Barack Obama's main policies

Democratic President-elect Barack Obama has vowed to reverse or sharply modify many of the Bush administration’s policies.

Democratic President-elect Barack Obama has vowed to reverse or sharply modify many of the Bush administration’s policies.

Based on his campaign promises, these are key areas where changes are expected.


Obama’s promise to get US troops out of Iraq in the first 16 months of his presidency helped launch his candidacy. He says he will shift forces and resources to Afghanistan.

But, overall, the Pentagon under Mr Obama may not look much different than it does today. When and how he removes troops from Iraq may depend on the security pact that US officials negotiate with Iraqi MPs.

Mr Obama has called for a responsible and phased withdrawal to bring the bulk of the troops out by mid-2010. The proposed security pact being pressed by Iraqis would have all US forces out of the cities by next summer, and out of the country by the end of 2011.

For Afghanistan, Obama has said he would add about 7,000 troops to the US force of 31,000. Pentagon officials are poised to more than double that increase - saying they need 15,000 to 20,000 more troops in Afghanistan.

Mr Obama wants to increase the size of the UA army, marine corps and special operations forces, with efforts already under way. He has called for greater emphasis on counterinsurgency missions – a move the military recognised as critical in the early years of the Iraq war, and began to implement.


Mr Obama will inherit foreign policy challenges involving Iran, North Korea, Russia, China, the Middle East, Afghanistan and Pakistan. He has said he would place a premium on diplomacy over the use of force to solve disputes, and he pledged to maintain a robust diplomatic corps and foreign aid programs.

However, the financial crisis could curtail some overseas development programs the Bush administration has championed, and there could be a shift in the department’s emphasis.

Mr Obama’s stated willingness to talk with leaders like those in Iran, Syria and North Korea, may result in increased diplomatic activity in areas where the Bush administration initially resisted engagement, including dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The new president will find a diplomatic corps that has often been frustrated by its lack of influence over the past eight years, notably during Mr Bush’s first term when the Colin Powell-led State Department’s words of caution on the Iraq war were ignored.


The Justice Department will re-examine all surveillance, interrogation and detainee policies to see if any should be overturned or changed. Mr Obama has said he wants to close the detention facility at US naval base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, meaning he must decide whether terror suspects held there now should face military or civilian trials if they are moved to US jails.

Obama advisers say he may review the department’s newly approved guidelines that could let the FBI investigate Americans in national security cases without evidence of a crime, based in part on their ethnicity or religion. He wants to create a senior position – likely from the FBI or Homeland Security Department - to coordinate all domestic intelligence gathering.

He has called for hiring 50,000 new police officers nationwide. The administration is likely to urge Congress to pass the Matthew Shepard Act, which expands federal hate crime laws to include protections for people targeted because of their gender, sexual orientation or disabilities – and then require vigorous Justice Department enforcement.

Mr Obama says he wants to eliminate any disparity between sentencing guidelines for people convicted of crack cocaine crimes and those for powder cocaine. Penalties for crack cocaine offences are much harsher, and the vast majority of those convicted are black.


The Energy Department is likely to shift its focus dramatically towards development of alternative energy, increasing support for research into cellulosic ethanol, wind turbines, solar technology and more fuel-efficient cars. The department is likely to press for tougher efficiency standards for appliances and buildings.

Mr Obama has said he wants to spend $15bn a year to spur alternative energy and more efficient use of energy. Economic and budgetary problems, however, may make those spending levels difficult.

Mr Obama has said he does not oppose nuclear power, but has reservations about building dozens of new reactors because of concerns about radioactive waste.

The Energy Department may more closely scrutinise loan guarantees for new nuclear reactors. Mr Obama’s Energy Department is likely to continue along its current path on most nuclear weapons programmes and related waste clean-up efforts, which account for most of the department’s budget.


Mr Obama’s most immediate economic problem will be dealing with the nation’s financial crisis and deciding how to implement the $700bn rescue programme Congress passed last month. He is expected to move quickly to get a team in place to work with outgoing Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson.

Mr Obama has proposed a 90-day moratorium on home foreclosures by companies getting assistance from the bail-out bill. He also said he wants tighter restrictions on executive pay at institutions receiving the federal aid.

Mr Obama supports a second stimulus bill to boost the economy. He would spend more on government infrastructure projects to create jobs, and he would give more aid to states that are having to cut services.

Mr Obama wants to temporarily suspend rules that impose tax penalties on early withdrawals from retirement plans to allow cash-strapped families to tap these funds.


Obama has promised to listen to the EPA’s scientific experts and “reverse the Bush administration’s attempt to chip away at our nation’s clean air and water standards.”

On global warming, he has said he will overturn a Bush decision forbidding California from setting limits on greenhouse gases from vehicle exhausts. He wants to reduce the amount of carbon in petrol by 10% by 2020.

Unlike Mr Bush, Mr Obama might try to regulate global warming gases under existing law, although he has made clear that his priority is pushing Congress to draft a new law to limit how much of those gases can be released.


Obama has pledged to overhaul President Bush’s No Child Left Behind education law. He says it emphasises annual test scores in reading and maths too heavily at the expense of subjects such as music and art and is too punitive towards struggling schools.

Yet it’s unclear how much of the law Mr Obama would undo. His advisers include supporters as well as opponents of the law, and Mr Obama’s campaign said he would not dump the testing requirements at the heart of No Child Left Behind.


Obama has cultivated the support of many farm groups, and he stood behind a massive, $290bn farm bill enacted earlier this year over President Bush’s veto. He supports traditional farm subsidies, weather-related disaster assistance for farmers and subsidies for corn ethanol.

However, Mr Obama favours lowering the maximum amount of subsidies an individual farmer can receive, something Congress has resisted.

“We’ll close loopholes that let agribusiness break the rules and we’ll put more fruits and vegetables in our schools and fight hunger,” Mr Obama said in South Dakota in May.

Some of his positions on trade may be less popular with farmers. He has been cool to some free trade agreements and wants to revisit some aspects of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which has been a boon for agricultural exports to Canada and Mexico.


Mr Obama has said he would add more personnel, infrastructure and technology to the border regions and crack down on employers who hire illegal immigrants, which is what the Bush administration is doing. Mr Obama also said he would bring the 12 million illegal immigrants “out of the shadows,” fine them, make them pay taxes and send them to the back of the queue to become US citizens.

Mr Obama must decide whether to remove the Federal Emergency Management Agency from the Homeland Security Department and restore it as an independent agency. One of his top advisers, James Lee Witt, favours such a move, but other administration priorities may come first.


Obama wants an overhaul of the human side of spying, and wants to give fixed terms to the national intelligence director’s office to buffer it from sudden changes in partisan leadership. He has expressed concerns with the size and scope of the office, created four years ago to oversee and knit together the nation’s 16 intelligence agencies. The office has grown dramatically since then.

Top officials have asked that intelligence structures – the offices and roles now laid out in laws, after multiple post-September 11 2001, reforms – remain stable.


Mr Obama wants to expand VA health care for veterans. Congress voted in 1996 to do that, but the agency has exercised its authority to suspend enrollments as needed. Mr Obama has said that led to one million veterans being turned away, and he has promised to reverse the policy.


Mr Obama is a space fan, and a troubled Nasa is counting on that.

Nasa does not have enough money to do all it has planned and is facing key decisions about its embryonic return-to-the-moon programme, new rocketship and about-to-retire space shuttle programme.

The current Nasa plan would have the space shuttle end in 2010 and astronauts not ready to fly in a new moon rocket until 2015. In the five years in between, America would have to rely on the Russians to take astronauts to the mostly US-funded international space station.

Nasa’s robotic Mars programme is in disarray, and its Earth-observing programme has been downsized.

The Obama campaign said it supports a “robust” programme of robotic probes and space-based telescopes and satellites. It also emphasised education and Nasa’s role in climate change research.

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