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Army General Joins White House Staff as War Coordinator

A U.S. Army general is joining the White House staff as the top war policy coordinator.   VOA's Paula Wolfson reports the choice of Lieutenant General Douglas Lute followed a lengthy search for a new manager to oversee war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The White House describes General Lute's role as that of an "action officer."   But outside the executive mansion, many are already referring to him as the president's "war czar."

His job will be to make sure all government departments involved in the war effort, from the Defense Department to the Department of Agriculture, are operating in a coordinated fashion.

White House Spokesman Tony Snow says Lute will report directly to the president, and will be charged with making sure war policy is implemented efficiently.

"How many times have people been in the field where somebody says, 'Here is a problem we have, I write notes and it never gets up to the top.' Well, part of his job is to cut through that and to make sure that people in the field are getting the kind of support and resources they need to get the job done," he said.

There are indications Lute was not the first choice for the job, and that the White House originally wanted to offer the post to a retired military officer who is well known in Washington.

Reports indicate as many as five retired generals were approached and turned down the job. Some said they were at odds with parts of the president's war strategy, and would be uncomfortable serving in the post.

In General Lute, the president opted for an active duty officer with extensive managerial experience behind the scenes.  Described by many as "low-key," Lute raised objections in private during the policy review late last year that led to the current U.S. troop surge in Iraq.

When asked about the criticism, Snow said conditions on the ground in Iraq have changed, and Lute's position has evolved to reflect that change.

"And General Lute not only supports the way forward, but he also thinks we are making progress," he added.
       
The appointment comes at a time of growing public discontent with the conduct of the war, and in the midst of a battle with the Democratic Party-controlled Congress over funding.

The choice of General Lute could create another opportunity for Senate debate on the president's war strategy.

White House staff members, unlike Cabinet secretaries and other top officials in the executive branch of government, do not normally require congressional confirmation.   However, General Lute will need Senate approval to serve because he is an active-duty officer in the military.

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