WASHINGTON, D.C.—White House aide Jim Wilkinson has been named to head public relations efforts at U.S. Central Command. The appointment was taken as a sign of heightened planning for war in Iraq. It also raised eyebrows because Wilkinson is a civilian, and military public affairs officers usually serve as spokesmen for military commands.
Wilkinson, deputy director of communications and planning at the White House, was named communications director for General Tommy Franks, who would head up any military action against Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi forces.
“This is an exciting, challenging new assignment, and I can’t wait to be a part of General Franks’ team,” said Wilkinson, who serves in the Naval Reserve and has studied Arabic. He has been a special assistant to U.S. President George W. Bush since the administration’s first days in office, coordinating communications for White House domestic and foreign policy agendas. He also headed the White House international communications team for the war against terrorism, including Coalition Information Centers at the White House, in London, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Prior to joining the White House, Wilkinson served as spokesman for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld during the presidential transition and worked in Congress from 1992 to 2000 for House Majority Leader Dick Armey. He was communications director at the National Republican Congressional Committee in 2000.