Rumsfeld forwards nominee to replace deputy Wolfowitz

Defense chief won't reveal name

Navy secretary acknowledges job talks

March 30, 2005|By Tom Bowman | Tom Bowman,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON - Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said yesterday that he has recommended a nominee to the White House to fill the post being vacated by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. And while Rumsfeld declined to reveal his choice, speculation continued to center on Navy Secretary Gordon R. England, a Baltimore native.

Asked later at the Pentagon whether he was Rumsfeld's choice, England sidestepped the question, though he acknowledged that he has discussed the deputy secretary's job with Rumsfeld.

"I don't get to make those recommendations, and that's a Secretary Rumsfeld question," England told reporters. "But I'd be pleased to serve if I was nominated."

President Bush recently tapped Wolfowitz to head the World Bank.

Rumsfeld told reporters at the Pentagon that he had also recommended a replacement for Douglas J. Feith, the undersecretary for policy, but he has not made a decision on who should be the next Air Force secretary.

Asked to reveal the names of his recommendations, Rumsfeld said: "I could, but I shan't. These are presidential appointments, not Rumsfeld appointments. And I'm kind of old-fashioned."

Rumsfeld was also uncertain when the White House would move on the nominees. "Who knows? You make your recommendations and you go on and hope and pray and prod and push and urge and cajole," he said.

A White House official declined yesterday to discuss possible nominees for the Pentagon jobs. "We don't speculate on the content or timing of personnel matters," said Erin Healy, a White House spokeswoman.

Loren Thompson, a defense analyst with the Lexington Institute, a Virginia-based think tank, said a half-dozen names have been under consideration for Wolfowitz's job. Officials have said those in the mix are Lewis "Scooter" Libby, a top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney; and Stephen Cambone, the Pentagon's undersecretary for intelligence.

"England really is the most attractive candidate for the deputy's job because he has all the relevant qualifications and would face no confirmation challenges," Thompson said. "He's well-liked on Capitol Hill."

England, who has become the "go-to" official for a variety of defense-related jobs, is the only one of the three service secretaries who came in at the start of Bush's first term and remains. Army Secretary Thomas E. White was fired by Rumsfeld in 2003 over policy differences, and Air Force Secretary James G. Roche left under fire in January over a contracting scandal with Boeing.

After an eight-month stint in 2003 as deputy secretary of homeland security, England returned as Navy secretary. Last year, Rumsfeld asked him to oversee an annual review of each enemy combatant held by the Defense Department at the Navy's base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Just last month, England said he expected to be nominated as Air Force secretary to help stabilize a service troubled by scandal and internal problems. "I haven't been nominated for it, but it is pending," he told reporters after an appearance before a congressional committee. "I expect it will happen."

Pentagon observers noted with interest yesterday that Rumsfeld said he has yet to come up with a nominee for Air Force secretary, even more evidence that England is headed to Wolfowitz's office.

Sun staff writer Julie Hirschfeld Davis contributed to this article.

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