“This is much broader than a medical response,” Earnest said about government efforts against Ebola. “What we were looking for was not an Ebola expert but rather an implementation expert.” Klain brings the necessary experience in management and in working with the White House and Congress, Earnest said.
Obama had said Thursday it “may be appropriate” to appoint someone to oversee the federal government's response to the crisis.
Klain is currently president of Case Holdings, the holding company of AOL Corp. co-founder Steve Case, and general counsel at Revolution, a Washington investment firm with ties to Zipcar, LivingSocial and several other big brands.
He will start the job shortly and is likely to stay in the position for five to six months, Earnest said. Klain accepted the position Friday morning, Earnest said.
The news comes after members of Congress grilled Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Thomas Frieden and other health officials for flaws in responding to the threat.
Douglas Smith, a former assistant secretary for the private sector at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and a former aide in the Clinton administration, said that Klain will draw on his White House experience to wield the full scope of the federal government's resources to fight Ebola.
“The single most important thing for this role is the ability to understand how the government works and how to harness all the assets at its disposal,” said Smith, who now runs the D.C. office of public relations firm MWW. “For that Ron is well-suited, having served at the highest level of government.”
Smith also said Klain is likely to move quickly. “He is a smart guy, highly capable at what he does and he will come in with the knowledge of the tools he has and an energy to dig in."
Michael Feldman, a managing director of the Glover Park Group and a former senior adviser to Gore, said Klain will do a good job in navigating the federal bureaucracy to quickly respond to the crisis.
“It makes perfect sense,” Feldman said. “What they need is someone who can move the ball forward, cut red tape and understand and pull all the levers of the government. He knows his way around agencies and has the respect of the senior team at the White House.”
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