WASHINGTON – President Bush’s chief terrorism adviser announced Monday morning that she is stepping down, becoming the latest in a series of high-level exits from the White House as the Bush presidency heads toward its final year.
Frances Fragos Townsend, the president’s homeland security and counterterrorism adviser, managed the White House response to all manner of natural disasters and extremist threats over the past 4 1/2 years.
“We are safer today because of her leadership,” Bush said in a statement.
Townsend has been a key player in Bush’s circle, earning the president’s trust despite initial suspicion among Republicans because of her background in the Clinton Justice Department.
She helped oversee the U.S. response to the London terrorist bombings, the recent California wildfires and the upgrade of air transportation security procedures. She also oversaw a broad reorganization of the government’s intelligence apparatus and directed the first White House review of its anti-terrorism campaign since the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
The White House gave no reason for Townsend’s departure, but she has followed many other prominent Bush aides out the door, including deputy chief of staff Karl Rove, counselor Dan Bartlett, political director Sara M. Taylor and counsel Harriet E. Miers.
White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said no replacement for Townsend has been named but added that the White House would like to appoint someone “relatively soon” – ideally before Townsend steps down, so there could be some overlap. Townsend plans to leave “just a little bit after the first of the year,” Perino said.