Tuesday, March 16, 2010
A change in succession is known to be extreme
From Washington comes word that President Barack Obama has restored the traditional order of succession at the Pentagon in the event of a catastrophe that takes the lives of or incapacitates top defense department officials. In an executive order published quietly on March 1, Obama has done away with a system set up by former President George W. Bush, which had elevated a close adviser of former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld ahead of the secretaries of the Army and Navy. The current defense secretary, Robert Gates, a holdover from the Bush administration, supported the old system, according to the New York Times. “After reviewing the issue, the secretary determined that the historical pattern of precedence made the most sense and recommended the president restore the traditional line of succession,” Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary, told the Times. The change means that the Army and Navy secretaries return to third and fourth in the line of succession, after the deputy Pentagon secretary. Bush had elevated the undersecretary of defense for intelligence, Stephen Cambone, a longtime Rumsfeld confidante, to the third position on the succession list. Top Pentagon officials said at the time that the change was to ensure that someone with a wide range of expertise, not just with a single military service, would take over if necessary. But other officials said the change was made because of a running dispute between Rumsfeld and Army leadership, the Times said. It sounds reasonable so far. But it would be a lot better than merely reasonable if Obama's decision signals that the White House was preparing to roll back the Bush administration's more serious seizures of power -- such as the evisceration of the separation of powers doctrine -- that were formerly considered unthinkable.