When Lyndon Baines Johnson decided to declare a war on poverty, he set up an ad-hoc group to create a national program. There was no agency to do this, so he appointed Sargent Shriver, head of the Peace Corps, to direct a group of officials who were assigned from relevant government agencies — Labor, Agriculture, others (I was delegated by the Justice Department) — to create a program. We were joined by experts who were volunteered by the private sector and from not-for-profits, and we all worked at Shriver’s Peace Corps premises. In several months, we proposed the legislation that created the Office of Economic Opportunity.

President Obama could do something similar, creating a special task force on jobs to design a program within months to quickly get people to work in private and government jobs. It would draw on funds released from the Defense Department budget now being frittered away dealing with Afghanistan’s problems. Perhaps retired Secretary Robert Gates would be recruited one last time to temporarily head up this task force until a final program and person to head it evolved. If not him, someone with a comparable bipartisan political background and relevant expertise could be recruited.

Everyone with any ideas for useful job creation would be recruited to volunteer to assist this working group. By year’s end, a credible start to improving the unemployment problem should have begun. The long-term objective would be to propose legislation to provide a framework to continue the emergency effort into the future.

Ronald Goldfarb is a Washington attorney and author. He served in the Kennedy Justice Department.