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Rumsfeld, Army chief said on 'collision course'

Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, left, accompanied by Army Secretary White in this 2001 file photo.
Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, left, accompanied by Army Secretary White in this 2001 file photo.  

From Barbara Starr
CNN Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Army Secretary Tom White are on a "collision course" over Rumsfeld's decision to cancel the Army's plans to build its proposed $11 billion Crusader artillery system, according to a top aide to White.

But the aide said that as of late Monday White told him he has no plans to resign.

That could change. The Army inspector general is expected Tuesday morning to deliver a report on the circumstances under which the Army last week sent a paper of "talking points" to Capitol Hill defending the need to keep the Crusader program alive.

The talking points were delivered within hours of a meeting in which Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told White to come up with a plan in 30 days to cancel the Crusader and put the money saved into advanced technology programs.

Army officials said privately the timing was just a coincidence and insisted the Army's Office of Legislative Affairs was simply responding to requests for information from Congress.

But Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz were both furious, believing White had operated behind their backs or was incapable of running his department, or at least of maintaining control over his congressional liaison operation.

Under Rumsfeld's plans to "transform" the military with more lethal, more mobile and lighter weapons, the Cold War-era Crusader has been highly vulnerable to a budget cut.

It has significant support, however, from Republican lawmakers determined to keep White from either being fired or resigning.

There is no immediate indication White will be fired. But Rumsfeld aides say the situation, combined with the political baggage White is carrying from having worked at Enron where he headed Enron Energy Services, a subsidiary, may be too much for Rumsfeld.

White also is under investigation by the Defense Department's inspector general for his handling of personal business matters on trips involving military planes.




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