Bush sends spokesman to Pentagon command

WASHINGTON - If troop deployment is an indication of approaching war, then Jim Wilkinson should be giving Saddam Hussein reason to worry as President Bush dispatches the top spokesmen to head up communications at the Pentagon's US Central Command in Florida.

His new boss will be General Tommy Franks, the force behind the conflict in Afghanistan and, presumably, the leader in any future invasion of Iraq.

The primary purpose of his deployment, according to various reports, is to better coordinate communication between Central Command, the White House, and the State Department. Wilkinson, 32, is considered a specialist in both inter- national communications and long-term strategy.

A member of the Bush team since early 2001, Wilkinson recently returned from Morocco, where he was sharpening his Arabic language skills. Since late last year, he had been intimately involved in the Coalition Information Center, the rapid-response network forged between the US and England preceding the invasion of Afghanistan.

Wilkinson is no stranger to the ways of the Pentagon. He served as the spokesman for now-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld during the Presidential transition.

Prior to his work with the Bush administration, Wilkinson spent eight years on the staff of now-retiring Representative Dick Armey (R-TX), serving as his political director and press secretary.

Franks figures prominently in the administration's plans for Iraq. In addition to being the presumed leader of any invasion, last month he was named as a likely candidate to remain in the country following Saddam's overthrow to oversee Iraq's reconstruction, a role likened to General Douglas MacArthur's in Japan after World War II.

Wilkinson is a civilian, though he spent five years as a lieutenant in the Navy Reserves.

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