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Aides: assistant Army secretary forced out

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The assistant secretary of the Army resigned Wednesday, with congressional aides saying Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had him fired for questioning proposed budget cuts for the Army Corps of Engineers.

The Pentagon said Assistant Secretary of the Army Mike Parker resigned from his post and expressed appreciation for his contributions. But congressional aides said Rumsfeld wanted Parker fired after his testimony to Congress last week.

The White House declined comment. But a senior Bush administration official would not dispute the report that Parker, a former congressman from Mississippi, had been asked to leave.

"The administration expects its staff to support its budget," the official told CNN.

The head of the Army's civil works division, Parker was "terribly honest" in his testimony to the Senate Budget Committee, congressional aides said.

Parker said Bush's proposal to provide the Army Corps of Engineers with approximately $4 billion -- down about 10 percent -- was not the right number. The corps had requested more than $6 billion. The assistant secretary told lawmakers that the cuts would mean canceling $190 million in already contracted projects.

Sen. Kent Conrad, D-North Dakota, the committee's chairman, called the decision to let Parker go "a serious mistake."

"Assistant Secretary Parker came before the Budget Committee and answered questions put to him honestly and directly," Conrad said. "That is precisely his responsibility in our constitutional system.

"The administration will cost itself credibility with Congress if it attempts to suppress the truth from its own representatives who testify before Congress."

A senior Bush aide said that when the budget is final, you "want everybody to support it." Parker, the aide said, "doesn't appear to agree with the president's budget."




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