Rumsfeld’s Army Secretary Pick Irks Senators

Washington Times – Rumsfeld’s Army Secretary Pick Irks Senators

Senior senators are unhappy with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld’s decision to bypass an ex-Senate aide and Army veteran for the post of Army secretary and instead pick a corporate figure. The senators have backed acting-Army Secretary Les Brownlee for the prestigious post. Mr. Brownlee is a former Senate committee director, decorated Vietnam War veteran and retired colonel who has run the Army since May 2003. That month, Mr. Rumsfeld fired Army Secretary Thomas White, who, like Mr. Brownlee, is an ex-Army officer and Vietnam War hero.

Mr. Rumsfeld saw Mr. White as too close to the service’s uniform side, which has resisted the defense secretary’s style of transformation. Mr. Rumsfeld and the White House have decided to skip over Mr. Brownlee and nominate Francis J. Harvey, 60, a longtime corporate figure in the defense industry who lives in Silicon Valley.
Congressional aides said several senators are miffed at the decision, specifically mentioning Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John W. Warner, Virginia Republican, for whom Mr. Brownlee worked as staff director; and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Ted Stevens, Alaska Republican. Congressional sources said Mr. Stevens had talked to Mr. Rumsfeld before the decision was made and endorsed Mr. Brownlee for the job. Mr. Stevens felt snubbed by Mr. Rumsfeld, the sources said. “Senior members of the Senate called Rumsfeld and told him that they endorsed Les Brownlee. They are disappointed,” a congressional aide said.
Stevens spokeswoman Courtney Schikora said, “Senator Stevens has had a significant relationship with Les Brownlee and has the utmost confidence in him, and did have conversations with Secretary Rumsfeld about him and did express his positive sentiment about Les Brownlee in those conversations.”

Simply an amazing story. The Senate’s job is to confirm the appointments made by the Executive, ensuring that they are qualified. They should have no role whatsoever in the selection process. Separation of powers and all that.

The idea that Senators should be “miffed” because the Secretary of Defense wants someone other than one of their cronies as a key subordinate is baffling. Does the SecDef get to pick senior staffers for the Armed Services Committee?

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.