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[] WPO 13.11.02: Franks Hires a White House Aide,

Franks Hires a White House Aide
Wilkinson to Serve as Spokesman for Central Command Head

By Dana Milbank
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 13, 2002; Page A25

As the Bush administration prepares for a showdown with Iraq, one of the 
White House's communications specialists will become the chief spokesman 
for Gen. Tommy R. Franks and the U.S. Central Command.

James R. Wilkinson, deputy communications director for President Bush and 
frequent author of the White House's "talking points" on a variety of 
issues, will move to Tampa this weekend for an open-ended assignment with 
Centcom, the military command overseeing operations in Afghanistan, Iraq 
and 23 other countries.

Wilkinson, 32, was hired by Franks at the suggestion of Defense Secretary 
Donald H. Rumsfeld and Rumsfeld's spokeswoman, Victoria Clarke. Franks made 
the decision, a senior administration official said, in part because 
"Centcom wants somebody Rumsfeld trusts and the White House trusts."

It is unusual for a civilian with a political background to be the chief 
spokesman for a military command, but the appointment is consistent with 
the White House's desire to have the administration speak with a strong and 
unified voice.

Wilkinson is an officer in the Navy Reserves but has spent the past 10 
years in politics -- as an aide to House Majority Leader Richard K. Armey 
(R-Tex.) and as spokesman for the National Republican Congressional 
Committee during the 2000 campaign. He served as a Bush-Cheney spokesman 
during the Florida vote recount and was a spokesman for Rumsfeld during the 

At the White House, Wilkinson developed a specialty in international 
matters, overseeing the Coalition Information Center, a joint operation 
established with the British government to counter anti-Western propaganda 
during the war in Afghanistan. Wilkinson, though well-liked by many 
reporters, has demonstrated his loyalty to the president by honoring Bush's 
desire for confidentiality within the White House.

At Centcom, he will be in charge of strategic communications for Franks and 
will manage the command's public affairs and media operations. The Texas 
native is also expected to handle many of the on-camera spokesman duties. 
"I appreciate the trust General Franks is putting in me," Wilkinson said.

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