Inman itching to get down to business: Pentagon officials welcome the new US Secretary of Defense as one of their own

THE carefully planned replacement of Les Aspin by Admiral Bobby Ray Inman as US Secretary of Defense is proving a political success for President Bill Clinton. Unlike many previous Clinton appointees Admiral Inman, once deputy head of the CIA, will face little opposition in Congress and is being welcomed by the Pentagon, where Mr Aspin was deeply unpopular.

It is becoming clear that Mr Clinton has been planning for at least a month to get rid of his Defense Secretary but Mr Aspin only realised he was going to lose his job on Tuesday. Mr Clinton's priority was evidently to appoint somebody who could get on with the military.

In appointing Admiral Inman, whose entire career in Washington has been spent in intelligence, Mr Clinton chose a man famous for his ability to cultivate Congress and the media. He also pleased the armed forces by appointing only the second former military officer in history to be Defense Secretary.

Admiral Inman has served in every branch of intelligence - naval, military, National Security Agency and CIA - under both Democrats and Republicans. In the outpourings of praise for his capabilities yesterday the only sour note was the recollection that William Casey, under whom Admiral Inman served at the CIA, had once called him 'brilliant, brittle, a golden boy worried about his own image'.

It was after differences with Mr Casey in 1982 that Admiral Inman resigned from government and entered private business. After Mr Clinton announced his appointment on Thursday, Admiral Inman underlined that over the last 10 years 'I've learned a lot about how business works'. He said he hoped to bring the best business practices to the Pentagon.

His promise to introduce business efficiency is bizarre, since Admiral Inman's own business career has been less than successful. Not only did he have a close relationship with James Guerin, the US arms dealer now serving 15 years in jail, but he was on the proxy board of Mr Guerin's International Signal and Control. The sale of ISC, its value grossly inflated by fraud, to Ferranti International for dollars 670m in 1987 struck a crippling blow to the British defence company.

Admiral Inman should have found it easy to turn his immense network of political and military contacts to his business advantage. Yet Tracor Inc, a defence contractor with which he was associated, filed for bankruptcy in 1991. In 1989, when Admiral Inman resigned from Westmark Systems, which had taken Tracor private, he said, according to the Wall Street Journal yesterday, that 'everybody understood' when he took the job that he knew nothing about finance.

Nevertheless, Admiral Inman was chairman of the audit committee of a mail-order computer company called Dell Computer which became mired in a scandal over currency speculation and was investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission. He resigned from Dell on being nominated as Secretary of Defense.

It is a measure of his success as a bureaucrat in Washington that Admiral Inman's business career is unlikely to derail his confirmation by the Senate. Although his intelligence and organisational talent is universally praised, nobody, possibly not even Mr Clinton, knows what he is going to do at the Pentagon. Admiral Inman himself says he hopes to ensure that the American people get 'a dollar value for a dollar spent in defence'.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
food + drink
Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
News
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
people
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager / Section Manager - Airport Security

£40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a critical role within the secur...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45-55k

£20000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The company is an established, ...

Recruitment Genius: E-Commerce Manager - Fashion Accessories

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Senior / Assistant Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Exciting new position available at an independ...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn