The Washington Redskins have hired a 24-year veteran of the U.S. Secret Service who protected four presidents to serve as their vice president of security, team officials said yesterday.

Bruce J. Bowen began working for the team last week after retiring from his position as deputy director of the Secret Service, Redskins officials said. Bowen attended Sunday's game against the Philadelphia Eagles at FedEx Field and was at Redskin Park this week.

"We always had the full intention of having a very senior, very capable security person looking over the assets of the entire organization," Redskins President Stephen Baldacci said. "Bruce happens to be the single most qualified person we were able to locate."

Bowen's top priority will be overseeing security for Redskins owner Daniel M. Snyder and the other members of the ownership group, club officials said. According to Baldacci, Bowen also will oversee security at FedEx Field, Redskin Park and the team's travel destinations when it plays road games. The Redskins also will retain a director of stadium security, Baldacci said.

When the late Jack Kent Cooke owned the franchise, team officials said, the security in the owner's box at RFK Stadium largely became the responsibility of the security personnel who worked for the high-ranking politicians and other celebrities who regularly attended the games at Cooke's invitation. Snyder has not taken the same approach to his owner's box invitations, and Redskins officials said they decided they needed to be in charge of security.

Baldacci said that Bowen was recommended to the Redskins by "mutual business acquaintances." He declined to be more specific. Other team officials said the Redskins were encouraged by the NFL and other executives throughout the league, including Cleveland Browns owner Al Lerner, to hire a security director of Bowen's caliber. The expansion Browns hired the former director of the Secret Service, Lew Merletti, as their vice president and director of stadium operations and security.

Through the Redskins, Bowen declined to be interviewed.

Bowen served in the Secret Service's White House protective division for presidents Carter, Reagan, Bush and Clinton, according to the Redskins. He was appointed deputy director of the Secret Service in November 1997. Previously, he was an assistant director in the agency's office of investigations.

He worked in the Secret Service's Boston and Miami field offices after beginning his career with the agency in 1976. He also is a veteran of the U.S. Army who served two tours of duty in Vietnam and won numerous military honors, the Redskins said.