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Indian-American in Barack Obama’s first team

The team has 13 senior staff and a 12-member advisory board. One Indian-American, Sonal Shah, is a member of the advisory board, reports Pramit Pal Chaudhuri. Leading lights|See Full Coverage| HT C-fore Survey |Exclusive podcast on Obama's win

world Updated: Nov 07, 2008 19:52 IST
Pramit Pal Chaudhuri

With only 75 days left in the Bush Administration, Barack Obama announced a transition team with a senior Bill Clinton aide John Podesta at its head.

The team has 13 senior staff and a 12-member advisory board. One Indian-American, Sonal Shah, is a member of the advisory board.

<b1>The transition team’s primary task is to recommend names for the hundreds of positions that an Obama administration will need to fill by January. Reports said that Congressman Rahm Emmanuel had already been selected to be the president’s White House chief of staff, “the chief executive’s chief executive”.

Emmanuel is from Obama’s home state of Illinois and is seen as the mastermind of the Democratic election campaign that recaptured the Congress in 2006. His personal style — blunt and highly-charged — is often described as the mirror opposite of Obama, famed for his patrician calm.

The economy will be the first priority of the new administration.

Media reports say the administration's economy team may be in place by the end of this week.

Former Harvard president Lawrence Summers is the frontrunner as the next treasury secretary. The former governor of the Federal Reserve Bank during the Carter and first Reagan administrations is expected to be given a senior position.

The economy was overwhelmingly the number one concern among US voters and contributed greatly to Obama's victory.

Susan Rice is the main foreign policy expert on the advisory board -- a matter of interest to New Delhi as she is believed to be among those who pushed for an Obama administration to take a more active role in the Kashmir peace process.

Obama will receive his first presidential intelligence briefing on Thursday from the direction of national intelligence, Mitch McConnell, another traditional part of presidential succession in the US. Vice-president elect Joe Biden will also begin receiving an intelligence briefing sometime this week.

Obama will be provided the Presidential Daily Brief, or PDB, which collates classified intelligence on sensitive issues that require immediate or short-term attention. Media reports a key part of the brief is about terrorist tracking in Pakistan-Afghanistan. Normally, only about half-a-dozen people are provided this brief. Occasionally, a PDB is classified "For the President's Eyes Only" in which case he is the only person to see it.

Obama celebrated his victory by taking off time from politics and spending it with his wife and two daughters.

Shah is the head of the global development team of, the infotech giant's philanthropic arm. She and others on the advisory team are expected to recommend and vet names for candidates for senior government positions.

An economist who had worked at the liberal Center for American Progress, Shah specialised in trade, outsourcing and post-conflict reconstruction issues. Before she joined Google, she was in charge of Goldman Sachs's environmental strategy.

Shah is well-known in NGO circles for having set up the nonprofit Indicorps, which helps Indian-Americans to work on development projects in India.

Her family originally came from Gujarat and moved to New York in the early 1970s.

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