Deputy defense nominee England wins praise

Navy chief from Baltimore would replace Wolfowitz

April 20, 2005|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON - For the past four years, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz's appearances before Congress have often been punctuated by sharp, partisan exchanges over Iraq policy and the Bush administration's overall handling of the campaign against terrorism.

Yesterday, something quite different happened when Wolfowitz's designated successor, Navy Secretary Gordon R. England, sat down before the Senate Armed Services Committee for his confirmation hearing.

Senators from both parties praised the West Baltimore native as a savvy business manager. They complimented his openness and ability to bridge divergent views. They fretted to him about the soaring costs of new warships and an impending round of base closings. And that four-letter word, "Iraq," was barely uttered in more than two hours of testimony.

In short, England, 67, a one-time executive vice president of General Dynamics Corp. with a knack for working with Congress, presented a strong contrast with Wolfowitz, a former college professor and ambassador who became a lightning rod for the administration's Iraq policy.

In tapping England, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is returning to the traditional model of a deputy who ensures the smooth running of the daily nuts-and-bolts operations of the Pentagon, and avoids the department's ideological battles.

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