WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has chosen replacements for the No. 2 and No. 3 civilian posts in the Pentagon, but said he was awaiting action in the White House and on Capitol Hill to help the Pentagon cope with a growing list of top job vacancies.
Rumsfeld said Tuesday he had recommended successors to Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, who is leaving soon to head the World Bank, and Undersecretary for Policy Douglas J. Feith.
Rumsfeld also is said to be actively seeking a replacement for Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Richard B. Myers, who is due to retire Sept. 30. And five of the top six civilian posts in the Air Force, as well as the job of secretary of the Navy, are waiting to be filled.
Among the 47 Pentagon appointments requiring presidential nomination and Senate confirmation, Rumsfeld said, as many as one-fourth have been vacant in recent years because of delays in approval. Even Lawrence DiRita, the Pentagon's acting press secretary, is due to be replaced after he withdrew his name from consideration by the Senate late last year.
The delays occur at all levels, attributable to screening by the FBI and vetting by the White House as well as political turmoil in Congress, Rumsfeld said at a news conference Tuesday.
Rumsfeld would not name his choices for the posts, deferring to President Bush, who must make the nominations. But the range of open positions offers Rumsfeld the chance to continue his transformation of the Pentagon's top leadership. Rumsfeld has canceled other meetings recently to devote more attention to personnel issues, spending hours each week in high-level conferences discussing nominees, Defense officials said.
Navy Secretary Gordon R. England is likely to replace Wolfowitz as the second-ranking civilian official, senior Defense officials said on condition of anonymity. England, considered Rumsfeld's "go-to guy," left the Navy in 2003 for the Homeland Security Department. Rumsfeld brought England back to the Pentagon later that year. While embroiled last year in the prison abuse scandal, Rumsfeld gave England the job of overseeing reviews of detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
With 30 years' experience in defense and technology industries, including four years as executive vice president of defense contractor General Dynamics Corp., England has the managerial skills Rumsfeld valued in Wolfowitz, who was given much of the job of running the Pentagon on a day-to-day basis, Defense officials said.
England was considered Rumsfeld's top choice for Air Force secretary until Wolfowitz resigned the No. 2 post to pursue the job of World Bank president.
England acknowledged Tuesday that he had been interviewed for the job, but declined to say whether Rumsfeld had recommended him. "But I'd be pleased to serve if I was nominated," England told reporters at the Pentagon.
Rumsfeld declined to say whom he had recommended to replace Feith in the No. 3 Pentagon spot. Speculation has centered on the departing U.S. ambassador to Turkey, Eric S. Edelman, as the top choice. Edelman announced his resignation from the Foreign Service on March 18, calling it a personal decision.
Edelman previously served as national security advisor to Vice President Dick Cheney and as ambassador to Finland. He also served as a diplomat in Prague and Moscow.
The Pentagon's top uniformed position, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will be vacant once Myers retires. Rumsfeld's former executive assistant, Adm. Edmund P. Giambastiani Jr., head of Joint Forces Command, is among two leading contenders for the post. The second is Myers' vice chairman, Marine Gen. Peter Pace, according to senior Defense officials familiar with Rumsfeld's thinking.
One senior Defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there had been consideration given to installing Giambastiani as the vice chairman under Pace. But under military rules, Pace could only serve two years as chairman because of his tenure as vice chairman, unless the White House invoked a wartime exception.
Rumsfeld has faced demands for his resignation over the Iraq war and the prison abuse scandal, but now plans to remain in his job, the senior Defense officials said. Some of his past personnel moves have proved controversial.
In an unusual move in 2003, Rumsfeld, dissatisfied with the Army, rankled many in the nation's oldest armed service by passing over every general to pull Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker out of retirement to serve as chief of staff of the Army.
A noted failure for Rumsfeld was his novel effort to move Air Force Secretary James G. Roche into the same job in the Army. Roche eventually withdrew his name for the post after Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) opposed action on the nomination following a contracting controversy that resulted in the dismissal of an Air Force official who sought to steer an air refueling contract to Boeing in exchange for a job with the aircraft maker.
The appointment process has often irked the blunt-spoken Rumsfeld, who said confirmation delays of as long as 18 months threatened the nation's civilian control of the military.
"The process today is not working well," Rumsfeld said.