Senate to consider nominee for Army secretary

Longtime defense industry executive was nominated by White House last month.

The Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday morning will consider the nomination of Francis Harvey to be secretary of the Army. The White House nominated Harvey for the position on Sept. 14. Harvey, a longtime defense industry executive, has no military experience.

Harvey currently serves on the boards of three companies backed by the Carlyle Groups, a private equity firm with ties to influential Republicans, including George H.W. Bush. Prior to that, he was at Westinghouse where he filled a number of senior executive positions. Observers say the nomination is resented by many service officials and some members of Congress who wonder why the White House would consider installing a new secretary a month prior to the presidential election and in the middle of a war.

The nomination of Harvey for the Army's top position stung many serving officers who want to see Acting Secretary Les Brownlee fill the position. Brownlee, who has been acting secretary for 16 months, is a highly decorated Vietnam veteran with years of experience working in defense issues on Capitol Hill and is widely respected by members and staff of both parties.

Brownlee, by all accounts an extraordinarily hard worker, served for several years on the staff of Sen. John Warner, R-Va., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Warner has provoked the ire of some in the White House and Pentagon for his criticism of the administration's handling of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, the subject of a number of hearings this summer. Some Army officers speculate that the nomination of Harvey is payback for those hearings.

Warner could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.