WASHINGTON – Navy Secretary Gordon England — who has also been serving as the acting deputy defense secretary — gave up his Navy post Thursday, clearing the way for a new naval leader.
The move will allow Donald Winter to be sworn in as Navy secretary next week.
Congressional roadblocks have prevented Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld from filling key leadership positions in his department for months. But legal maneuvering by the White House, which formally designated acting deputy England as Rumsfeld's second in command last week, allowed England to relinquish the Navy job.
Two senators have blocked England's confirmation as deputy defense secretary, the Pentagon's second-highest position, creating a logjam in the department's hierarchy.
But senators indicated last month that Bush will bypass the Senate and install England as deputy secretary within the next few months using what is known as a recess appointment. Last week Bush issued an order outlining a new Defense Department line of succession, if something happens to the secretary. He also ordered the acting defense deputy to be Rumsfeld's immediate successor.
Meanwhile, Winter, the former corporate vice president of Northrop Grumman Mission Systems, has been in an unusual limbo. He was confirmed as Navy secretary by the Senate last month, but not sworn in.
Now that England has stepped down, that ceremony will take place next Tuesday.
Sen. John Warner, R-Va., who has urged Bush to make recess appointments to fill wartime vacancies at the Pentagon, assured the Senate that this was a unique situation, and would not set a precedent for other similar shuffles.