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Remarks Announcing the Appointment of Nancy Killefer as Chief Performance Officer

January 07, 2009

Good morning. By now we know 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 of future growth.

And with the American recovery and reinvestment plan that Congress will soon be debating, we intend to deliver that change.

But during the course of this campaign, during the course of the last two years, I committed to more change than that. We committed to changing 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 an 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 from 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.

As I said yesterday, our problem is not just a deficit of dollars, it's a deficit of accountability, and a deficit of trust. So change and reform can't just be election-year slogans. They must become fundamental principles of government. And that's why the appointment I'm announcing today is among the most important that 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 Nabor at the Officer of Management and Budget, Nancy Killefer is uniquely qualified to lead that effort. For nearly 30 years, as a leader of McKenzie & 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 effective, more efficient, and more 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 21st 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, and I quote, "...if you are 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 had 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 flag in the economy. Save or create three million 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 rewarding people's trust and restoring that trust in their leadership. Beccause 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 family's needs. I'm confidence that with Nancy's leadership and the efforts of leaders on both sides of the aisle, we will do just that. And with that, let me give Nancy an opportunity to speak.

KILLEFER: Thank you, Mr. President-elect. I'm deeply honored to be selected as the nation's first chief performance officer, and will do my best to create a government that works better for its citizens.

Most of the operational issues that the government faces today have developed over decades, and will take time to address. But there is an urgency to begin now.

I know from my experience bringing about change in the private and public sectors that government has the capacity to deliver services more efficiently and effectively. I have seen it done.

And I have seen it important to work across bureaucratic boundaries. By that I mean to get different parts of government working together to deliver services that consumers, its citizens, deserves.

The people who deliver those services, the government employees themselves, will be central to this effort. I am convinced that the success of every policy of this administration will be influenced by the people executing it. And I am committed to engaging and drawing on the talents of the federal work force in order to deliver on our promise of a new, more efficient and effective government.

Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT-ELECT: All right. With that, let me take a couple of questions. We'll start with Laura Meklynn (ph), Wall Street Journal.

There you are. How are you?

LAURA MEKLYNN, REPORTER, WALL STREET JOURNAL: Mr. President-elect, budget experts agree that the real key to controlling spending lies with the entitlement program.

How early do you plan on addressing Medicare and Social Security, and what will your approach be?

THE PRESIDENT-ELECT: Well, first of all, as I noted in my remarks, we're going to be inheriting a trillion-plus dollar deficit. And if we do nothing, then we will continue to see red ink as far as the eye can see.

And at the same time, we have an economic situation that is dire. And we're going to have to jump start this economy with my economic recovery plan, creating three million jobs. That's going to cost some money.

And in the short-term, we will actually see potentially additions to the deficit. As you point out, the key is going to be medium-term and long-term, how do we bend the curve so that we start getting these deficits down to a manageable level? And entitlements are going to be a part of that. We will -- we are working currently on our budget plans. We are beginning consultations with members of Congress around how we expect to approach the deficit. We expect that discussion around entitlements will be a part, a central part, of those plans.

And I would expect that by February, in line with the announcement of at least a rough budget outline, that we will have more to say about how we're going to approach entitlement spending, how we're going to approach eliminating waste in government, one of Nancy's tasks. So we will have some very specific outlines in terms of how it's going to be done.

Chuck Todd.

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Thank you, Mr. President-elect. The situation in Gaza is getting worse. Fighting has resumed (INAUDIBLE) this morning. I understand your response has been, one president at a time. You can't say anything that is not the way you have handled the economic situation.

And with it getting worse, is it important for you to send a message to the Arab world right now that you are involved in the cease-fire talks, that your national security team is working with the Bush administration national security team, rather than just getting updates?

THE PRESIDENT-ELECT: Yes, look. I will repeat what I've said before. We can't have two administrations running foreign policy at the same time. We simply can't do it. And so, as a consequence, what I am doing is I am being briefed consistently. My national security team is fully up to speed on it.

But the situation of domestic policymaking and foreign policymaking are two different things. We cannot be sending a message to the world that there are two different administrations conducting foreign policy. That is not safe for the American people.

Obviously, I am deeply concerned about the status of what's going to be taking place, what's been taking place in Gaza. And as I said yesterday, I am doing everything that we have to do to make sure that the day that I take office, we are prepared to engage immediately in trying to deal with the situation there.

And not only the short-term situation, but building a process whereby we can achieve a more lasting peace in the region. But until I take office, it would be imprudent of me to start sending out signals that somehow we are running foreign policy when I am not legally authorized to do so.

TODD: Do you think the Palestinians, though, are interpreting your silence in a certain way?

THE PRESIDENT-ELECT: Chuck, the -- there are -- I can't control how people interpret what I'm saying, other than to repeat what I've said, and hope that they hear what I'm -- hear my message.

The silence is not as a consequence of a lack of concern. In fact, it's not silence. I've explained very clearly exactly what institutional constraints I'm under when it comes to this issue. OK?


JAKE TAPPER, ABC NEWS SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Thank you, Mr. President-elect. Welcome to Washington.

THE PRESIDENT-ELECT: Oh, it's great to be here.

TAPPER: Your team has talked about the stimulus package being $675 to $775 billion. But at the same time, you have distributed a memo -- you're going to distribute a memo in which economists say it should be between $8 billion -- I'm sorry, $800 billion and $1.3 trillion. How do you reconcile that difference, and also, could you explain what you consider to be truly stimulative, when any project will create jobs in the short term?

THE PRESIDENT-ELECT: Well, we are still in consultation with members of Congress about the final size of the package. We expect that it will be on the high end of our estimates, but will not be as high as some economists have recommended because of the constraints and concerns we have about the existing deficit.

In terms of the components of the package, as I've made clear over last several days, we're going to have a investment component designed to create or save 3 million new jobs. Part of what the charge of my team has been is to figure out how can we make sure that even as we're creating short-term jobs and spurring demand in the economy, that we're also laying the groundwork for long-term economic growth, which is why a lot of the stimulative -- a lot of the investments are going to be around things like energy, health care, education, things that we need to be doing anyway.

Part of the stimulus package will be to provide tax relief to middle- income families, and where it makes sense and is going to work, to provide some tax relief to businesses to spur on investment in the private sector. And part of the package is going to be to help states who are under extraordinary budget pressures, to prevent them from laying off more workers in vital service areas like teaching, law enforcement, and so forth, so that not only are we saving jobs, we're also making sure that states are able to provide basic services to their citizens at a time of critical need.

In terms of what I consider appropriate stimulus, you know, the criteria that we've tried to lay out is, are we able to use this money wisely, effectively, in a two-year time span so that we're not creating long-term obligations that would add to the structural deficit that exists, but would provide an immediate boost to the economy.

And as I indicated yesterday, one of the things that I think is important is that we do not have earmarks in this package. I've said before, I think it's entirely appropriate for members of Congress to want to have some say in terms of projects that take place in their district. Many of the projects that they might advocate for are worthy. But this isn't the place to do it. And so I think it's important for us not to have earmarks here. It's important for us to have transparency in how the money is spent. I intend to make sure that we have unprecedented measures to ensure that taxpayers can keep track of how this money is spent.

So if, you know, we can get this done quickly, then I have confidence that not only are we going to be able to create jobs, but we're also going to be making a down payment on some critical areas that, as the economy recovers and the private sector starts investing again, we're going to see some long-term benefits and long-term savings.

And I'll just take one example. Part of our stimulus package is going to involve revamping all federal buildings so that they're energy- efficient. If we do that effectively, then over the long term, we are going to save billions of dollars in energy costs for the federal government and for taxpayers. That's the kind of charge that Nancy is going to have, is identifying where are areas where we can make big change that lasts beyond the economic recovery plan and we'll save taxpayer money over the long term.

OK? Thank you, everybody.

Q: Sir, what about Roland Burris? Would you like to see him seated in your seat, Roland Burirs?

THE PRESIDENT-ELECT: That is a Senate matter, but I know Roland Burris. Obviously, he is from my home state. I think he's a fine public servant. If he gets seated then I'm going to work with Roland Burris just like I work with all of the other senators, to make sure that the people of Illinois and the people of the country are served.

All right? thank you, guys.

Barack Obama, Remarks Announcing the Appointment of Nancy Killefer as Chief Performance Officer Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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