- The Washington Times - Friday, August 5, 2005

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has selected a defense industry executive and one of his own senior aides to be the next secretaries of the Navy and Air Force, according to corporate and Bush administration sources.

The sources said Donald C. Winter, who heads Northrop Grumman mission systems in Reston, is Mr. Rumsfeld’s choice for Navy secretary. Michael W. Wynne, a senior Pentagon acquisition official who is spearheading the contentious base-closing process, is his pick to be Air Force secretary.

“That’s the plan,” said a senior administration official when asked whether Mr. Winter and Mr. Wynne were the picks.

The sources said both candidates are now being scrutinized by the White House before their names are submitted to the Senate for confirmation. Mr. Winter declined to comment yesterday through a spokesman. A Pentagon spokesman said it is up to the White House to announce nominations.

In a time of war, the Pentagon has been slow to gain approval of key political appointees, partly because of a complex evaluation process inside the building, but also due to Senate opposition to some nominees.

For example, Mr. Rumsfeld’s pick to be undersecretary of policy is being held up by Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat. He has demanded reams of documents related to prewar intelligence on Iraq. Mr. Wynne, a seven-year Air Force officer, was to become undersecretary of defense for acquisition, but he was opposed by Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican. The senator was upset with the Pentagon over its handling of the since-scuttled Air Force plan to lease jet tankers from Boeing.

Now that a Pentagon inspector general report has cleared Mr. Wynne of any wrongdoing, Pentagon officials hope senators will confirm him as Air Force secretary. Mr. Wynne’s work at the Pentagon has won praise from Mr. Rumsfeld, especially on the political hot potato of proposing bases to close across the country.

Mr. Rumsfeld, who prefers people with CEO experience to run the Army, Air Force and Navy, reached inside Northrop Grumman in the first Bush term to select James G. Roche as his first Air Force secretary. He then nominated Mr. Roche to be Army secretary. But the Senate blocked him over the tanker deal, which Mr. McCain charged was bad for taxpayers and a bailout for Boeing. Mr. Roche then resigned in January.

Mr. Wynne would be Mr. Roche’s replacement.

Mr. Rumsfeld is again tapping a Northrop Grumman executive in choosing Mr. Winter, who heads the 15,000-employee division that integrates systems for missiles and for command, control and intelligence programs.

Industry sources describe him as a good businessman and technocrat. Mr. Rumsfeld interviewed a number a candidates before settling on Mr. Winter. He would replace Navy Secretary Gordon England, who is awaiting Senate confirmation as deputy defense secretary.

Mr. Winter previously served in the Defense Department in the early 1980s as a program manager at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).