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Source: Army secretary resigns on Rumsfeld's demand

White had opposed defense secretary on Crusader

U.S. Army Secretary Tom White resigned Friday at the request of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, a Pentagon source told CNN.
U.S. Army Secretary Tom White resigned Friday at the request of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, a Pentagon source told CNN.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld demanded U.S. Army Secretary Tom White step down Friday, a senior Pentagon official said, a move that follows two years of contention between the two.

The official said Rumsfeld called White into his office and demanded his resignation, which White provided.

In a short statement released Friday, the Pentagon said White had resigned but offered no explanation. The statement said Rumsfeld accepted the resignation and expressed appreciation to White "for his long and able service to the country, first as a career U.S. Army officer and then as secretary of the Army."

A former vice chairman of an Enron division, White came under fire early in his tenure for failing to divest himself of all of his Enron holdings. In December 2001, the Houston, Texas-based company filed one of the biggest corporate bankruptcies in U.S. history.

White said he had never done anything during his tenure as secretary that could be construed as favorable to Enron. The decision not to divest ultimately cost him millions of dollars because the company's stock continued to decline.

Last year, White locked horns with Rumsfeld over the Pentagon's decision to cancel one of the Army's pet projects, the $11 billion Crusader artillery system.

Rumsfeld killed the program, calling the Crusader a relic of the Cold War and saying the heavy gun did not fit with the direction the Army is taking to modernize. Since White took office, the Army has been transforming into a lighter, more mobile force.

The defense secretary was said to be furious about an Army lobbying campaign that attempted to save the Crusader by circulating a memo of "talking points" on Capitol Hill, arguing that killing the program would "put soldiers at risk."

Kenneth Steadman, the principal deputy in the Army's Office of Legislative Affairs, resigned in May after taking responsibility for the unauthorized distribution of the talking points.

Despite widespread speculation that White might be fired, Rumsfeld continued to support him in public, saying at a Pentagon briefing May 7, "I certainly have confidence in Secretary White."

Asked whether he would seek White's resignation, Rumsfeld replied, "No, my goodness, no."

As secretary of the Army, White's job was mainly to make sure the Army is properly equipped and ready to respond during a war. He oversees the Army's chief of staff, Gen. Eric Shinseki.

The Pentagon said the effective date of White's resignation has not been determined.

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