Skip to comments.Army shakeups clear path for Rumsfeld's vision
Posted on 04/28/2003 3:44:24 PM PDT by demlosers
WASHINGTON The shakeup came suddenly. Late Friday, Secretary of the Army Thomas E. White abruptly resigned without explanation after a meeting with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz.
White's departure and the coming retirements of Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric K. Shinseki and Vice Chief of Staff Gen. John Keane will clear the way for Rumsfeld to install his own handpicked Army leaders and put his stamp on the Army's force structure, doctrine and training.
Pentagon officials told Knight Ridder that Rumsfeld plans to offer the Army chief of staff job to Gen. Tommy Franks, the tall Texan who commands U.S. Central Command and led coalition forces to swift victory in Iraq. If Franks accepts the job, Rumsfeld would replace him at Central Command with Army Lt. Gen. John Abizaid, Franks' highly regarded, Arabic-speaking deputy.
The officials said Rumsfeld has not yet asked Franks if he would accept the chief of staff job.
From the day he arrived in the Pentagon, Rumsfeld has been at war with the Army's top generals veterans of combat in Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Mogadishu, Haiti, Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq, and with some of the top leadership of the other services, as well. Navy Secretary Gordon England has left to become deputy secretary of homeland security, and Air Force secretary James Roche has also had a number of bruising encounters with Rumsfeld, who Pentagon officials said has a habit of publicly ridiculing those who disagree with him.
Rumsfeld's relations with White, a retired Army brigadier general who had a second career as an executive in now-bankrupt Enron Corp., were strained last year when Rumsfeld decreed that the Army's $11 billion Crusader artillery system would be killed, and White and other Army leaders were accused of lobbying Congress to overturn their boss's decision.
Relations between Rumsfeld and the Army became even frostier in late February, when senators pressed Shinseki at a hearing to estimate how many soldiers he thought it would take to secure the peace in postwar Iraq. Shinseki reluctantly testified that he thought it might require "several hundred thousand," based on his experience as commander of peacekeeping forces in Bosnia. Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz publicly called that estimate grossly exaggerated.
When White was asked about Shinseki's estimates, he cited the general's experience in such matters. Published reports at the time said Rumsfeld wanted to fire White on the spot for supporting the Army chief of staff.
Rumsfeld and his spokeswoman, Victoria Clarke, could not be reached for comment.
Rumsfeld has made it plain that he considers the Army's senior leaders cold war dinosaurs unable to adapt to a 21st Century environment and thinks the Army is too big, too heavy and too slow to respond to rapid developments abroad.
Nearly two years ago, the defense secretary's civilian aides tried to table a plan to take two more divisions and a corps out of the Army, which already had been reduced to 480,000 soldiers by a decade of manpower cuts. Shinseki successfully argued that it would be foolish to take the Army below 400,000 men and women, even as he continued to promote transforming the Army into a lighter, more agile force.
Senior military officials said that Shinseki began remaking the Army a year before the Bush administration took office. He ordered the creation of six rapidly deployable brigades equipped with the Stryker wheeled fighting vehicle. At the time, the Stryker wasn't even on the drawing boards. The Army streamlined its acquisition process and fielded the first Strykers for testing in just over two years.
One retired Army general charged that Rumsfeld and his aides "have made the Army a second-class citizen, denigrating its chief in public and ignoring the counsel of uniformed leadership."
The general, who asked that he not be identified, said he feared that Rumsfeld, once he has appointed his own selections to Army leadership posts, will renew his attempt to take the Army down by two or possibly even four divisions, along with similar cuts in the Army National Guard.
Another retired Army general said, "I fear that we will dismantle the Army based on ideology and then, 10 years from now, lose a war against the North Koreans or someone else who can fight." He also spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Rumsfeld and his civilian aides believe that Afghanistan and Iraq are the models for all future conflicts: The Air Force and Special Operations forces can defeat the enemy with rapid action and precision munitions, leaving the Army to police and secure the ground. In this view, there's little or no need for heavy M1 Abrams tanks, heavy artillery and other forces that are hard to transport quickly.
"He would move the Army away from war fighting," one retired general said. "His is clearly a vision of transformation that ignores the lessons of history."
The Air Force and the Marine Corps, the general added, also have tried to marginalize Army leaders and persuade Rumsfeld that the Army is now a supporting service and no longer the centerpiece of land warfare.
Both active duty and retired officers also charge that Rumsfeld has imposed an unprecedented degree of civilian control over the military services' selection of flag officers, generals and admirals. Military officials said Rumsfeld has demanded that all the services send up the names of at least two or three candidates for every promotion to three- and four-star rank and all nominations to the Joint Staff. The candidates are personally interviewed by a Rumsfeld staffer and by the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Marine Gen. Peter Pace.
Secretaries of defense traditionally have had the prerogative to nominate four-star generals and admirals, but have left the selection of one-, two- and three-star officers to each service's normal selection and promotion procedures.
"This is an incredibly dangerous politicizing of the flag officers," one retired general said. "It's Rumsfeld's way or the highway, but what if he is wrong?"
White House officials privately said Rumsfeld isn't loved there, either. They cite his arrogance and propensity for saying whatever he thinks in public. But one well-placed official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Rumsfeld's poll numbers were "too high to get rid of him now." With an approval rating of 71 percent, Rumsfeld's numbers are better than President Bush's.
Retired and serving general officers, not just those in the Army, say that not since Robert S. McNamara was secretary of defense has there been so determined an effort to isolate and marginalize the military's uniformed leaders. McNamara took the United States into the quagmire that was the Vietnam War over the objection of some of his top generals.
The selection of a successor to Shinseki as Army chief of staff has been up in the air for months. Eighteen months ago, Rumsfeld's office leaked word that the Army vice chief, Shinseki's deputy, Keane, had been chosen to succeed Shinseki. It was said that Rumsfeld hoped that by making Shinseki a lame duck long before his four-year term was due to expire, he would force Shinseki to resign. Shinseki, a West Point graduate who has served 38 years on active duty and lost a foot in Vietnam, didn't budge.
Now that Shinseki's term is ending, Rumsfeld's office has leaked word that Keane would not be taking the top job.
Military officials told Knight Ridder that Rumsfeld has considered only two of the 11 serving four-star Army generals, Franks and Forces Command commander Gen. Larry Ellis, to succeed Shinseki. Lt. Gen. Richard Cody, now the Army deputy chief for operations, has been mentioned as a replacement for Keane in the vice chief's job.
If the General's busy, his wife can chair the meetings.
I can't agree with Rumsfeld here, if he wants to do this. If we ever get into a hard fight, we're gonna need those heavy divisions. We are not at that point yet were we can discard our Main Battle Tanks -- are technology is not as yet, a Star Trek advantage.
The think about the crusdar where the sam hill do cross a bridge with a 90 ton beast and 110 ammo carrier.
What if he is right?
In fact, it might be worthwhile for someone to check Janes (I don't have a copy) on the military capacities of Russia today vs. Iraq in 1991. I bet there isn't too much difference in armor capability, especially if one compares, say, "west front" Russian capability to Iraq total.
Ouch! Whatever became of that investigation?
Again, stop with this raising straw men. Read my first sentence. No one is doing away with tanks. There is tremendous sense, though, in reducing the number of tanks in the OVERALL force mix, especially if scarce resources mean that we get more TRANSPORTS for the tanks we have.
The 4th ID is the best proof yet of what I am suggesting. We didn't even need its most advanced tanks---and they never got into battle, because of air/sea-lift problems via Turkey.
BTW, the Brits have developed (you'll hate this) a plastic tank that can sustain heavy mm. direct gun hits at range. It is something like 1/3 the weight of an Abrams. Now, there is a gun issu---it needs a heavier gun---but still the potential for the armor is enormous.