Defense-Doomsday Succession

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The Bush administration is giving higher priority to top civilian jobs in the Pentagon's line of succession.

In the event of a national catastrophe that wipes out the top bosses, three undersecretaries would move up in the so-called doomsday line of succession. A little-noticed executive order signed by President Bush last week moves the three military service chiefs down a notch.

The change reflects the administration's emphasis on intelligence gathering versus combat. The Pentagon says the undersecretaries have a broad knowledge of overall defense operations. But defense expert Thomas Donnelly of the American Enterprise Institute is concerned the emphasis on administration loyalists could lead to more narrow-minded decisions.