Thursday, January 25, 2007

Former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has left the Pentagon, but not the Defense Department.

On Jan. 4, Mr. Rumsfeld opened a government-provided transition office in Arlington and has seven Pentagon-paid staffers working for him, a Pentagon official said.

The Pentagon lists Mr. Rumsfeld as a “nonpaid consultant,” a status he needs in order to review secret and top-secret documents, the official said.

Mr. Rumsfeld and his aides, who include close adviser Stephen Cambone, are sifting through the thousands of pages of documents generated during his tenure.

The Pentagon official said former secretaries are entitled to a transition office to sort papers, some of which can be taken with them for a library, for archives or to write a book.

The transition office has raised some eyebrows inside the Pentagon. Some question the size of the staff, which includes two military officers and two enlisted men. They also ask why the sorting could not have been done from the time Mr. Rumsfeld resigned Nov. 8 to when he left the building Dec. 18.

The Pentagon official, who asked not to be named, said Mr. Rumsfeld served nearly six years as secretary, more than any other defense chief but one, meaning he accumulated an above-average pile of paper.

What’s more, Mr. Rumsfeld managed the bureaucracy via “snowflakes,” his typed directives on white paper that fell all over the Pentagon by the hundreds.

Mr. Rumsfeld, who resigned under pressure after Republicans lost control of Congress in an election largely decided on the stalemated Iraq war, reportedly is undecided about his long-term plans. But he thinks he has a lot to contribute in the debate over new ideas and national security. He has talked about writing a book and articles on foreign affairs, but he has made no final decision.

Mr. Rumsfeld’s two immediate predecessors handled their transitions differently.

William Cohen, President Clinton’s last defense secretary, went straight to his new consulting firm in Washington, said a top adviser, Robert Tyrer.

The Pentagon set up an office with two military personnel to sort through his papers for about six weeks.

“It was useful to have a place to make sure things were sorted correctly and all issues of classification strictly reviewed and observed,” said Mr. Tyrer, who is now president of the Cohen Group.

The unclassified documents were transferred to the University of Maine’s William S. Cohen Center, he said.

Mr. Cohen’s predecessor, William Perry, left office in January 1997 and returned immediately to his home state of California. He did not open a transition office in Washington. He began teaching at Stanford University, said Deborah Gordon, his spokeswoman.

His papers arrived in compact disc form and were deposited at the Hoover Institution on the Stanford campus, she said.

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