They include U.S. President Barack Obama's choice for treasury secretary, Tim Geithner, and top economic adviser Lawrence Summers, who have pulled out of the five-day event starting Wednesday, according to White House and Treasury officials.
Geithner still faces a Senate confirmation vote, and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke — not an administration member but a top policy maker — also is not coming.
Steven Schrage, an analyst on international business at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., said that Davos — held at a posh ski resort village with a reputation for lavish parties, multimillionaire executives and celebrity sightings — would be an awkward event for the new administration.
"It would convey a very bad signal to send a large contingent to an event that has an elite aura when there are real domestic problems," he said.
"There is expected to be a backlash against the United States, our form of capitalism and the excesses of the last few years and it might not be the best venue for the administration to launch its engagement with the world as it gets its key people in place," Schrage said.
Some in Europe have blamed less-regulated U.S.-style capitalism for the crisis, which started over bonds based on shaky U.S. mortgages.
The State Department has yet to decide whom it will send, but it's unlikely to be Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. "I do expect that we will be represented in Davos," spokesman Robert Wood said.