Rummy Reunion

Article excerpt

Byline: Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Rummy reunion

Both current and former loyalists of former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld showed up to honor the man at his Pentagon send-off last week.

At a reception afterward in the Pentagon's portrait corridor, the mood was surprisingly upbeat for a crowd that saw its leader resign over the Iraq war, in which Mr. Rumsfeld and his aides misjudged the enemy.

Reception-goers said history will vindicate the decision to oust Saddam Hussein as a way to ignite a democratic movement in the Middle East. They think history will also look kindly on Mr. Rumsfeld's transformation policies and his aggressive global approach to confronting al Qaeda.

One remarked that it was a good time for Mr. Rumsfeld to leave. The Democrats take over Congress in January and would have subjected Mr. Rumsfeld to hours of inquisition and repeated requests for documents.

Among the Rumsfeld alumni was Douglas Feith, the former undersecretary of defense for policy. Mr. Feith, now teaching at Georgetown, is finishing a book on how the war on terror was planned.

Paul Wolfowitz, now head of the World Bank after serving as deputy defense secretary, also was there, chatting with federal appeals court Judge Laurence Silberman. Mr. Rumsfeld and Judge Silberman go back to the Richard Nixon administration and have stayed close friends.

Pentagon officials said new Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has asked political appointees to stay on the payroll. With only two years left to try to turn Iraq into a win, Mr. Gates does not want to spend time worrying about confirming a whole new team of assistant and service secretaries.

Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England has agreed to stay.

We noted in this column nearly six years ago that, as the Pentagon welcomed a new Defense Secretary Rumsfeld on the parade ground, a red-tailed hawk hovered overhead for more than 30 minutes. Mr. Rumsfeld, indeed, proved to be a hawk in the war on terror.

At Friday's farewell ceremony, as honor guards positioned themselves and attendees waited for Mr. Rumsfeld to emerge from the Pentagon, a bald eagle, the symbol of American freedom, flew at a low level right past the parade grounds as if on cue.

Budget mess

Defense officials say one person they hope will not be kept on by new Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates is the current undersecretary of defense, comptroller Tina W. Jonas.

Officials say Mrs. Jonas' brusque leadership style has led to multiple resignations of senior budget officials who refuse to work for her. One career bureaucrat complained that he resented being called incompetent by Mrs. Jonas, something he never heard in his several decades in government working on defense budgets.

Among the depleted ranks of the Pentagon comptroller's office are about 15 senior executive service (SES) budgeteers who have left over the past several years, we are told.

Mrs. Jonas, meanwhile, has been quietly lobbying friends on Capitol Hill, hoping that members of Congress will put in a good word for her with Mr. Gates and that he will keep her on.

Mr. Gates said during his nomination hearing Dec. 6 he learned the hard way at the CIA to avoid upsetting career bureaucrats. The comment was a signal that he intends to give bureaucrats more authority than

they currently have under the approximately 200 political appointees at the Pentagon. "When you treat the professionals in an organization who .. perform the mission of the organization with respect, and you listen to them and you pay attention to them, I think that everybody is better served," he said. "They were there before you got there, they'll be there after you leave, and if you don't make them a part of the solution, they will become a part of the problem. …