Reagan Picks White House Aide for Top Navy Job

Times Staff Writer

Moving quickly, President Reagan Tuesday named White House aide William L. Ball III to replace James H. Webb Jr., who resigned angrily Monday as secretary of the Navy in protest against budget cuts and the mothballing of ships.

Ball, now Reagan's chief congressional lobbyist, worked closely with Defense Secretary Frank C. Carlucci when Carlucci was the President's national security adviser.

He was chosen for the Navy post largely because of his reputation as a team player--in sharp contrast with the rebellious Webb, who clashed frequently with Carlucci, according to White House and congressional sources.

"He approaches the job as serving his boss, not pushing his own agenda," said Jim Whittinghill, deputy chief of staff to Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.).

'Close Relationship'

Similarly, White House Communications Director Tom Griscom said that Ball and Carlucci "have a close relationship and camaraderie that they can build on. If you take a look at Webb's resignation statement, what Carlucci needs is someone who fits with him as a part of his group."

In his resignation letter to Reagan, Webb protested the Pentagon's austere 1989 budget and said that Carlucci had overruled him in ordering the decommissioning of 16 Navy ships.

"I am unable to support him (Carlucci) personally or to defend this amended budget," Webb said.

Pentagon sources said Carlucci made it clear that he would not tolerate lobbying of Congress by Webb for restoration of budget trims.

Carlucci, who succeeded Caspar W. Weinberger as defense secretary last November, also has eased out two other high Pentagon officials with whom he had policy differences. They were Fred C. Ikle, undersecretary for policy, and Frank J. Gaffney Jr., deputy assistant secretary for nuclear forces and arms control policy.

Expect Quick Confirmation

Another factor in naming Ball to succeed Webb, sources said, is that his nomination should have smooth sailing in the Senate confirmation process. Ball is widely respected not only for his three years as an Administration lobbyist but also for the six years he served as a top aide to former Sens. Herman Talmadge (D-Ga.) and John Tower (R-Tex.).

He also once was chief clerk of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

A heavy-set, easy-going man with a pronounced South Carolina accent, Ball, 39, "is willing to listen to everybody's concerns, yet can be firm when necessary," Whittinghill said.

Ball served as a regular officer in the Navy from 1969 to 1975.

Eye on Navy Job

"He has been in the Navy reserve for some period of time, and I know this (being secretary of the Navy) is something that he has been somewhat interested in doing," Griscom said.

Ball will be replaced as special assistant to the President for legislative affairs by Alan M. Kranowitz, currently his chief deputy.

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