Jay Carney, who put aside a career in journalism to become spokesman for Vice President Joe Biden, on Thursday was named the new White House press secretary
Carney, the former Washington bureau chief for Time magazine, will replace Robert Gibbs
, who said last month that he would step down in February to become an adviser for President Obama's 2012 re-election campaign.
White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley made the announcement in an e-mail to staffers that also listed a number of internal personnel moves. Gates is expected to stay in his current role through mid-February.
"I believe these decisions will bring greater clarity to our structure and roles and will enhance coordination and collaboration among us," Daley wrote.
Carney, who met with Obama over the weekend, joined the administration as Biden's spokesman immediately after the 2008 election.
Carney's no stranger to the White House press room, having covered the presidencies of George W. Bush and Bill Clinton for Time. He's married to Claire Shipman, a correspondent for ABC News.
A senior administration official told The New York Times that the changes were made for three reasons: to fill the departures typical of a midpoint in the president's term; adjust to the changed dynamic in Congress now that Republicans have a majority in the House and more strength in the Senate; and to answer "valid criticisms" that the White House had become too insular.
Observers believe naming Carney was a needed move at a pivotal point in Obama's presidency. "We're at a period where governing is crucial and they felt they had not been as successful as the president would like," Martha Kumar, a Towson University professor who studies White House operations, told Politico. "In fact [Obama has] said that, as far as communications went . . . he wants to have people who can explain policy better, and that means a change in approach."
Among the other changes announced in Daley's memo: Nancy-Ann DeParle, who handled health care legislation for the administration, and Alyssa Mastromonaco, who heads the president's scheduling and advance operations, were named deputy chiefs of staff; and Rob Nabors, who has served in the Office of Management and Budget, will lead the White House legislative affairs office.