With Colin Powell nudged out and Condoleezza Rice moving from the White House to become secretary of State, President Bush solidifies his foreign-policy team around the core principles of American power and mission that guided his first term.
The move signals even tighter control of the administration's hard line over foreign policy - but it also may mean relatively little change in the direction the US takes in the world, since this wing was already in control.
As one of Mr. Bush's closest confidantes, Ms. Rice leaves the helm of the White House national-security team to take over the reins of diplomacy at a time when many of the president's staunchest conservative supporters question the loyalty of the State Department bureaucracy to Bush policies. Many see Rice's move to Foggy Bottom as an effort to ride herd on foreign-policy dissidents - a task in which Rice would be aided by the anticipated rise of John Bolton, currently undersecretary for arms control and international security.
Rice's nomination as secretary of State, which was made official in a White House announcement Tuesday, means that Bush's foreign-policy inner circle will now sing from the same page. But it also means that no fresh new voices will be challenging White House thinking or offering debating points in policy discussions.
"If there is any change at all in foreign policy, it will be in the direction of the hard-line approach," says Charles Peña, director of defense policy studies at the Cato Institute in Washington. "Powell has been the counterweight to the hawkish elements, but he'll be gone, and it's very unlikely Rice will play that role."
Such unity of thinking and purpose has its good points and drawbacks, former officials and policy analysts say. For one thing, it means foreign leaders working with Rice will know they have someone who has the president's ear. With Mr. Powell, they had someone they respected, but who they knew was the odd man out in the foreign-policy team.
On the other hand, Bush will no longer have the voice in the room that says, "Wait a minute," and offers the kind of caution that can help head off mistakes and encourage humility, others say.
Still, some experts say that points of view will still vary - they just might not be so public. "I don't think everyone will ever sing from the same hymnal in any cabinet," says Danielle Pletka, a foreign-policy expert at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, and an administration insider.
If confirmed, Mr. Bolton's rise to Rice's deputy would further solidify the hard-line direction of the foreign-policy team. Bolton clashed with Powell on the approach to take with both North Korea and Iran on their nuclear programs, favoring a tougher stance when Powell advocated direct negotiations.
For those who wondered whether Bush in his second term would revert to a more traditionally Republican realism in world affairs or would forge ahead with a forceful global activism, the answer came with rapid-fire swiftness this week.
No sooner had Powell announced his resignation Monday than White House officials were whispering his replacement would be National Security Adviser Rice. As if to hammer the point home, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was telling reporters he had not even discussed his future with the president, thereby confirming he would remain on board for at least the initial period of the second term.
Yet it could be rock-the-boat time at the State Department. The same kind of upheaval currently roiling the CIA could soon hit the diplomatic apparatus, some experts say. Rice and Bolton are expected to carry out changes to "put State on the same page as the administration."
"Powell's strengths were his weaknesses," says Ms. Pletka. "His great loyalty to 'the building' and the people who worked for him made him beloved but also left him, at times, captive to the establishment ideas of the foreign-policy bureaucracy. Rice will bring a fresh approach and a philosophy first and foremost guided by the president's ideas."