Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Jay Garner, who turned 65 on Tuesday, has been tapped to head the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, which will take over Iraq once U.S. military control ends and oversee an interim administration until a permanent Iraqi government is established.
In taking on the massive task, Garner might be helped by his earlier stint in postwar Iraq, when he led the operation to assist displaced Kurds following the 1991 Gulf war — a role in which he earned praise.
Since retiring in 1997, he has at times earned controversy. He joined a firm that had done millions in business with military commands Garner had headed. He has planted a story about a lawmaker who attacked a Pentagon program his former Army colleagues wanted. And he has signed a statement blaming Palestinians for Mideast violence.
OHRA will open Garner to new criticism, as he tries to manage aid deliveries and the rebuilding of a war torn country, keep order in the cities, stave off potential ethnic clashes, and find Iraqis willing and able to lead government ministries.
To that task, he'll apply a wealth of command experience.
Born in Arcadia, Fla., on April 15, 1938, Garner attended Florida State University and earned a degree in history. He later received a Masters in public administration from Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania.
His military career began with a stint at the Air Defense Artillery School, followed by postings in Germany, Texas and Alabama in the mid-sixties.
He was an advisor in Vietnam from February 1967 to March 1968, and again from March 1971 to March 1972. The following years saw him bounce from postings in Kentucky, Washington D.C. and Germany to advanced military schooling at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College and Army War College.
In August 1990, he became deputy commanding general of the Army's V Corps and the Seventh Army. It was in this capacity that he ran Operation Provide Comfort in the northern Kurdish area of Iraq in 1991.
Leaving that command in 1992, he worked in the Pentagon's master planning and operations office, then took charge of the Army's Space and Strategic Defense Command in September 1994. He was named assistant vice chief of staff of the Army in October 1996 and retired as a three-star general in August 1997.
The same year, he joined SY Technology. The firm has been awarded millions in contracts over the past decade by two U.S. army commands that Garner ran when he was at the Pentagon.
In 1999, the firm won a potential $365 million contract to provide general scientific and technical assistance to Space Command, and a $58 million bid for services to Army Force Management.
When questioned last year about some of the deals in a lawsuit, Garner said: "I do not go to my friends for business. I get business from my friends, but it's not solicited by me - it's given to us because of the quality of our company."
Garner was succeeded at his old Pentagon job by Lt. Gen. John Costello and Lt. Gen. Joseph Cosumano. Cosumano now runs the Pentagon agency.
In an e-mail to Cosumano that was disclosed during Garner's sworn testimony, the retired general wrote his longtime friend suggesting the future direction of a Pentagon program. A rival contractor testifying in the court case complained bitterly, saying Garner's suggestion "would put SY Technology in a very advantageous position to receive work."
Garner strenuously disagreed. "We have not received any work from this, we didn't ask for any work from this," he testified.
In his videotaped deposition a year ago, Garner also revealed how he planted a news story with the intention of embarrassing a Republican senator who was engaging in a bureaucratic battle with Garner's Pentagon friends. They were obstacles to a military program, called KE-ASAT, that was championed by the senator, Robert Smith of New Hampshire. KE-ASAT was designed to be an orbiting vehicle that would obliterate enemy satellites.
Garner sparked the interest of a reporter for the National Journal, a weekly magazine read by Washington policy-makers.
The story quoted Garner as saying that Smith "has exerted undue influence on the lives of general officers who tried to do what they thought best for the Army and for the nation." The story said Smith had tried to punish the generals by placing a hold on Cosumano's nomination and by trying to have Costello retired below the rank of lieutenant general. Smith lost his Senate seat in a primary in 2002.
Garner's company was bought out a year ago by L-3 Communications, a conglomerate which last month was awarded a $1.5 billion Pentagon contract on which L-3 was the only bidder. The contract, the biggest in L-3's history, is to support U.S. special operations forces in the war on terrorism.
Garner was one of more than 40 retired U.S. military leaders to sign his name to a letter amid renewed Mideast violence in 2000. The letter strongly supported Israel for exercising "remarkable restraint" and blamed the crisis on Palestinian leaders.