The barrel-chested Richard L. Armitage spoke second at an Asia Society meeting last year, after patiently waiting for fellow Republican Robert B. Zoellick to paint an overview of what foreign policy might be like under a President George W. Bush.

"Bob is making the philosophical points this morning," Armitage said when his turn came. "I'm the guy with the mud, the blood and the beer."

On Monday, President Bush pulled Armitage out of the muck and nominated him to be deputy secretary of state, an appointment that could mean a major cultural change at Foggy Bottom. Armitage -- a former Navy SEAL, Vietnam veteran, weightlifter and best friend of Secretary of State Colin L. Powell -- will bring his plain-spoken manner to a department specializing in nuances and deferential manners.

"Being responsible means occasionally pissing people off," Armitage said in a speech to Army officers and defense experts in Washington in November 1999. "You can't avoid it. Live with it."

It would be difficult to think of a sharper stylistic contrast with his immediate predecessor, the cerebral former journalist and Rhodes scholar Strobe Talbott. Armitage graduated from the Naval Academy in 1967 and served on a destroyer off Vietnam. While Talbott was studying at Oxford, Armitage was doing combat tours in Vietnam, from gunfire support to covert operations. He served with riverine advisory forces in the Mekong Delta similar to the one portrayed in the movie "Apocalypse Now."

Fluent in Vietnamese, Armitage left active duty in 1973 and joined the U.S. defense attache{acute}'s office in Saigon. As Saigon fell, he organized the removal of Vietnamese naval assets and personnel from the country.

In May 1975, Armitage became a Pentagon consultant and went to Tehran until November 1976. In 1978, he went to work for Sen. Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.). With the election of Ronald Reagan, Armitage joined the Pentagon and in January 1981 met Powell.

"Big, bald, brassy, built like an anvil, he looked as if he could step into the ring next Saturday at the World Federation of Wrestling," Powell later wrote in his memoirs.

Twenty years later, Armitage still seems ready to step into the ring. "I personally have no doubt that early on in the Bush administration, the president will be challenged by Saddam Hussein in one manner or another. And this may offer an opportunity to resolve the questions of WMD [weapons of mass destruction] capability in Iraq," Armitage said in a Council on Foreign Relations session last year.

In an interview last year, Armitage said he favored ending Hussein's rule: "In 1990, we were working under U.N. resolutions concerning the eviction of Saddam from Kuwait. In the intervening decade, the behavior of Saddam has not improved and many people have come to the view that perhaps eviction is in order."

Initially after the election, Armitage was expected to get the No. 2 job at Defense. But when Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld gave that post to Paul D. Wolfowitz, Powell lured Armitage to State.

The Pentagon was a more natural fit: Armitage served there from 1981 to 1989, as deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia and Pacific affairs and then as assistant secretary for international security affairs. While working as a private consultant with his own firm, Armitage Associates, he has also served on the boards of the National Defense Panel, General Dynamics Electric Systems Inc. and CACI International Inc., an information technology provider to government agencies and commercial enterprises.

But Armitage has strong views on the State Department. "The Department of State and Department of Defense are monumentally mismanaged," he said in an interview.

During the campaign, he criticized the conduct of foreign policy under President Bill Clinton: "There's a major difference between people who hope to get up every morning and work assiduously on foreign policy and people who approach foreign policy the way 6-year-olds play soccer: all going to the ball. If it's peace talks, everybody does peace talks. If it's Kosovo, they all do Kosovo."

While former vice president Al Gore often spoke of a "new agenda" for national security, linked to issues such as the environment and disease, Armitage is an old agenda guy. "Our priorities would be first the well-being and security of our nation and our allies and our friends," he said in a public talk last year. "It is the height of insincerity to suggest that AIDS is at the top of our national security list."

Armitage has his own ideas about bipartisanship, too. In an interview with the U.S. Information Agency last year, he said: "The last truly bipartisan vote in the U.S. Congress that I remember on a foreign policy issue was the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin resolution authorizing presidential action in Vietnam, which didn't turn out very well. So I don't think that we should continue to insist on bipartisanship."

Asked what Powell might make his theme as secretary of state, Armitage said, "This is Richard Armitage speaking: To be great internationally, we've got to be great domestically."

Richard L. Armitage, nominated as deputy secretary of state, will bring his plain-spoken ways to a department specializing in deferential manners.