Thursday, Dec 19, 2008
Barack Obama’s White House team is to undergo a crash course in how to handle terrorist attacks and international crises as part of rigorous efforts to prepare the new administration for early challenges in office.
The briefings and exercises on potential international alarms and security threats – the most comprehensive ever for any incoming officials – will include two days of hands-on training next January in which cabinet officials will be questioned on dealing with potential disaster scenarios, including an attack that would wipe out the top tier of America’s political leadership.
Ken Wainstein, President Bush’s adviser on homeland security, told reporters the “tabletop exercises” for incoming cabinet officials were part of an initiative by Bush to ensure the US does not drop its guard during the first post-9/11 transition of power.
Preparing for Obama’s takeover on 20 January has become an overriding preoccupation of both camps. Bush has pledged repeatedly to ensure a smooth handover. “We care about [Obama],” he told CNN this week. “We want him to be successful, and we want the transition to work.” The Obama camp has praised the Bush administration for its co-operation.
White House officials yesterday cast those efforts as part of Bush’s mission to leave America safer than it was at the time of the 9/11 attacks.
Senior administration officials have been deputed to conduct personal security briefings for their successors. The White House has issued dozens of memos setting out what it sees as problems awaiting the next president. Wainstein said he spent 30% to 40% of his time briefing the Obama camp on security issues.