The three military service chiefs have been dropped in the Bush administration’s doomsday line of Pentagon succession, pushed beneath three civilian undersecretaries in Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld’s inner circle.
A little-noticed holiday week executive order from President Bush moved the Pentagon’s intelligence chief to the No. 3 spot in the succession hierarchy behind Mr. Rumsfeld. The second spot would be the deputy secretary of defense, but that position currently is vacant. The Army chief, which long held the No. 3 spot, was dropped to sixth.
The changes, announced last week, are the second in six months and mirror the administration’s new emphasis on intelligence gathering versus combat in 21st-century warfighting.
Technically, the line of succession is assigned to specific positions, rather than the current individuals holding those jobs.
But in its current incarnation, the doomsday plan moves to near the top three undersecretaries who are Rumsfeld loyalists and who previously worked for Vice President Dick Cheney when he was defense secretary.
The changes were recommended, said Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman, because the three undersecretaries have “a broad knowledge and perspective of overall Defense Department operations.” The service leaders are more focused on training, equipping and leading a particular military service, said Mr. Whitman.
Thomas Donnelly, a defense analyst with the American Enterprise Institute, said the changes make it easier for the administration to assert political control.
“It continues to devalue the services as institutions,” said Mr. Donnelly, saying it will centralize power, and shift it away from the services, where there is generally more military expertise and interest.
Under the new plan, Rumsfeld ally Stephen Cambone, the undersecretary for intelligence, moved up to the third spot, while former Ambassador Eric Edelman, the policy undersecretary, and Kenneth Krieg, the undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, hold the fourth and fifth positions.
The first to succeed Mr. Rumsfeld remains the job of the deputy secretary, a position currently vacant because the Senate has not confirmed Mr. Bush’s nominee — Navy Secretary Gordon England.
Senators have already approved Donald Winter to be Mr. England’s replacement as Navy secretary, and it is expected that Mr. Bush will eventually move Mr. England into the No. 2 Pentagon job without congressional approval through what is known as a recess appointment.
The new succession order bumps the Navy secretary to near the bottom of the line of succession — eighth behind the deputy, the three Pentagon undersecretaries and the Army and Air Force secretaries.
The Army secretary historically has been third in line, right behind the deputy secretary.
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