WASHINGTON — Stephen J. Hadley, who President Bush picked Tuesday to be his next national security advisor, has risen to influence as the most low-key member of the powerful, hawkish group that has shaped U.S. foreign policy over the last four years.
In contrast to Condoleezza Rice -- whom Bush nominated to become secretary of State -- Hadley labored mostly behind the scenes in his role as deputy national security advisor.
Because of Hadley's strong ties to Rice and to Vice President Dick Cheney, another former boss, his selection appeared to signal that Bush was looking to further consolidate foreign policy decisions in the hands of his inner circle. Friends and analysts predicted that the 57-year-old lawyer would help the president manage those choices, rather than try to accumulate influence for himself.
"He's very thorough, he's very careful ... and I think he'll try to make the office work more efficiently," said Kenneth L. Adelman, a former official in the Reagan administration who knows Hadley well. "He isn't and wouldn't claim to be a strategist like [Henry] Kissinger."
Like others in Bush's inner circle, Hadley has demonstrated his loyalty. His most highly publicized appearance during Bush's first term came when he effectively took the blame for the president's mistaken claim in the 2003 State of the Union address that Iraq had sought to purchase uranium in Africa.
The assertion attracted controversy in July 2003, when it was disclosed that the Central Intelligence Agency had sent the White House two memos raising doubts about the uranium claim. Hadley appeared before reporters at the White House to say that he should have read the memos -- and should have kept the erroneous 16 words out of Bush's speech.
"It is now clear to me that I failed in that responsibility," he said. Immediately afterward, Bush aides stressed that Hadley retained Bush's complete confidence and would stay on the job.
On Tuesday, as he announced the selection, Bush called Hadley a "man of wisdom and good judgment" who had "earned my trust." Hadley didn't speak at the White House event.
Hadley has been modest in describing his role on the National Security Council as that of a facilitator. He has remained so carefully out of sight that some regular visitors to the West Wing don't know what he looks like.
He has been unfailingly deferential to senior officials. Earlier this year, when Hadley ushered a crowd of reporters into Rice's office to conduct a briefing, he took care not to sit in the wing chair from which Rice usually presides.
Hadley has admirers among Democratic foreign policy experts. Nancy Soderberg, who was a deputy national security advisor under President Clinton, praised Hadley in a recent interview for his skills in working out consensus among officials from different government agencies.
But Hadley's low-key manner does not mean he does not have strong conservative convictions, said James Mann, author of "Rise of the Vulcans," a book on Bush's foreign policy team.
"He's a get-along guy and, like Cheney, he's very low-key," Mann said. "But on policy, he's very hawkish."
Hadley, who worked for both Cheney and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz during President George H.W. Bush's administration, has argued for broadening the use of nuclear weapons to include deterrence against "weapons of mass destruction."
In one paper, he wrote that it was often "an unstated premise" in nuclear arms debates that such weapons may only be used for deterrence. But he added: "I am not sure this unstated premise is true."
Hadley for years has been a leading advocate for expansion of the U.S. missile defense program prized by Bush, and for abandonment of the keystone Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty of 1972. When Bush came to office in 2001, his team expected missile defense to be the preeminent national security issue.
"He has always favored missile defense, and has had a skeptical but not unreasonable view of arms control agreements," said David J. Smith, an arms control negotiator during the Reagan and first Bush administrations.
During the 2000 presidential campaign, Hadley joined the group of Bush advisors known as the Vulcans that also included Rice and Wolfowitz.
Before that, Hadley practiced international business and regulatory law at the firm of Shea & Gardner, which also included former CIA Director R. James Woolsey.
Hadley was a principal in the consulting business of Brent Scowcroft, who was national security advisor under George H.W. Bush. In part because of this association, Hadley has sometimes been seen as a moderate Republican internationalist, like Scowcroft.
But some foreign policy experts said that in recent years Hadley's views had shifted, like Bush's, toward a more assertive approach abroad.
Hadley went to Yale Law School and worked in the Nixon and Ford administrations. As an assistant defense secretary in the administration of the elder Bush, he oversaw the issues of missile defense, nuclear weapons and arms control.
Despite enjoying a successful government career, Hadley managed to preserve the anonymity he prefers.
Last month, on a return trip from Bush's Crawford, Texas, ranch, Hadley was taken aside for a special security check at the small Waco community airport. Security personnel gave him a careful inspection with a medal detector and required him to remove his shoes for examination.
Only when he boarded his flight did the airport team learn that he was the president's No. 2 security aide.
Times staff writers Edwin Chen and Maura Reynolds in Washington contributed to this report.