WASHINGTON– President Bush warned today that terrorists could use the government transition under way as an opportunity to attack, and urged his staff to give the incoming administration the support it needs to “hit the ground running.” Bush addressed members of his Cabinet, including Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, and executive office staffers on the South Lawn of the White House.

Terrorists might be tempted to take advantage of the first U.S. wartime presidential transition in four decades, he warned. “We’re in a struggle against violent extremists determined to attack us, and they would like nothing more than to exploit this period of change to harm the American people,” he said.

“So for the next 75 days,” the president said, “all of us must ensure that the next president and his team can hit the ground running.”

Bush noted that U.S. departments and agencies have been laying groundwork for a smooth transition for more than a year.

At the Defense Department, for example, Gates launched early preparations to minimize disruptions as the administrations change, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman reported earlier this week.

“One of the important components of this is ensuring that we’ve identified and highlighted some of the key department events, actions [and] milestones that a new administration will face in its first 90 days,” he said.

Gates created a transition task force Whitman said is operating under five guiding principles:

— Maintaining continuity of operations;

— Assuring efficient and effective transition of outgoing leadership;

— Assuring the efficient and effective in-processing of the incoming leaders;

— Facilitating the transfer of information to the new administration; and

— Sustaining focus on existing programs and processes while allowing the incoming administration to focus on its governing processes.

Navy Adm. Timothy J. Keating, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, said today on Fox News Channel that his staff is working through the offices of both Gates and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to prepare their briefings for the president-elect and his staff.

“We will work very hard to make this one smooth for the president-elect and his Cabinet,” Keating said. “We will make it as smooth and effective and as efficient as we can.”

Meanwhile, Bush said, officers in the White House are preparing extensive transition materials for the next administration, and career employees throughout the administration will take on added responsibilities to ensure no essential functions are disrupted.

The president said he looks forward to discussing a full range of ongoing policy issues, including the war in Iraq, with the president-elect beginning next week.

Up Next

VIDEO: Gun sales skyrocket after Obama win

WASHINGTON– President Bush warned today that terrorists could use the government transition under way…