Obama Revises Bush Administration Succession Plan for the Pentagon

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Should Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates die unexpectedly, new succession rules are in force.

* By Thom Shanker New York Times *

It is a morbid theme, but one that no superpower can ignore. So the Obama administration has quietly reviewed, and revised, the sequence in which Pentagon civilian officials would take command should Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates die unexpectedly, say in a surprise attack.

An executive order published without fanfare this month does away with a system for Pentagon succession instituted by former President George W. Bush, which played down the service secretaries and elevated positions held at the time by trusted aides to Donald H. Rumsfeld, who as defense secretary wanted it that way.

These plans governing Pentagon succession are intended to guarantee civilian control of the military during a doomsday situation, like a nuclear strike or a terrorist attack, when the defense secretary could be taken out of action at the moment when war-fighting decisions must be made. The Bush order, issued in December 2005, continued the traditional sequence of the deputy defense secretary as next in line. But it booted the Army secretary out of the No. 3 slot in the order of succession, in favor of the under secretary of defense for intelligence.

The intelligence position was a new job, held by Stephen A. Cambone, a longtime Rumsfeld adviser who had worked with the defense secretary on many policy issues, including missiles, space, proliferation and weapons acquisition.

Senior Pentagon officials said the change was to ensure that the No. 3 in line would be someone with a wider area of expertise and experience, rather than the Army secretary, whose focus is on the ground forces.

Yet even top Rumsfeld aides acknowledged at the time that the decision had dual motivations: It was an official affirmation of their trust in Mr. Cambone’s experience and intellect — and a slap at the Army’s leadership at the time.





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