers and office supplies.
A lot of highlighters, hanging files, and other office accoutrements.
“Look like somebody’s been to Staples,” one reporter equipped.
Because nothing transition related goes uncovered in Washington, we’ve asked for permission to photograph the empty spaces.
Look for that video coming soon to a cable news network near you.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The U.S. military will reduce the number of troops in Iraq this month as violence has dropped and Iraqi security forces have shown vast improvements, senior military officials told CNN Wednesday.
The military said it is sending home two brigades and not replacing one of them this month, dropping the number of brigades in Iraq from 15 to 14. A brigade has about 3,000 troops.
There are currently about 152,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.
The 2nd Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division was scheduled to leave Iraq in February 2009, but a late November departure will cut short by two months its 15-month tour.
The second unit, the 3rd Brigade of the 101st, is scheduled to leave this month and will not be replaced, according to Pentagon officials.
Army officials said that several other units will be returning early because of positive security situations on the ground in Iraq. However, current plans are to eventually replace those units, they said.
Early departures and not replacing forces could be the start of a trend that could allow President-elect Barack Obama to fulfill his campaign pledge to reduce the number of combat brigades in Iraq by roughly one a month in his first 16 months in office.