Continuing the reshuffling of his Cabinet, President Bush has accepted resignations of the heads of four more federal departments, including Secretary of State Colin Powell and Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, the White House said. Also among those resigning are Education Secretary Rod Paige and Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman. With the previously announced resignations of Attorney General John Ashcroft and Commerce Secretary Donald Evans, there will be changes atop six of the 15 Cabinet departments.
At a Nov. 15 briefing, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said Bush accepted the resignations three days earlier. McClellan said the Cabinet heads would "work to continue their jobs until their replacements are confirmed by the Senate."
In terms of construction-related policy, Powell has pushed to accelerate the pace of the State Dept.'s embassy-building program. Shortly after becoming Secretary in 2001, Powell brought in his former military colleague, retired Army Maj. Gen. Charles Williams, to head what is now State's Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations. Under Williams, that bureau has been reorganized and projects put on faster tracks.
At the Dept. of Energy, Abraham has pushed Bush's national energy policy, released in May 2001, with mixed success. Some elements of the policy, particularly tax incentives, were included in recently enacted tax bills. But many other items have remained in limbo in Congress since late 2003, when a comprehensive energy measure effectively died in the Senate.
Abraham a former U.S. Senator from Michigan, also led the U.S. side of a joint effort with Canada to determine the causes of the August 2002 blackout that hit large sections of the Northeast and upper Midwest. But one of the prime recommendations of the U.S.-Canada Power System Outage Task Force's April 2004 final report, mandatory electricity reliability standards, has yet to be approved by Congress.
Nuclear Energy Institute President and CEO Joe F. Colvin praised Abraham for DOE's initiative to get new nuclear powerplants on line by 2010 and for recommending that an underground nuclear waste repository be located at Nevada's Yucca Mountain. But the Yucca Mountain plan faces fierce opposition from Nevada's congressional delegation.
In Abraham's letter of resignation, he noted that he has three young children and said that "these past four years have posed significant challenges on our family in many ways."
(Photo top courtesy of Dept. of State, bottom courtesy of Dept. of Energy)