Just days before the inauguration of Barack Obama, President George Bush named the White House's point person on drug supply reduction to serve as acting director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP).
With current “drug czar” John Walters set to depart ONDCP on Jan. 20 – along with the man who appointed him — Bush announced on Jan. 12 that Patrick M. Ward, currently acting deputy director for supply reduction at ONDCP, would become acting director of the agency.
Ward, a former career Air Force officer, joined ONDCP's supply-reduction team in 2005 and assumed his current job title in December 2007.
According to his biography, Ward “is responsible for reducing the supply of illicit drugs in the U.S. In this role, Mr. Ward provides executive leadership in the interagency and international environment. His office is responsible for the development of national policy and strategy, focusing and overseeing all U.S. programs and activities involved in achieving the supply reduction goals of the National Drug Control Strategy, and countering the nexus between illegal drugs and terrorism.”
Ward's temporary appointment has done little to clear up uncertainty about who Obama will name as his drug czar, nor does it quell the growing consternation in the field over the lack of a nominee for the job. Obama has named nearly every other member of his Cabinet, as well as White House officials as obscure as the official photographer, but still has not offered any hint about the future direction of ONDCP.
Sources continue to tell Join Together that former Rep. Jim Ramstad (R-Minn.) and former Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townshend remain candidates for the position of ONDCP director, but also note that the Obama transition team has been very tightlipped about the nomination process and a timeframe for choosing a candidate. The transition team officially ends its work on Inauguration Day.
Ramstad's putative candidacy has attracted the most public attention, with some drug-policy reform groups announcing their opposition while the group Wellstone Action recently publicly endorsed Ramstad for the job.