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Crusader controversy results in career casualty

From Barbara Starr
CNN Washington

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Secretary of the Army continued to endorse the Crusader artillery project to Congress after his boss told him it would be canceled, according to a statement released Friday by the Army.

The Army's top legislative official has taken responsibility and resigned, said the Army statement, which summarizes the results of an investigation by the Army Inspector General.

The investigation of the unauthorized release of talking points to Congress on the Crusader artillery program concludes Army Secretary Tom White continued to direct his staff to respond to Congressional inquiries on the program, expressing the Army's continued support for the weapon, even after White was told there was a preliminary decision to terminate the program.

Army sources told CNN Friday that this underscores White's view that he was simply supporting the president's formal budget request to Congress, not the subsequent -- but preliminary -- decision to kill the program.

White first met with Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz on April 30 when he was informed that the Army had 30 days to develop a plan to cancel the Crusader and find other more advanced technologies on which to spend the Crusader funds.

White viewed that as a preliminary ruling and ordered his staff to continue to support the program as part of the budget already submitted to Congress. The talking points went to Congress the next day. Shortly later, it became clear that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was planning to formally terminate the Crusader program.

According to the Army statement, the resignation of Kenneth A. Steadman, principal deputy in the Army's Office of Legislative Affairs, followed his decision to accept responsibility for distributing the talking points defending the Crusader to Congress.

"The talking points contained inappropriate, inaccurate and offensive language, and did not represent the Army's views," said the Army statement.

The language identified as being offensive included statements such as: "The office of the secretary of defense is looking for a quickkill to demonstrate their political prowess and their commitment to transformation. Killing a relatively small program, $11 billion which is on time and on budget, is much easier than killing more expensive programs with greater problems, such as the F-22 and V-22."

The Army IG investigation concluded that the talking points were distributed without the knowledge or approval of White.




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