President of the United States of America: Barack Obama
Barack Obama promised change and hope. But can he deliver on his promises in the midst of the enormous economic crisis that he has inherited from his predecessor? According to Rahm Emanuel, Mr Obama's chief of staff, it would be a sin to let all the opportunities offered by the crisis go to waste.

The economic stimulus packages worth hundreds of billions of euros make it far more likely that promises concerning investment in renewable energy, infrastructure and health care reform can be fulfilled. But Mr Obama's slogan 'Yes We Can' will be seriously tested by international problems such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

Website: http://www.barackobama.com and soon http://www.whitehouse.gov/
Joe Biden
Joe Biden
Vice-President: Joe Biden

Joe Biden has a great deal of experience and prestige in the international arena. He has said he will be one of the president's important advisers on international affairs.

This long-serving congressman will also head a taskforce charged with the - rather vague - aim of restoring the middle-classes' economic security. Joe Biden says his predecessor Dick Cheney exceeded the remit of his office. It appears, therefore, that the power of the vice-president will be reduced under President Obama.

Hillary Clinton
Hillary Clinton
Secretary of State: Hillary Rodham Clinton

Instability in Pakistan, Iran's nuclear ambitions and the peace process in the Middle East, which got pushed into the background under President Bush, are three obvious hot potatoes for Hillary Clinton.
Another challenge is that she and her husband Bill will both find themselves being watched very closely as people wonder whether these two superstars - beaten to the White House by Barack Obama - will really be able to reconcile themselves to the leadership of a former rival.
Robert M Gates
Robert M Gates


Secretary of Defence: Robert M. Gates
Mr Gates does not share the neo-conservative ideology of his predecessor Donald Rumsfeld. The hardest task for this pragmatic politician will be the scaling down of the US military operation in Iraq.

Just like Barack Obama, Mr Gates wants to deploy more US troops in Afghanistan and to close the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay.

Ken Salazar
Ken Salazar
Secretary of the Interior: Ken Salazar

This department covers issues such as land use, areas of natural interest or importance, national parks, water and mining rights and the reservations (inhabited by the original ‘Indian' population of the US and often the poorest and socially most disadvantaged areas in the country). Under President Bush industrial interests always seemed to have priority in this department. Former Senator Ken Salazar will have to make environmental and social considerations weigh more heavily in the decision-making about the exploitation
Eric Holder
Eric Holder
Secretary of Justice: Eric Holder

Under George W. Bush, the Justice Department gained a reputation for being an extension of the Republican Party in general and for justifying the neo-conservative argument for controversial antiterrorism methods in particular. Secretary Holder will have the task of trying to restore faith in the independence of the Justice Department, which will include reversing decisions on the legality of internationally rejected interrogation and detention practices.
Steven Chu
Steven Chu
Secretary of Energy: Steven Chu

The development of alternative energy sources is a priority for Mr Obama, both for the sake of national security and for the environment. Mr Chu, a Nobel Prize winner for Physics, will be expected to expand research into new energy technologies. He also has to plan the new distribution network for green energy which Mr Obama has announced as part of his scheme to stimulate job creation.

Tom Daschle
Tom Daschle
Secretary of Health and Human Services: Tom Daschle

Mr Obama has promised to reform the extremely expensive US healthcare system, to which 47 million uninsured citizens have little or no access.

Secretary Daschle will head this initiative, about which the country's powerful insurance companies and other private healthcare providers are already deeply mistrustful.
Arne Duncan
Arne Duncan
Secretary of Education: Arne Duncan

During his campaign Mr Obama promised more support for failing schools and the expansion of educational opportunities for the youngest children.
Mr Duncan, former chief executive officer of the Chicago school district and thus responsible for the education of 400,000 pupils, will have to fulfil this promise. However, the economic crisis means Mr Duncan may have less money at his disposal to do so.
Janet Napolitano
Janet Napolitano
Secretary of Homeland Security: Janet Napolitano

The Department of Homeland Security, which was set up after the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, is a combination of more than 20 departments involved in issues such as border control, disaster management and other security-related matters. As governor of a border state, Arizona, Ms Napolitano has, in any event, much experience with immigration issues.

The failure of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to respond adequately to Hurricane Katrina shows just how difficult it will be for her to get these separate and bureaucratic departments working as a coordinated whole.
Shaun Donovan
Shaun Donovan
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development: Shaun Donovan

The collapse of the housing market in large parts of the US caused or at least aggravated the credit crisis. Secretary Donovan will head existing and new initiatives to help people with mortgage arrears stay in their homes.

The expansion of social housing programmes was one of Mr Obama's election campaign promises, but the poor economic situation could mean Mr Donovan has to wait before he can fulfil it.
Hilda Solis
Hilda Solis
Secretary of Labour: Hilda Solis

Employers and the Republican Party are fiercely opposed to Mr Obama's plans to make it easier for unions to organise workers (i.e. get employees to join or form unions). Secretary Solis is an outspoken supporter of this and of other employment rights.

A daughter of Latin-American parents, she also wants to improve working conditions for - legal - immigrants, who are often among the lowest paid in the US.
Ray LaHood
Ray LaHood
Secretary of Transportation: Ray LaHood

Potholes in the roads and rusty bridges - anyone who visits the US can see that the infrastructure has been terribly neglected in places. Secretary LaHood, a Republican, will have the task of improving the country's transport over land and through the air.

Since Barack Obama sees ‘public works' as a way of encouraging the creation of job opportunities, this will give this department more weight.
Tom Vilsack
Tom Vilsack
Secretary of Agriculture: Tom Vilsack

One of Mr Vilsack's challenges will be to stimulate the production of bio-fuel based energy, another is to limit agricultural subsidies and reduce pollution.

Critics fear that this former governor of agricultural state Iowa may lean too far towards the powerful agribusiness lobby on these issues.
Secretary of the Treasury: Timothy Geithner
Timothy Geithner
Timothy Geithner
Saving the economy is the new administration's top priority. Mr Geithner faces a tough job, not only in dealing with the huge sums involved in achieving this goal - 700 billion dollars approved by President Bush and at least the same amount to stimulate the economy under Mr Obama - but also in steering a steady course between the deflationary and inflationary powers unleashed by the economic crisis and related rescue packages.
Secretary of Veterans Affairs: Eric K. Shinseki
Eric K Shinseki
Eric K Shinseki
Tens of thousands of US soldiers have returned from Iraq with serious injuries. The scandal over the poor treatment of veterans at the Walter Reed army medical centre badly damaged this department's reputation under President George W. Bush. Eric Shinseki - himself former US army general - clashed with Mr Bush in the run-up to the war in Iraq. It will now be Mr Shinseki's task to bring improvement to the services provided to - wounded - military veterans in terms of the assistance they receive and their reintegration into society.
Secretary of Commerce: still to be announced at time of publication.

In addition to the Secretaries of the various departments, the federal administration in the US also has a number of other highly influential positions and senior advisor posts. For a complete breakdown go to: http://change.gov/learn/administration/