Asa Hutchinson Resigns from Homeland Security Department

WASHINGTON (AP) - Asa Hutchinson, a top Homeland Security Department official, resigned his post Monday after being passed over twice by the White House to be secretary of the agency.

Hutchinson, undersecretary in charge of border and transportation security issues, is a Republican former Arkansas congressman and federal drug policy adviser and is believed to be considering a run for Arkansas governor next year.

``With confidence in the work that has been done and in the team that is being assembled for your second administration as president, I am satisfied that I can in good conscience take leave of administration service and pursue other responsibilities,'' Hutchinson wrote to President Bush.

Hutchinson ended his letter by thanking ``the people of Arkansas who have faithfully supported me in my journey through public service.''

His resignation is effective March 1.

Earlier this month, Bush tapped federal appeals court judge Michael Chertoff as his second nominee to head the Homeland Security Department and its 180,000 employees. The president's first choice, former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, withdrew shortly after he was nominated in December, citing immigration problems with a former nanny.

Outgoing Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge plans to leave his office Feb. 1.

Hutchinson, 54, has said he was disappointed that he wasn't selected to be secretary but is excited about other options, including a possible run for Arkansas governor in 2006. In an interview published Monday in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Hutchinson didn't reveal any definite political plans.

``We'll wait and see,'' Hutchinson told the newspaper. ``I'm ruling nothing out. I'm taking the decision-making process a step at a time.''

Hutchinson served three terms in Congress, representing the state's 3rd Congressional District.

Also Monday, Bush nominated Michael P. Jackson, a former aide to White House chief of staff Andrew Card, as deputy homeland security secretary.

Jackson, who would replace outgoing Deputy Secretary James Loy, is chief operating officer of Virginia-based AECOM Technology Corp. He served as deputy transportation secretary from 2001 to 2003 and has also been on the president's Commission on Moon, Mars and Beyond. From 1992 to 1993, Jackson was chief of staff to Card, who was then serving as transportation secretary.

Jackson previously worked at Lockheed Martin Corp. as chief operating officer of its transportation services unit.