Heading a military service isn't quite the position of power it used
to be. In a Bush administration revision of plans for Pentagon succession in
a doomsday scenario, three of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's most loyal
advisers moved ahead of the secretaries of the Army, Navy and Air Force.
A little-noticed holiday week executive order from President Bush moved the
Pentagon's intelligence chief to the No. 3 spot in the succession hierarchy
behind Rumsfeld. The second spot would be the deputy secretary of defense, but
that position currently is vacant. The Army secretary, which long held the No.
3 spot, was dropped to sixth.
The changes, announced last week, are the second in six months and reflect
the administration's new emphasis on intelligence gathering versus combat in
21st century war fighting.
Technically, the line of succession is assigned to specific positions, rather
than the current individuals holding those jobs.
But in its current incarnation, the doomsday plan moves to near the top three
undersecretaries who are Rumsfeld loyalists and who previously worked for Vice
President Dick Cheney when he was defense secretary.
The changes were recommended, said Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman, because
the three undersecretaries have "a broad knowledge and perspective of overall
Defense Department operations." The service leaders are more focused on
training, equipping and leading a particular military service, said Whitman.
Thomas Donnelly, a defense expert with the American Enterprise Institute, said
the changes make it easier for the administration to assert political control
and could lead to more narrow-minded decisions.
"It continues to devalue the services as institutions," said Donnelly,
saying it will centralize power and shift it away from the services, where there
is generally more military expertise.
Under the new plan, Rumsfeld ally Stephen Cambone, the undersecretary for intelligence,
moved up to the third spot. Former Ambassador Eric Edelman, the policy undersecretary,
and Kenneth Krieg, the undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics,
hold the fourth and fifth positions.
The first to succeed Rumsfeld remains the deputy secretary, a position currently
vacant because the Senate has not confirmed Bush's nominee -- current Navy Secretary
Senators have already approved Donald Winter to be England's replacement as
Navy chief, and it is expected that Bush will eventually move England into the
No. 2 Pentagon job without congressional approval through a recess appointment.
The new succession order bumps the Navy secretary to near the bottom of the
line of succession -- eighth behind the deputy, the three Pentagon undersecretaries
and the Army and Air Force secretaries.
The Army secretary historically has been third in line, right behind the deputy
Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, intelligence gathering has taken
center stage. Earlier this year, Bush named former ambassador John Negroponte
as the country's first director of national intelligence, charged with overseeing
the government's 15 highly competitive spy agencies.
In spring 2003, Rumsfeld installed Cambone -- one of his closest aides -- in
the new job of intelligence undersecretary.