Defense Secretary Dick Cheney said Friday he got lost in the Pentagon basement while security officers and aides ran around outside wondering what happened to the newest member of President Bush's Cabinet.

Cheney, a former six-term Wyoming congressman and former White House chief of staff to President Ford, acknowledged at a news conference he had encountered "some difficulties" in finding his way around the Pentagon during his first week.Cheney, who had a meeting scheduled with Bush at the White House last Saturday, said he took the elevator in the defense secretary's suite down to the ground level to get into his car. But he said he stepped from the elevator without realizing he was actually in the Pentagon's basement.

"I turned around to look for a button to push to get the elevator back and there is no way, there's no button," he said.

"The fact is, of course, they don't want strangers wandering into the secretary's suite by being able to (take the elevator up from) the basement.

"I wandered around for a few minutes, worried that I was going to miss the meeting with the president, and finally found the stairs to the River Entrance," where his car was waiting.

"And, of course, people (were) running around out there (saying) `What the hell happened to the secretary?'

"But I sort of tightened my tie and walked out like I knew exactly where I was going. I arrived outside," Cheney said to laughter, "and nobody had the nerve to ask me where the hell I'd been."