The White House has prepared more than a dozen contingency plans to help guide President-elect Barack Obama if an international crisis erupts in the opening days of his administration, part of an elaborate operation devised to smooth the first transition of power since Sept. 11, 2001.
By Peter Baker
The New York Times
The memorandums envision a variety of volatile possibilities, like a North Korean nuclear explosion, a cyberattack on American computer systems, a terrorist strike on United States facilities overseas or a fresh outbreak of instability in the Middle East, according to people briefed on them. Each then outlines options for Mr. Obama to consider.
The contingency planning goes beyond what other administrations have done, with President Bush and Mr. Obama vowing to work in tandem to ensure a more efficient transition in a time of war and terrorist threat. The commission that investigated the Sept. 11 attacks, noting problems during the handover from President Bill Clinton to Mr. Bush, called for a better process “since a catastrophic attack could occur with little or no notice,” as its report put it.
“This is very unusual,” said Roger Cressey, a former Clinton White House counterterrorism official who was held over under Mr. Bush. “We certainly did not do that. When the transition happened from Clinton to Bush, remember it was a totally different world. You had some documents given that gave them a flavor of where things were at. But now you’ve got two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and a hot war against Al Qaeda.”
In addition to the White House contingency memorandums, the Department of Homeland Security said it had given crisis training to nearly 100 career officials who may fill in while Mr. Obama’s appointees await Senate confirmation. Starting before the election, those career workers have conducted exercises alongside departing political appointees to test their responses.