Obama presented Walmart charity head Sylvia Mathews Burwell as his nominee to lead the Office of Management and Budget, MIT physicist Ernest Moniz to run the Energy Department and Environmental Protection Agency official Gina McCarthy to lead that agency.
The three nominees, he said, "will help us tackle some of our most important challenges."
Burwell held several top economic-policy posts during President Bill Clinton's administration and brings corporate experience from running the Walmart Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's global development program.
Burwell, a Greek-American West Virginian who graduated from Harvard and Oxford universities, was picked to replace Jeffrey Zients at the OMB. Zients has been acting budget director since January 2012, when just-confirmed Treasury Secretary Jack Lew left the OMB directorship to become White House chief of staff.
"Sylvia knows her way around a budget," Obama said.
The administration's goal, he said, "is not just to make numbers add up" but to re-energize the middle class as the country's "true engine of economic growth."
Obama said Zients saved taxpayers "lots of money" when he twice served as acting OMB director and expressed confidence that Burwell is "the right person to continue Jeff's great work."
The president, speaking of his selected successor to Steven Chu as head of the Energy Department, said Moniz "knows his way around" the department because he was an energy undersecretary during the Clinton administration.
"Ernie knows that we can produce more energy and grow our economy while taking care of our air, our water and our climate," Obama said.
Obama said McCarthy was a top environmentalist in Massachusetts and Connecticut in renewable energy before being an assistant administrator in the federal agency.
McCarthy has "a reputation as straight-shooter [who] welcomes different points of view,"Obama said.
He said McCarthy and Moniz would work to do "everything that we can do to combat the threat of climate change" while creating job opportunities.
After thanking the three nominees and their families, Obama said he hoped the Senate would confirm them as soon as possible because "we've got a lot of work to do and can't afford further delay."