O'Keefe expected to get top Navy post


WASHINGTON -- Sean O'Keefe, the Pentagon comptroller and a confidant of Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, is expected to be named secretary of the Navy today, senior Bush administration officials said yesterday.

Mr. O'Keefe, a 36-year-old former staff director for a Senate defense subcommittee, will assume control of a Navy Department struggling to rebound from a scandal involving the assault of 26 women at a convention of naval aviators last year.

The scandal and subsequent questions about two Navy investigations into the affair forced the previous Navy secretary, H. Lawrence Garrett III, to turn over the inquiry to the Pentagon's inspector general and then, on June 26, to resign.

Mr. O'Keefe's appointment is expected to be made by Mr. Cheney at a news conference at the Pentagon today.

J. Daniel Howard, the former undersecretary of the Navy, has been the acting secretary since Mr. Garrett's resignation. But Mr. Howard was seen by some lawmakers and Pentagon officials as too closely tied to the investigation into the assaults at last year's convention of the Tailhook Association, a private group of retired and active-duty naval aviators.

addition, several women had been mentioned for the job, including Barbara S. Pope, the assistant secretary of the Navy for manpower and reserve affairs, and Rep. Beverly B. Byron, a Maryland Democrat and a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee.

It was unclear last night whether Mr. O'Keefe would be named acting secretary, or be put forward as the Bush administration's nomination for secretary, which requires Senate confirmation.

In a telephone interview last night, Mr. O'Keefe declined to confirm that he would take control of the Navy, preferring to wait for Mr. Cheney's announcement.

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