Who's who in Team Trump?

(From top left) Reince Priebus, Stephen Bannon, Lieutenant-General H.R. McMaster, Jeff Sessions, Mike Pompeo and Nikki Haley have all been selected by US President-elect Donald Trump as key members of his team. PHOTOS: EPA, REUTERS, AFP

WASHINGTON - US President Donald Trump has named most of the members of his team that will assist him in governing the United States in the next four years.

Senate confirmation of the Cabinet positions is still in progress. Other posts are completely up to the discretion of the US president.

Here's the list of members in Mr Trump's team so far:

Mr Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State

Age: 64

Exxon Mobil chief executive Rex Tillerson. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

DUTIES: As America's top diplomat, he will have to deal with burning issues including whether to lift economic sanctions on Russia, how to deal with China in relation to sensitive issues like Taiwan, the protracted Syrian conflict, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade deal and the Paris climate agreement.

BACKGROUND: He has been chief executive of Exxon Mobil since 2006 and like Mr Trump, has never held public office. He said he shared Mr Trump's "vision for restoring the credibility of the United States' foreign relations and advancing our country's national security."

A native of Texas who speaks with a strong Texas twang, he got his start as a production engineer at Exxon in 1975 and worked his way up the ranks at the world's sixth largest corporation. He runs a company with extensive operations in about 50 countries, and has cut deals to expand business in Venezuela, Qatar, Kurdistan and elsewhere. He is a long-time friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who in 2013 bestowed a Russian state honour, the Order of Friendship, on Mr Tillerson, citing his work in "strengthening cooperation in the energy sector."

WHAT OTHERS SAY: Politicians on both sides of the aisle have expressed concerns over Mr Tillerson's ties to Russia. Critics say his stake in Russia's energy industry could create a very blurry line between his interests as an oil executive and his role as America's leading diplomat. "The chances that he will view Russia with Exxon Mobil DNA are close to 100 per cent," said Mr Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, a public interest group based in Washington.

Senior Republican Senator John McCain has called Mr Tillerson's ties to Mr Putin "a matter of concern." He has said "Vladimir Putin is a thug, bully and a murderer, and anybody else who describes him as anything else is lying." Mr McCain and other senators have backed a congressional probe into intelligence assessments on Russian interference in the US presidential election, putting top Republicans on a collision course with Mr Trump, who dismissed the reports as "ridiculous".
But several Republican establishment figures, including former secretaries of state James Baker and Condoleezza Rice, and former Defence Secretary Robert Gates have vouched for Mr Tillerson. The business community also welcomed his appointment, with GE Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Immelt calling him "a great negotiator."


Mr Reince Priebus, White House Chief of Staff

AGE: 44

Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus. PHOTO: AFP

DUTIES: As chief of staff, he will have the president's ear at all times. He will supervise staff, set the agenda, ensure decisions are executed across a sprawling bureaucracy and control access to the president

BACKGROUND: A longtime lawyer and Wisconsin political operative, he is the Republican National Committee Chairman and a Washington insider who is influential and popular with the various factions in the Republican party. He was credited with marshaling party resources for Mr Trump's White House bid.

While some Republicans fled from Mr Trump during the campaign, he was unwavering in his backing for the tycoon. He is also a friend of US House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, who distanced himself from Mr Trump during the campaign but whose support is critical to Mr Trump's agenda in Congress.

WHAT OTHERS SAY: His appointment to one of the top government posts signals Mr Trump's willingness to ensure continuity with the Republican agenda when he takes office. But it runs counter to Mr Trump's pledge to "drain the swamp" of the corrupt Washington elites he had railed against in his campaign. Some also view Mr Priebus as a deal-maker who will be too eager to push Mr Trump towards compromise on issues like taxes, immigration, trade, health care and the environment.

Despite the criticisms, Mr Priebus' appointment has generally been welcomed. Some say Mr Trump, being an outsider himself, may need someone like Mr Priebus to reach out to those in the Republican Party torn over supporting him.

Mr Stephen Bannon, Chief Strategist

Mr Trump's campaign manager Stephen Bannon. PHOTO: AFP

AGE: 62

DUTIES: He is likely to be Mr Trump's chief ideologue and spokesman for an agenda that includes curbing immigration and putting conservative judges in the Supreme Court with the aim of rolling back legislation legalising abortion. As chief strategist and counsellor, he will also have unfettered access to the president.

BACKGROUND: He signed up for the navy straight out of college, but was later drawn to the glamour of Wall Street and joined investment bank Goldman Sachs.

He moved on to specialise in media and entertainment and is a controversial firebrand media figure. He ran Breitbart News from March 2012 to August this year, when he left to join Mr Trump as chief executive of his campaign. Breitbart News is a right-wing, conspiracy-mongering website which provides a voice for the alt-right movement, a loose right-wing confederation that includes hardcore nationalists, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and anti-Semites.

Mr Bannon is known to have made anti-Semitic statements, including not wanting his twin daughters to attend a school with Jews. He was reportedly charged with domestic violence, battery and dissuading a witness following an incident in 1996, but the case was ultimately dismissed when the victim - his ex-wife - did not show up in court.

WHAT OTHERS SAY: His appointment has drawn a wave of criticism. Some say it signals Mr Trump's dedication to operating outside the norms of Washington.

Mr Bannon showed his willingness to engage in brutal political tactics when he instigated the appearance before the second presidential debate of three women who said they had been sexually abused by Mrs Hillary Clinton's husband, former president Bill Clinton.

Democrats, rights activists and minority groups said Mr Trump, himself accused of racism and misogyny during the campaign, had flung open the White House doors to hatemongers. In an interview with Hollywood Reporter, Mr Bannon said that everyone was missing the point. "I'm not a white nationalist, I'm a nationalist. I'm an economic nationalist," he said. "The globalists gutted the American working class and created a middle class in Asia.'



Senator Jeff Sessions, who President-elect Donald Trump selected to be US attorney general, speaks to reporters in Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in New York on Nov 17, 2016. PHOTO: NYTIMES

AGE: 69

DUTIES: As the top legal adviser, he will work closely with the rest of the Cabinet on a wide range of issues. He also has the power to reignite investigation of Mrs Hillary Clinton's email case and could breathe new life into a separate investigation of the activities of Clinton Foundation.

BACKGROUND: He is a four-term senator from Alabama and former federal prosecutor, with a reputation of being a strong conservative lawmaker. His strong commitment to fiscal conservatism made him a darling of the Tea Party movement and his tough views on immigration made him a natural ally for Mr Trump.

During his time in the Senate, he made a name for himself as an advocate for tougher immigration laws. He has repeatedly lobbied for increased security on the Mexican border, wants to reduce legal immigration, and claims that there is "a clear nexus between immigration and terrorism".

He opposed nearly every immigration Bill and pushed hard for legislation to ban for 10 years federal contractors who hire illegal immigrants. In 1986, then President Ronald Reagan picked him to be a district judge, but he was rejected by the Senate Judiciary Committee because of alleged racist remarks. Mr Sessions has denied that he is racist or insensitive to minorities.

WHAT OTHERS SAY: Democrat Senator Charles E. Schumer, the incoming minority leader, has said that Mr Sessions "is going to need a very thorough vetting" because of the racist remarks he made. Legal experts also believe that he is unlikely to shy away from indicting big companies and individuals for serious white-collar crimes. They say he will likely push for corporate indictments, instead of settling for fines, and may focus on putting more executives in prison.

Mr Jackson Sharman, a white-collar defence lawyer in Alabama, has said he believed Mr Sessions would want to be as tough on white-collar as on street criminals. He pointed to Mr Sessions' opposition to a crime Bill that would have shown sentencing leniency for non-violent offenders.


Lieutenant-General Herbert Raymond McMaster

Newly named National Security Adviser Lieutenant-General Herbert Raymond McMaster listens as US President Donald Trump makes the announcement at his Mar-a-Lago estate on Feb 20, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

AGE: 54

DUTIES: The role has varied from administration to administration, but the adviser attends National Security Council meetings along with the heads of the State Department, the Department of Defence and key security agencies.

BACKGROUND: He is a West Point graduate with a PhD in US history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He was listed as one of Time magazine's 100 most influential people in 2014, partly because of his willingness to buck the system.

A combat veteran, he gained renown in the first Gulf War - and was awarded a Silver Star - after he commanded a small troop of the US 2nd Army Cavalry Regiment that destroyed a much larger Iraqi Republican Guard force in 1991 in a place called 73 Easting, in what many consider the biggest tank battle since World War Two.
McMaster's fame grew after his 1997 book "Dereliction of Duty" criticised the country's military and political leadership for poor leadership during the Vietnam War.

WHAT OTHERS SAY: Republican Senator John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a frequent Trump critic, praised Lt Gen McMaster as an"outstanding" choice. "I give President Trump great credit for this decision," Mr McCain said in a statement.
But the appointment surprised some observers who wondered how LT-Gen McMaster, who is known for questioning authority, would deal with a White House that has not welcomed criticism. One subject where Mr Trump and Lt Gen McMaster could differ is Russia. The president has expressed a willingness to engage with Russia more than his predecessor Barack Obama, while Lt Gen McMaster shares the consensus view among the US national security establishment that Russia is a threat and an antagonist to the United States.



CIA director Mike Pompeo, photographed on Sept 20, 2013. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

AGE: 52

DUTIES: His duties include providing overall direction for collection of national intelligence outside of the United States and evaluation of intelligence related to the national security

BACKGROUND: He was elected to the House in 2010 as part of the first wave of tea party lawmakers. A US Military Academy and Harvard Law School graduate, he served as an Army cavalry officer before founding an aerospace company and running an oil-field equipment manufacturing firm.

He had also worked as an attorney. He serves on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and is a close ally of Vice-President Mike Pence.

Mr Pompeo gained prominence through his role in the congressional investigation into the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, and assailed former secretary of state Hillary Clinton during the committee's hearings. He dissented from the Benghazi report prepared by his own Republican colleagues, which found no significant wrongdoing.

WHAT OTHERS SAY: Some civil liberties and human rights advocates have expressed concern over Mr Pompeo's selection because he opposes closing the Guantanamo Bay detention centre.

They also criticised his support for the National Security Agency's now-defunct bulk communications metadata collection and other surveillance programmes. In a January op-ed in the Wall Street Journal he co-authored, Mr Pompeo called for a "fundamental upgrade to America's surveillance capabilities," including resuming bulk collection of domestic phone metadata, the numbers and time stamps of calls, but not their content.

He said the programme, which a federal appeals court and two governmental review panels found to be illegal and ineffective, should be expanded to include "publicly available financial and lifestyle information into a comprehensive, searchable database", and that "legal and bureaucratic impediments to surveillance should be removed", he wrote.



South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley speaks during the 2016 National Lawyers Convention sponsored by the Federalist Society in Washington, DC on Nov 18, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

AGE: 44

DUTIES: Her job may include reassuring allies worried about some of Mr Trump's campaign promises. These include building a wall along the US-Mexican border to curb illegal immigration, reviewing trade agreements, and his suggestion that he would push Nato partners to pay more for their own defence.

BACKGROUND: She was born in the small city of Bamberg, South Carolina, to immigrants from India's Punjab state. She was a state lawmaker before becoming governor of South Carolina in 2011, and is the first ethnic minority and first woman to be elected to the governor post.

She led a successful push last year to remove the Confederate battle flag from the grounds of the South Carolina state capitol after the killing of nine black churchgoers in Charleston by a white gunman. The flag was carried by pro-slavery Confederate forces during the Civil War and is viewed by many as a racist emblem.

She supported Trump rivals Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz in the Republican race before saying in October that she would vote for Mr Trump despite reservations about his character. She had criticised him for not releasing his tax returns, prompting him to hit back on Twitter that "the people of South Carolina are embarrassed of Nikki Haley!"

WHAT OTHERS SAY: Some observers have described Ms Haley as a political heavyweight and tough deal maker, who would be a strong voice for UN reforms and stand for American interests throughout the world.

But others are concerned about her lack of experience in foreign policies. "She'd be the least experienced UN ambassador in the history of the country," said Mr Bakari Sellers, a CNN commentator and a Democrat. In comparison, the current UN ambassador Samantha Power is very well versed in foreign policy and geopolitical relationships, he added. "But Nikki Haley would be a bright light in this administration. She's the daughter of immigrants, and her story is one I feel comfortable sharing with my daughter on how you can be a success in this country," he said.

Serving alongside Mr Trump will offer her an opportunity to ascend on the global stage, gain experience in foreign affairs and link herself again to the grassroots, Trump-loving activists in the Republican base.



US President-elect Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos after their meeting at Trump International Golf Club, in Bedminster Township, New Jersey on Nov 18, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

AGE: 58

DUTIES: She is expected to reform the education system and break the bureaucracy that is holding the young generation back so that world-class education and school choices are available to all.

BACKGROUND: She is a billionaire donor, a former chair of the Michigan Republican Party and an advocate for the privatisation of education.

Her efforts to expand educational opportunities in her home state of Michigan and across the country have focused little on existing public schools, and almost entirely on groups seeking to move students and money away from what Mr Trump calls "failing government schools".

As chair of the American Federation for Children, she has been active in promoting school choice, a movement that advocates the use of tax credits and vouchers to allow parents to send their children to private schools and for the expansion of charter schools.

Her husband Dick is heir to the Amway fortune, whose father Richard DeVos was ranked Number 88 on Forbes' list of US billionaires, with an estimated fortune of US$5.4 billion (S$7.7 billion).

WHAT OTHERS SAY: Supporters say Mrs DeVos is tireless and driven, who will be able to press for a new education vision. But critics say she is the most ideological and anti-public education nominee ever to be put forward to run the nearly 40-year-old department. They fear that she and Mr Trump will push programmes that many see as draining resources from the traditional public school districts that educate most American schoolchildren.

Ms Amber Arellano, executive director of the Education Trust-Midwest, an advocacy group in Michigan, said her appointment has "the potential to undermine the nation's hard-won progress by diverting resources from the young people who most need them, or by failing to uphold the federal government's responsibility to protecting the needs and interests of all students - especially the most vulnerable".



Tom Price during a press conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on March 17, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS

AGE: 62

DUTIES: One of his key duties is to repeal and replace President Barack Obama's signature healthcare programme.

BACKGROUND: The six-term Atlanta congressman is an orthopaedic surgeon from Georgia and one of the original Tea Party caucus members. He has served as chairman of the House of Representatives' Budget Committee since 2015. He was a leader of efforts to dismantle the health law, also known as the Affordable Care Act, and has supported GOP plans to overhaul other major health programs. He has characterised Obamacare - which aims to expand insurance coverage to millions more Americans - as "doing real harm to American families" and has co-sponsored legislation to replace it.

He has instead proposed a plan that would create age-based tax credits for people who buy insurance coverage on their own. His plan would also roll back the 2010 law's expansion of Medicaid for low-income people, a change that helped Obamacare cut the number of uninsured Americans to 29 million in 2015 from 49 million in 2010.

WHAT OTHERS SAY: Mr Chuck Schumer, the Senate Democratic leader, was among the defenders of Obamacare who criticised Mr Price's selection. "Nominating Congressman Price to be the HHS secretary is akin to asking the fox to guard the hen house," he said.

Gay rights groups have also been critical of Mr Price. Ms Sarah Kate Ellis, president and chief executive of GLAAD, formerly known as the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, said he was "completely unfit" to be health secretary. When the Supreme Court ruled last year that the Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage, Mr Price said it was "not only a sad day for marriage, but a further judicial destruction of our entire system of checks and balances."


Mr Alexander Acosta, Labour Secretary

US Attorney R. Alexander Acosta, seen in this 2006 photo, has been nominated as Labour Secretary. PHOTO: EPA

Mr Acosta served as assistant attorney-general for the Civil Rights Division under President George W. Bush and was US attorney for the Southern District of Florida. He once clerked for then-Appeals Court judge Justice Samuel Alito. He replaced Mr Trump's first nominee for the position, Andy Puzder, who withdrew his name amid controversy over his personal life and business background.


Steven Mnuchin arrives at Trump Tower in New York on Nov 29, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

AGE: 53

DUTIES: Tax reforms and trade pact overhauls will be top priorities, as the new administration seeks a sustained pace of 3 per cent to 4 per cent economic growth. Another likely target is to remove US mortgage-finance companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from government ownership.

BACKGROUND: He is a relatively little-known but successful private equity investor, hedge fund manager and Hollywood financier who spent 17 years at Goldman Sachs before leaving in 2002. He was also Mr Trump's campaign finance chairman. He assembled an investor group to buy a failed California mortgage lender in 2009, rebranded it as OneWest Bank and built it into Southern California's largest bank. The bank came under fire for its foreclosure practices as housing advocacy groups accused it of being too quick to foreclose on struggling homeowners.

He was also involved in financing of Hollywood films. His Dune Capital invested in several blockbusters, including American Sniper, Gravity, Avatar, and Life of Pi. He donated more than US$200,000 to the Republicans during the election. Together with his wife Heather, they had contributed a total of US$465,000 since 1995 - with US$13,400 supporting Mrs Hillary Clinton's campaigns for Senate and even the White House.

WHAT OTHERS SAY: "Steve Mnuchin is just another Wall Street insider," Senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts said in a joint statement. "That is not the type of change that Donald Trump promised to bring to Washington - that is hypocrisy at its worst."

But analysts said it is Mr Mnuchin's track record at hedge and private equity funds - where the real money is made on Wall Street these days - that makes him appealing to Mr Trump. "Mnuchin as Treasury secretary is somebody who can speak to bankers - Jamie Dimon, Lloyd Blankfein, James Gorman and Brian Moynihan. He can speak their language," said Mr Gary Kaminsky, a former vice-chairman at Morgan Stanley, referring to the chief executives of JPMorgan Chase, Goldman, Morgan Stanley and Bank of America.



Wilbur Ross at the US Capitol in Washington on Dec 6, 2016. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

AGE: 79

DUTIES: He is expected to move the US away from the broad multinational free trade agreements that have shaped the global economy over the past generation in favour of bilateral deals. He will help handle trade disputes with countries like China, including complaints about the dumping of cheap metals into the US market.

BACKGROUND: The billionaire heads private equity firm W.L. Ross & Co. and is known as the "king of bankruptcy" for buying beaten-down companies with the potential to deliver profits. Among his signature investments was the purchase of Pennsylvania's iconic but now-defunct Bethlehem Steel, a deal which was hailed by unions for saving manufacturing jobs. He helped shape the Trump campaign's economic agenda, particularly its hardline stance on the need to renegotiate or withdraw from free trade agreements. He blames the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Canada and Mexico, which entered into force in 1994, and the 2001 entry of China into the World Trade Organisation, for causing massive US factory job losses. That position resonated with the working class voters who were instrumental in delivering Mr Trump's upset victory.

Mr Ross' net worth was pegged by Forbes at about US$2.9 billion.

WHAT OTHERS SAY: Mr Gary Hufbauer, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, said Mr Ross and Mr Trump are in "broad alignment" on their views. But "Ross is probably more single-mindedly protectionist than Trump," he added. The billionaire agrees with Mr Trump about the need for Washington to exit bad trade agreements and has advocated a steep tariff on Chinese steel imports to prevent what Mr Trump has alleged is the dumping of cheap commodities on the US market.


James Mattis at the Capitol in Washington on Dec 7, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

AGE: 66

DUTIES: He will help the president shape US defence policies ranging from nuclear agreement with Iran to strategies for dealing with Russian and Chinese aggression in Europe and Asia, as well as fighting Islamist militants.

BACKGROUND: He served more than four decades in the Marine Corps and is known as one of the most influential military leaders of his generation, a strategic thinker who occasionally drew rebukes for his aggressive talk. He is known for his distrust of Iran and battlefield experience in Iraq and Afghanistan. A former leader of the US Central Command, which oversees military operations in the Middle East and South Asia, he is known by many US forces by his nickname "Mad Dog" for his candor and military record. He was once rebuked for saying in 2005: "It's fun to shoot some people."

He also served from November 2007 to August 2010 as the supreme allied commander of transformation for the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato), focused on improving the military effectiveness of allies. Since retiring, he has served as a consultant and as a visiting fellow with the Hoover Institution, a think-tank at Stanford University. Since retiring, he has served as a consultant and as a visiting fellow with the Hoover Institution, a think tank at Stanford University.

WHAT OTHERS SAY: "The president-elect is smart to think about putting someone as respected as James Mattis in this role," said a former senior Pentagon official. "He's a warrior, scholar and straight shooter - literally and figuratively. He speaks truth to everyone and would certainly speak truth to this new commander in chief."

But the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: "If there's any concern at all, it's the principle of civilian control over the military. This role was never intended to be a kind of Joint Chiefs of Staff on steroids, and that's the biggest single risk tied to Mattis. For Mattis, the biggest risk for him personally is that he will have a national security adviser in the form of Mike Flynn whose management style and extreme views may arch Mattis's eyebrows and cause conflict over time. It's no fun to be secretary of defence if you have to constantly feud with the White House."

Mr Steven Simon, who worked with Gen Mattis when he served on Mr Obama's National Security Council, said the latter made frequent stops in Israel during trips to the region, part of an effort to encourage the Jewish state and its Arab neighbours to work together to counter Iranian influence. "They respected Mattis because they saw him as a straight shooter and a good listener," Mr Simon said of the Israelis and Arabs.


Ben Carson speaking during the annual Conservative Political Action Conference on March 5, 2016, PHOTO: AFP

AGE: 65

DUTIES: He will oversee policies in areas including fair housing programs and low-income housing ownership and assistance.

BACKGROUND: He is the first African-American picked for a Cabinet spot by Mr Trump. He had dropped out of the Republican presidential nominating race in March, 2016 and threw his support behind Mr Trump. A popular writer and speaker in conservative circles, he previously indicated reluctance to take a position in the incoming administration because of his lack of experience in the federal government. He was a highly respected neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore for 30 years. One of the highlights of his medical career was being the lead neurosurgeon in a 70-member team that separated a pair of conjoined twins who shared a blood vessel at the back of their brains in 1987. He retired as a surgeon in 2013.

He was raised primarily by a single mother who worked several jobs at a time and sometimes took government assistance while pushing her two sons to read and study.

WHAT OTHERS SAY: He does not have specific experience with the activities of HUD, which manages low-income housing assistance, facilitates financing for home ownership and administers fair-housing programs. But he has a documented position on fair-housing policies that has advocates nervous about what protections a Trump administration might dismantle - particularly for racial desegregation. A review of some of his political commentary on housing policy shows that his views are at odds with some of the anti-segregation policies championed by minority groups. On at least one occasion, he criticised efforts by the Obama administration to use its regulatory powers to improve racial integration in housing.

"With many qualified Republicans to choose from with deep knowledge of, and commitment to, affordable housing solutions for the poorest families, and with the housing crisis reaching new heights across the country, Dr Carson's nomination to serve as HUD Secretary is surprising and concerning," said Ms Diane Yentel, president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition.



Mr John Kelly, Homeland Security Secretary

Donald Trump (left) gesturing with retired US Marine Corp General John Kelly at the clubhouse of the Trump International Golf Club on Nov 20, 2016. PHOTO: EPA

Age: 66

Duties: He will be a pivotal figure in carrying out Mr Trump's election promises to build a wall on the Mexican border, deport undocumented immigrants and tighten legal immigration processes to screen out potential extremists.

Background: The final leadership role of his 45-year career was head of the US Southern Command, an assignment that immersed him in border security issues, migrant flows and counter-drug operations in the Caribbean as well as Central and South America. Besides contending with violent drug gangs operating across the region and deep inside the United States, Gen Kelly was also responsible for the prison for war on terror detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The blunt-talking Kelly is close to retired general James Mattis, Mr Trump's nominee for Secretary of Defence. He served as Gen Mattis's top aide in the 2003 assault on Baghdad that crushed Saddam Hussein's army.

What others say: His experience and record in running large organisations will be useful as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is a sprawling bureaucracy responsible for border protection and internal security. With 240,000 civil servants, Homeland Security includes the Secret Service, the Coast Guard, immigration and customs enforcement, and the agency that protects airports. It also has an intelligence arm and an office dedicated to preventing nuclear terrorism.

But managing the DHS, which was established after the Sept 11, 2001 attacks, will be a massive task in itself, observers warned. Representative Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said the department needs a sweeping overhaul. "It's time to undertake wholesale reform at DHS, including eliminating bureaucratic bloat, scrapping failing offices, and cutting through the red tape," he said.

Ms Elaine Chao, Transportation Secretary

Elaine Chao arrives at Trump Tower on Nov 21, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

Age: 63

Duties: She will help Mr Trump fulfil his campaign promise of overhauling the nation's dire infrastructure

Background: She was the first Asian-American woman to serve in a US cabinet and is the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky. The Taiwan-born former labour secretary under president George W. Bush also served as the deputy secretary of transportation in his administration. She was the only official in his administration to serve all eight years. Before that, she worked in various departments across the federal government. She was a White House fellow under President Ronald Reagan and the director of the Peace Corps under President George Bush.

Her résumé speaks to the ease with which she runs in powerful circles in Washington and beyond. She has worked for Harvard's Kennedy School of Government as well as the conservative Heritage Foundation. She was also a frequent commentator on Fox News.

What others say: A senior transition official, who declined to be named, said Mr Trump was impressed by her energy and drive, and also admired her no-nonsense attitude. Mr Richard F. Hohlt, a veteran Republican consultant and a friend of Ms Chao, said: "She knows how to work a bureaucracy, and she knows how to last." Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, praised her government service and said he hoped to work collaboratively with her on an infrastructure plan, which would have to make it through the Senate her husband leads. "I hope Secretary Chao shares that ambitious goal and is willing to work with Democrats," he added.

New York Times said her other private-sector work could prove to be an asset: She was a banker for Citicorp and helped close transactions that involved transportation financing. The financing issue she will confront now is altogether different, however, said the report.

Despite the consensus that the nation's infrastructure is in dire need of an overhaul, Congress and the White House have been unable to agree on how to pay for it. "That's where the creative thinking takes place," said Mr Ray LaHood, who served as transportation secretary under President Obama. He also worked with Ms Chao when he served in Congress and she was labour secretary.

He said given her understanding of the complexities of the private sector and the dysfunction of Washington, he was optimistic about her competence. "I'm as optimistic as I've been in a long time about the potential she brings to finally get something done on infrastructure."

Mr Ryan Zinke, Interior Secretary

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Mr Zinke, a first-term Republican representative from Montana and a member of the House subcommittee on natural resources, has voted for legislation that would weaken environmental safeguards on public lands. He has taken positions favouring coal, which suffered during the Obama administration. The League of Conservation Voters, which ranks lawmakers on their environmental record, gave Mr Zinke, 55, an extremely low lifetime score of 3 per cent.

Mr Rick Perry, Energy Secretary

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The 66-year-old adds to the list of oil drilling advocates skeptical about climate change who have been picked for senior positions in Mr Trump's Cabinet. The selections have worried environmentalists but cheered by an oil and gas industry eager for expansion. Mr Perry, who ran unsuccessfully for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination and briefly ran for president in 2016, would be responsible for US energy policy and oversee the nation's nuclear weapons program.

Mr Mick Mulvaney, Director, Office of Management and Budget (OMB)

The 49-year-old South Carolina Republican is a fiscal conservative. He was an outspoken critic of former House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, who resigned in 2015 amid opposition from fellow Republicans who were members of the House Freedom Caucus. Mr Mulvaney was first elected to Congress in 2010.

Mr Scott Pruitt, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator

Scott Pruitt at his office in Oklahoma City on July 29, 2014.

An ardent opponent of President Barack Obama's measures to stem climate change, the 48-year-old Oklahoma Attorney General has enraged environmental activists. But he fits with the president-elect's promise to cut the agency back and eliminate regulation that he says is stifling oil and gas drilling.

He became the top state prosecutor for Oklahoma, which has extensive oil reserves, in 2011, and has challenged the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) EPA multiple times since.

Ms Linda McMahon, Small Business Administrator

Linda McMahon smiles while speaking to the media in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York on Nov 30, 2016. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

The 68-year-old is a co-founder and former chief executive of the professional wrestling franchise WWE, which is based in Stamford, Connecticut. She ran unsuccessfully as a Republican for a US Senate seat in Connecticut in 2010 and 2012, and was an early supporter of Mr Trump's presidential campaign.

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