From NBC's Lauren Appelbaum
On his second day in Washington, President-elect Obama met with his budget team and promised no earmarks will be in the stimulus plan.
"We are going to ban all earmarks -- the process by which individual members insert pet projects without review," he explained. "We will create an economic recovery oversight board made up of key administration officials and independent advisors to identify problems early and make sure we are doing all we can to solve it."
Video: President-elect Barack Obama tells reporters that the massive economic stimulus bill he wants Congress to pass will set a "new higher standard of accountability, transparency, and oversight."
When asked to clarify if some projects could be put in after they are reviewed, Obama drew a harder line.
"We will ban all earmarks in the recovery package," he said. "And I describe earmarks as the process by which individual members insert pet projects without review. So what I'm saying is, we're not having earmarks in the recovery package, period."
The president-elect declined to discuss specific budget numbers but said his team will be evaluating programs, eliminating some and modifying others to save money.
"What we intend to do this year, next year, and all the years that I'm in office is to demonstrate our seriousness, not by gimmicks, not by punting to future administrations the tough choices, but by making some of those tough choices while I'm in office," he said.
When asked about his choice of Leon Panetta to head the CIA and Panetta's "lack of experience on intelligence matters," Obama called him "one of the finest public servants that we have" and stressed his "extraordinary management skills, great political savvy, [and] impeccable record of integrity."
"Having said all that, I have not made an announcement," Obama continued. "When we make the announcement, I think what people will see is, is that we are putting together a top-notch intelligence team that is not only going to assure that I get the best possible intelligence unvarnished, that the intelligence community is no longer geared towards telling the president what they think the president wants to hear, but instead are going to be delivering the information that the president needs to make critical decisions to keep the American people safe.
"I think what you're also going to see is a team that is committed to breaking with some of the past practices and concerns that have, I think, tarnished the image of the agencies, the intelligence agencies, as well as U.S. foreign policy."
On the violence in Gaza, Obama repeated his one president at a time line.
"When it comes to international affairs, other countries are looking to see who speaks for America," Obama said. "Right now, President George Bush, as president of the United States, speaks on behalf of the U.S. government and the American people when it comes to international affairs."
But Obama said he is being briefed daily and will comment on the situation after he is inaugurated.
"I am not backing away at all from what I said during the campaign, that I -- starting at the beginning of our administration," he said. "We are going to engage effectively and consistently in trying to resolve the conflicts that exist in the Middle East. I think it's not only right for the people in that region; most importantly, it's right for the national security of the American people and the stability that is so important to this country.
"So on Jan. 20th, you will be hearing directly from me and my opinions on this issue. Until then, my job is to monitor the situation and put together the best possible national security team so that we hit the ground running once we are responsible for national security issues."