"I announce this appointment first because the Chief of Staff is central to the ability of a President and Administration to accomplish an agenda," Obama said in a prepared statement. "And no one I know is better at getting things done than Rahm Emanuel."
In a statement released by the transition office, Emanuel said he would miss representing Chicago in the House, but felt he had little choice but to accept the position offered by Obama.
"I know what a privilege it is to serve in the White House, and am humbled by the responsibility we owe the American people," Emanuel said. "I'm leaving a job I love to join your White House for one simple reason -- like the record amount of voters who cast their ballot over the last month -- I want to do everything I can to help deliver the change America needs."
The selection of Emanuel, known for his salty language and political toughness, comes as Obama appears poised to name another sharp-elbowed confidant to a highly visible job.
Robert Gibbs, a top Barack Obama aide since 2004, is in discussions to be White House press secretary. A top transition source says there has not yet been a formal offer or acceptance.
The position is considered one of the highest-profile in any administration, routinely putting the person behind the podium on television screens worldwide.
David Axelrod, Obama's top campaign adviser, is also likely to go to Washington as a senior advisor, sources said. But, like Gibbs, the deal was not quite done as of late Thursday.
After working out this morning, Obama left his South Side home about 11:30 a.m. for a national security briefing at an FBI office.
After about an hour and a quarter, Obama left the FBI office and headed downtown, where he arrived at an underground entrance of the Aon Center.
It was the second day in a row Obama headed to the building to do conduct meetings and make phone calls. He is using office space of Ariel Investments.
Obama spent part of Thursday in Chicago making calls to world leaders. Aides said his conversations were with Prime Minister Rudd of Australia, Prime Minister Harper of Canada, President Sarkozy of France, Chancellor Merkel of Germany, Prime Minister Olmert of Israel, Prime Minister Aso of Japan, President Calderon of Mexico, President Lee of South Korea and Prime Minister Brown of the United Kingdom.
On Friday, he and running mate, Sen. Joe Biden, are scheduled to meet with members of his economic advisory board on the transition. Among its members are billionaire Warren Buffett, former Commerce secretary and mayoral brother Bill Daley, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, former Fed chairman Paul Volker, former Treasury secretaries Robert Rubin and Lawrence Summers and former Labor secretary Robert Reich.
Obama is expected to meet with the media Friday for the first time since his election.
"Michelle and I look forward to meeting with President Bush and the First Lady on Monday to begin the process of a smooth, effective transition," Obama said in a statement released by his transition office. "I thank him for reaching out in the spirit of bipartisanship that will be required to meet the many challenges we face as a nation."
At the White House this morning, President Bush instructed members of his executive office to begin briefing Obama.
"In the coming weeks, we will ask administration officials to brief the Obama team on ongoing policy issues, ranging from the financial markets to the war in Iraq. I look forward to discussing those issues with the President-elect early next week," Bush said.
Other Republicans, meanwhile, were quick to criticized Emanuel's selection.
"Rahm Emanuel is a partisan insider who played a lead role in breaking Washington," Republican National Committee spokesman Alex Conant said in a statement. "The White House needs a chief of staff -- not a chief campaigner like Emanuel. Our nation will be ill-served if Obama runs the White House the way 'Rahmbo' ran the Democratic Congress."
Tribune reporter Rick Pearson contributed to this report.