WASHINGTON (AP) – Air Force Secretary James Roche resigned Tuesday and the Senate confirmed defense industry executive Francis J. Harvey as secretary of the Army, the service’s top civilian post.

The roll call vote on Harvey was 85 to 12.

Roche, who was caught up in a series of controversies and conflicts with some members of Congress over Air Force contracting decisions, was widely expected to leave before President Bush began a second term.

In a brief statement, the Pentagon said Roche had informed Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld in early October “of his intention to complete his service at the end of the first Bush administration.” There was no immediate word on likely successors. The Pentagon said Roche plans to leave Jan. 20, 2005 or sooner.

in the unlikely event that the Senate confirms a successor before then.

Separately, the White House withdrew the nomination of Lawrence Di Rita to be assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, to replace Victoria Clarke, who resigned for personal reasons in June 2003.

Di Rita’s nomination was submitted to the Senate on Nov. 21, 2003, but was not acted on because of a dispute between Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and the Pentagon over an Air Force leasing deal with Boeing Co.

Pending Senate action on his nomination, Di Rita for the past year has performed the duties of chief spokesman for the Pentagon. He is one of Rumsfeld’s closest advisers, and it was unclear Tuesday whether he intended to remain at the Pentagon during a second Bush administration.

Di Rita, traveling with Rumsfeld in Ecuador on Tuesday, told reporters he wasn’t leaving immediately and had no specific plans. He suggested he withdrew his nomination because did not intend to hold the position over the long term.

Harvey, 59, replaces Thomas White, who was fired by Rumsfeld on May 9, 2003, after a series of disputes over the scope and pace of the Army’s force modernization. Since then the Army’s No. 2 civilian official, Les Brownlee, has served as the acting Army secretary.

The White House originally nominated James Roche, the Air Force secretary, to replace White, but his nomination was withdrawn last spring after it languished in the Senate for months. Roche has remained as Air Force secretary, although it is widely expected he will not remain for a second term.

Harvey was nominated in September and his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee was held in October, but a full Senate vote was put off until after the Nov. 2 elections.

During a floor debate on the nomination Tuesday, both Democrats and Republicans praised Brownlee’s stewardship during a tumultuous period for the Army, which is stretched thin by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Brownlee served as the stand-in secretary for more than 550 days – longer than anyone in the history of the Army.

Brownlee, who had a 22-year career in the Army and retired at the rank of colonel in 1984, said in an Associated Press interview last week that Rumsfeld had told him he preferred to have a businessman as Army secretary. Brownlee also spent 18 years on Capitol Hill as a Senate staffer.

Harvey was lauded by his Republican backers for his credentials in the defense industry.

“I’m confident he has the right skills and experience,” said Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo.

Harvey is vice chairman of Duratek Inc., a Maryland-based company that specializes in treating radioactive, hazardous and other wastes. Previously, he worked for Westinghouse Electric Corp. for nearly three decades and was president of Westinghouse’s defense and electronics systems group.

Harvey earned a doctorate in metallurgy and material sciences from the University of Pennsylvania and a bachelor of science at the University of Notre Dame in metallurgy engineering and material science.

AP-ES-11-16-04 1902EST

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