Appointee Resigns Over Crusader Flap

A low-level official has resigned after the Army identified him as the distributor of a list of "talking points" criticizing Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's push to cancel the $11 billion Crusader artillery system.

The Army said Kenneth A. Steadman, a political appointee, improperly lobbied Congress.

His resignation was announced along with the results of an inspector general's report on who in the Army initiated contacts with members of Congress to undermine Rumsfeld.

The investigation found that Steadman, principal deputy of the Army's Office of Legislative Liaison, distributed the document to congressmen and staff that "contained inappropriate, inaccurate and offensive language and did not represent the Army's view," the Army said in a statement.

"I am personally and professionally disturbed by the preparation and distribution of these so-called talking points that I find — frankly — offensive and insulting to the Department of the Army and Department of Defense," Army Secretary Thomas White said in the statement.

"I have made clear within the Army that this action was repugnant and contrary to the interests of our troops and country."

In exonerating White on Tuesday, Rumsfeld had said that someone on White's staff was "way in the dickens out of line."

The documents were faxed to members of Congress shortly after White was informed by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz that Crusader would be canceled.

The documents reportedly included an assertion that without Crusader or an equivalent artillery system, soldiers in ground combat would be put at undue risk.

"I talked to the secretary, and he had no knowledge or awareness" of the documents, Rumsfeld said earlier this week after speculation arose that White was about to be fired for the impropriety.

Rumsfeld dismissed that speculation although White is an advocate for Crusader, having argued that Crusader is indispensable to protecting soldiers in close combat.

After Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz formally announced Wednesday that the White House would push for its cancellation, White said he would support that decision.

But Rumsfeld's problems with Crusader are far from over.

Those in Congress whose states stand to benefit from developing and manufacturing Crusader have promised to fight the Pentagon decision. The White House budget office said President Bush's advisers would recommend a veto if Congress limits "his ability to cancel this program."

The House approved $475 million for the Army to continue developing the system — a provision of a national security authorization bill approved early Friday on a 359-58 vote. In nonbinding language, it also told the Pentagon not to kill the system before producing a study on the alternatives.

Across Capitol Hill, the Senate Armed Services Committee approved the defense spending blueprint, and left in the budget for Crusader. The panel put off decisions on the Crusader until after a hearing scheduled on it next week, Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., told reporters.

Rumsfeld said cutting the program is an effort to weed out Cold War-era weapons projects in favor of more-futuristic arms technologies.

The Crusader is a 40-ton artillery cannon designed to close what the Army calls a capabilities gap between its heavy artillery and that of China and North Korea. It is not yet in production, and the first Crusader systems would not be in the field until 2008.

"Our country needs an army that is mobile, lethal and deployable across a wide range of future contingencies," Rumsfeld said Wednesday. "This decision is not about any one weapon system, but merely about a strategy of warfare, a strategy that drives the choices that we must make about how best to prepare our total forces for the future.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.