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The San Diego Union-Tribune December 29, 2000, Friday Pg. A-1

Ex-defense secretary selected for second tour

Finlay Lewis; COPLEY NEWS SERVICE
Union-Tribune library researcher Michelle Gilchrist contributed to this report.


WASHINGTON -- In a surprise move, President-elect Bush said yesterday he will nominate longtime Washington insider and missile-defense advocate Donald Rumsfeld for a return engagement as secretary of defense.

Ending days of suspense over filling the top job at the Pentagon, Bush said that Rumsfeld, also a former White House chief of staff and Illinois congressman, would launch an almost immediate "bottom-to-top review of what exists today and what the military ought to look like tomorrow."

"One of Secretary Rumsfeld's first tasks will be to challenge the status quo inside the Pentagon," Bush said at a news conference.

In elevating the 68-year-old Rumsfeld over two men who had been touted as front-runners for the post, Bush praised his work as chairman of a bipartisan commission that issued a report two years ago on the ballistic missile threat facing the United States. The panel concluded that a number of unfriendly nations at the time were within five years of being capable of deploying missiles able to reach the United States.

"We are in a new national security environment," Rumsfeld said yesterday. Among the threats facing the nation, he added, is "the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction throughout the world."

Rumsfeld served under former President Gerald Ford as the nation's youngest defense chief at age 43.

In asking the Senate to confirm Rumsfeld, Bush said that he wants his nominee to serve as point man for his policies aimed at strengthening the morale of the armed forces and to develop a new military doctrine based on "mobility and swiftness."

Initial congressional reaction to Rumsfeld's selection, from both parties, was positive.

Carl Levin, D-Mich., ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, called him "a strong choice." Committee Chairman John Warner, R-Va., said the nation was "fortunate that this experienced, tested, tough-minded old hand" was returning.

But the hostile reactions from several leading advocates of arms-control negotiations indicate that Rumsfeld's views about the need to develop a national missile defense system could be controversial.

"I think Rumsfeld has expressed a greatly exaggerated view of the threat from the so-call rogue states," said Spurgeon Keeny, president of the Arms Control Association.

Keeny added that the emerging policies of the incoming Bush administration may jeopardize the 28-year-old Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty between the United States and the former Soviet Union. The pact places severe limitations on the development of defenses against incoming ballistic missiles.

Keeny and other experts in the field warned that abrogating the treaty would not only antagonize China and Russia, the main surviving state of the former Soviet Union, but also alarm some of America's NATO allies.

"We're going to wind up with more Chinese nuclear missiles aimed at American cities" if the treaty is ditched, said John Pike, a director of globalsecurity.org, a defense policy group. "I don't know what else is going to happen, but I know that is going to happen. There is no way the Chinese are going to stand by and let us disarm them while we remain armed."

Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger described Rumsfeld as an outstanding choice and praised the work of his commission.

With the exception of the still-unfilled CIA post, Rumsfeld's nomination completes Bush's national security and foreign policy team.

Bush previously has named retired Gen. Colin Powell, former head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as secretary of state, and named Condoleezza Rice, a former Stanford provost, as his national security adviser.

Former Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., reportedly was a front-runner for the Pentagon job, but his chances apparently faded after an unsuccessful interview with Bush. According to sources close to Coats, the senator asked Bush whether his views on defense issues would be subordinated to Powell's. Bush evidently emerged with doubts about Coats' leadership abilities.

Vice President-elect Dick Cheney's and Powell's prominence in the administration have raised questions about the extent of the new defense secretary's autonomy in running the department.

"General Powell's a strong figure, and Dick Cheney's no shrinking violet," Bush said yesterday. "But neither is Don Rumsfeld ... nor Condi Rice. I view the four as being able to complement each other. There's going to be disagreements. I hope there is disagreement, because I know the disagreement will be based upon solid thought."

Paul Wolfowitz, a former top Pentagon official under Cheney, was also in contention for the top Pentagon job, but questions were raised about his management capabilities.

Rumsfeld, a former Naval aviator who served in GOP administrations as ambassador to NATO and as head of an anti-poverty organization, will succeed William Cohen, a former Republican senator from Maine.

Rumsfeld served as President Ford's first White House chief of staff and hired Cheney as his assistant. Cheney then took over that job when Rumsfeld took over the Pentagon in 1975 at the end of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War.

After leaving the Pentagon, Rumsfeld served as chief executive officer, president and then chairman of G.D. Searle & Co., a global pharmaceutical concern.

Rumsfeld currently serves as a board member of Amylin Pharmaceuticals Inc., a San Diego company.

Today, Bush is expected to name Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.

He also may announce his choice to head the Veterans Administration, a post for which Anthony Principi, a Rancho Santa Fe businessman, is considered a leading candidate.

Bush told reporters that he hopes to complete his Cabinet nominations by the end of the first week of January. But he added, "Don't hold me to it."



Copyright 2000 The San Diego Union-Tribune