Obama names McDonough as next chief of staff


US president Barack Obama has named his long-time foreign policy adviser Denis McDonough as his next White House chief of staff, appointing a trusted supporter to push his second-term plan of action.

In a major overhaul of senior staff for his next presidential term, Mr McDonough moves from the role of deputy national security adviser to the new job, where he will act as a key policy co-ordinator on domestic and foreign issues, and gatekeeper to the Oval Office. He takes over the key West Wing position from Jack Lew, Obama’s nominee for treasury secretary, becoming the president’s fifth chief of staff in four years.

Mr McDonough was widely tipped to take over the role, and Obama described his appointment as “one of the worst-kept secrets in Washington” at a press conference in the White House yesterday.

He paid tribute to his adviser, saying he was a “great friend”, “one of my closest and most trusted advisers” and an “indispensable member” of his national security team.

Mr McDonough, from Stillwater in the midwest US state of Minnesota, is one of 11 children, which the president said was one of the reasons he was so tough. His grandfather on his father’s side came from Ard West in Carna, and his grandmother from Carraroe, both Co Galway.

Mr McDonough is highly regarded in the White House, and Obama’s announcement was met with warm and extended applause.

Mr McDonough, a 43-year-old workaholic, has advised Mr Obama for almost a decade and helped set up the Chicago politician’s Senate office in Washington in 2005 after being first elected. He played a key role in major national security decisions, from ending the war in Iraq and winding down the conflict in Afghanistan to overseeing the US response to the earthquake in Haiti and the tsunami in Japan, and repealing the military’s ban on openly gay service members.

Mr McDonough’s role in Obama’s inner sanctum was illustrated by his role during the navy seal raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May 2011 – he was among the president’s advisers photographed in the White House situation room watching a live video-feed of the assault.