Navy secretary tapped for No. 2 Pentagon post

England, who grew up in Baltimore, is Bush's pick to replace Wolfowitz

April 01, 2005|By Tom Bowman | Tom Bowman,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON - Navy Secretary Gordon R. England, who grew up in a working-class home in West Baltimore and worked his way through the University of Maryland, was nominated by President Bush yesterday to become the No. 2 official at the Pentagon, taking over for Paul Wolfowitz, who was named yesterday to lead the World Bank.

"I am honored and humbled to have been selected by the President as his nominee for the post of deputy secretary of defense," England said in a statement.

"It has been a profound honor to serve our brave sailors and Marines and their families as secretary of the Navy."

Confirmation expected

The nomination, which was widely expected, requires Senate confirmation. England, 67, an amiable engineer and former defense industry executive, is expected to have little trouble winning support on Capitol Hill, where he is well-liked.

Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz have had tense relations with lawmakers over such issues as Iraq, the Abu Ghraib prison scandal and the adequate size of the Army.

Besides announcing England's nomination in a brief release, the White House also nominated Eric S. Edelman, who is ambassador to Turkey, to become the undersecretary of defense for policy, a job that Douglas J. Feith is vacating.

As the No. 2 official at the Pentagon, England would run the day-to-day operations of the Pentagon at a particularly busy time.

Besides the burdens of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the military is embarking on a new round of base closings in the spring as well as a once-every-four-years review of defense policies, strategy and weapons systems.

Industry experience

And unlike Wolfowitz, a longtime academic and former ambassador, England brings to the job decades in the defense industry, experience crucial to reviewing some big-ticket weapons systems, including the Air Force's F/A-22 warplane and the Army's Future Combat System.

England 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 eight months in 2003 as deputy secretary of homeland security, England returned to his post 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.

England has also emerged as the Pentagon's jack of all trades. Before Wolfowitz was nominated for the World Bank job, England was expected to become the next Air Force secretary in an effort to stabilize a service hobbled by scandals.

England even told reporters three weeks ago that he expected to be nominated for the Air Force post.

Before these appointments, he was executive vice president for General Dynamics Corp.

Earlier in his career, England served as president of Lockheed Fort Worth and president of General Dynamics Land Systems. He earned his bachelor's degree from the University of Maryland and his master's from the M.J. Neeley School of Business at Texas Christian University.

England grew up in a working-class family on Mulberry Street, off Edmondson Avenue, in West Baltimore. He attended St. Bernardine's Elementary School, and his family was a member of St. Bernardine's parish.

A return to school

In an interview with The Sun three years ago during a visit to his alma mater, Mount St. Joseph High School, England described working with his father for 45 cents an hour at Bugle Field, the Edison Highway ballpark that was torn down in 1949. His father ran concessions, and England said he sold peanuts and ice cream.

"I had to work to earn the money for my education at the Mount," England said.

During that visit, he gave a short speech to the junior class at the all-boys Roman Catholic high school, then presented the school with two large, inscribed posters.

"We should never take this country for granted," England told the students, adding that "9/11 was a wake-up call. The people have had the will to defend this country for 226 years to protect our freedoms and liberty. The latest threat is terrorism."

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