Bush fills Pentagon's top acquisition post

Acting Undersecretary Michael Wynne gets the job temporarily, while Kenneth Krieg is nominated to fill it permanently.

President Bush late Friday gave Michael Wynne, the acting undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, a recess appointment to fill that job, but then also nominated Pentagon official Kenneth Krieg to replace Wynne permanently.

Wynne's nomination has languished in the Senate Armed Services Committee since November 2003, along with other Pentagon civilian nominations, after Senate Armed Services member John McCain, R-Ariz., objected to their consideration. McCain did so to force the Pentagon to provide information about the Air Force's plan to lease Boeing airliners for use as refueling tankers, a deal McCain has strongly criticized.

Wynne's recess appointment came as a surprise to many on Capitol Hill who for months have anticipated Bush's nomination of Krieg, who currently heads the Pentagon's Office of Program Analysis and Evaluation and is a member of Defense Secretary Rumsfeld's inner circle.

Recess appointments enable appointees to serve until the end of the next session of Congress or until someone is confirmed by the Senate for the job. So unless the Senate allows Krieg's nomination to languish through the end of next session -- an unlikely scenario, according to one Senate aide -- Wynne will have to forfeit his new job upon Krieg's confirmation. According to one Senate aide, Krieg's effort to ensure the Boeing tanker lease negotiations were conducted in a manner consistent with government accounting practices and subject to appropriate levels of internal oversight "was one of the few positive elements of the original proposal, and his leadership in that regard is duly noted."

The moves also dispelled any confusion over the likelihood that Navy acquisition chief John Young might be named to the post. Late last year the White House floated Young's name for the job, although Armed Services Committee staff members promptly asserted that Young -- despite a distinguished career -- lacks the private sector management experience that by law the job requires. Krieg's name surfaced a short time later. Bush's decision to make the Wynne and Krieg appointments Friday were obscured by his decision to give recess appointments to all nine members of the new Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission. That step was taken to get around the opposition of Senate Rules Chairman Lott, who had put a hold on the nomination of former VA Secretary Principi to head the commission and threatened to do the same with the other eight nominees.