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Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville, FL) June 20, 2003

Fowler chosen to lead Defense Policy Board
Her committee will advise Rumsfeld

By Charlie Patton

Tillie Fowler, who represented Jacksonville in Congress for eight years, is the new chairwoman of the Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee that advises Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on strategic planning issues.

Fowler, who was already a member of the board, assumes the leadership position formerly held by Richard Perle, an outspoken hawk on military matters who has been one of the leading exponents of the war in Iraq. Perle resigned at the end of March amid controversy over some of his business dealings but remains a member of the board.

With another wave of military base closings scheduled for 2005, the appointment could give Fowler extra influence on that issue.

'Tillie has been a strong advocate for our military, as well as a leading voice for the people of Jacksonville,' said U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat.

U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw, who replaced Fowler as representative from Florida's 4th Congressional District after she chose not to run in 2000, hailed the appointment as a demonstration of the influence and expertise Fowler acquired while serving on the House Armed Services Committee.

'This speaks awfully highly of her,' said Crenshaw, who, like Fowler, is a Republican. 'I think Tillie has a great background for this as a former member of the Armed Services Committee.'

Crenshaw called Rumsfeld 'a strong secretary of defense' who is 'the kind of guy who is willing to listen to the advice of others.'

But a couple of Pentagon watchers questioned whether Fowler will wield the same kind of influence as Perle.

Ed Peck, a retired ambassador who is president of Foreign Services International, a consulting firm that works with governments, businesses and educational institutions across the world, said, 'I don't think Mr. Rumsfeld, who is a force of nature, takes a lot of advice.'

Peck, who is a consultant on the Middle East for NBC and MSNBC, added, 'I think Richard Perle had influence because he is Richard Perle, not because he was chairman of the Defense Policy Board.'

John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org, said the Defense Policy Board 'was a heck of a lot more important under Richard Perle than it will be under Tillie Fowler.'

GlobalSecurity.org is a military think tank focused on innovative approaches to the emerging security challenges of the new millennium.

Perle, a former assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration, sent a letter of resignation to Rumsfeld in late March, in which he denied any wrongdoing but said he was stepping down as chairman of the Defense Policy Board in order to defuse controversy surrounding some of his business dealings. PERLE'S TIES

He had been offered $ 750,000 to help Global Crossing, a telecommunications firm involved in bankruptcy proceedings, get government permission to sell to Asian investors. The Pentagon and FBI had opposed the sale because some of the investors had links to Communist China.

The Defense Policy board has 30 members including such former government officials as Harold Brown, secretary of defense under President Carter; Tom Foley, House speaker from 1989 to 1994; Newt Gingrich, House speaker from 1995 to 1999; former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger; former Vice President Dan Quayle; James Schlesinger, who served various presidents as director of the CIA, secretary of defense and secretary of energy; former Secretary of State George Schultz; and James Woolsey, a former CIA director.

The board meets regularly to advise the secretary of defense on policy issues. The meetings are classified.

'It certainly provides an opportunity for a couple of dozen influential people to get together and shoot the breeze,' Pike said. 'But it is an advisory body, not a decision-making body . . . Perle's role as a semi-official spokesman was close to being unprecedented in the history of the Pentagon.'

The fact that Fowler is likely to be a lower-profile figure than Perle has advantages, said Marilyn McAfee, a retired career diplomat and former ambassador who is president of the World Affairs Council of Jacksonville.

CREATING AN IMAGE

Perle's 'very strong ideological take' and his business dealings, created the kind of controversy that Fowler will avoid,' she said.

'It remains for her to create a new image and role for that position,' McAfee said. 'I think that's needed right now . . . I think we are going to be extremely well-served by Tillie Fowler in that position. She's a very balanced person who will definitely make her voice heard.'

Fowler, a lawyer who is now a partner in Holland & Knight LLP in Washington, was unavailable for comment. In a statement released by Holland & Knight, she called the new appointment an opportunity to continue 'playing an active role in supporting our military and strengthening our national defense.'

Fowler also currently serves on the Chief of Naval Operations Executive Panel and the Florida Domestic Security Advisory Panel and was recently appointed by Rumsfeld to chair a seven-member panel reviewing accusations of sexual misconduct at the Air Force Academy.

Prior to running for Congress, Fowler served seven years on the Jacksonville City Council. In 1989-90, she was president of the council, becoming both the first woman and the first Republican to serve in that job.

Staff writer Charlie Patton can be reached at (904) 359-4413 or cpatton@jacksonville.com.


Copyright 2003, The Florida Times-Union