- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 27, 2003

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld fired Army Secretary Thomas White, whose tenure as civilian chief of the military's largest service was marked by tensions with his boss, a Pentagon official said yesterday.
A brief Pentagon statement late Friday announcing the resignation, which came from Mr. Rumsfeld's office, gave no reason for Mr. White's departure. He made no public comment, and Mr. Rumsfeld left early yesterday for the Persian Gulf area.
Yesterday, the official, who spoke privately with Mr. White, said Mr. Rumsfeld had asked him to resign. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the official said no single event or conflict precipitated the firing. Mr. Rumsfeld told Mr. White he wanted to steer the Army in a new direction.
Army officials said Mr. White had no public comment.
"Under the circumstances, the most dignified thing to do is to say nothing and accept Secretary Rumsfeld's decision as gracefully as possible," said Charles Krohn, a spokesman for Mr. White.
In his brief written statement Friday, Mr. Rumsfeld tersely thanked Mr. White for his "long and able service to the country." He said Mr. White's departure date had not been determined.
Mr. White's departure portends a major shake-up in Army leadership. The top uniformed officer, Gen. Eric Shinseki, is due to finish his term as Army chief of staff in June. President Bush has not nominated a successor.
Speculation that Mr. White would quit has circulated widely for many months, but there appeared to be no recent event or conflict that prompted him to do so, a senior official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
Mr. White, 59, became engaged in a public dispute with Mr. Rumsfeld last year about the defense secretary's proposal to cancel the Crusader artillery project, which Mr. White said was vital to the Army's future. Mr. Rumsfeld decided it was not suited for wars of the future and canceled the program.
That was one of several areas of tension between Army leaders and Mr. Rumsfeld, who has also questioned the service's plans to invest in the Stryker, a wheeled combat vehicle that is a prototype replacement for the tank.
The Army considered the Crusader a key to its strategy for modernizing U.S. land forces and transforming them into a lighter, more mobile force. The Crusader was a 155mm self-propelled howitzer that had undergone initial tests of its firing capabilities and was scheduled to enter service in 2008.
Mr. Rumsfeld was disturbed that the Army's Office of Legislative Affairs had sought to fight the planned cancellation by preparing talking points for members of Congress to lobby for the Crusader. When that became public, it appeared that Mr. White was in danger of losing his job, but he stayed on.
Mr. White also became embroiled in an uproar about his former role as an executive with Enron Corp., the scandal-ridden energy trading company.
In testimony before a Senate panel in July, Mr. White repeatedly said he played no part in manipulating California energy prices and knew nothing of other improprieties while he helped run an Enron subsidiary, Enron Energy Services.
At the hearing, Mr. White was questioned about trading strategies in California's electricity market detailed in December 2000 Enron memos.
Mr. White testified that he was not aware of the strategies and memos until the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission made them public in 2002. He said the ploys would have hurt his subsidiary by driving up power costs that it could not pass on to its customers.
Mr. White worked for Enron from 1990 to 2001.
Mr. White, a 1967 West Point graduate and Vietnam veteran, was trained as an armor officer. He rose to brigadier general during 23 years in the Army, retiring in 2000. He became Army secretary May 31, 2001.
The memos described several schemes that critics say took advantage of California's power crisis, including one that involved Enron Energy Services.

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