Gen. Eric Shinseki to Lead Veterans Affairs

Army, January 2009 | Go to article overview

Gen. Eric Shinseki to Lead Veterans Affairs


President-elect Barack Obama has selected Gen. Eric K Shinseki, U.S. Army retired, to lead the Department of Vet- erans Affairs (VA). Gen. Shinseki served as Chief of Staff of the Army from 1999 to 2003 and Army Vice Chief of Staff from 1998-99. A 38-year Army veteran, he is noted for his vision of a network-centric Army and his plan to make the Army more strategically deployable.

Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee in February 2003, Gen. Shinseki publicly questioned the Bush administration's strategy of invading Iraq with a relatively small force and said several hundred thousand U.S. troops might be necessary to maintain peace following the invasion,

He retired from the service in June 2003. In November 2006, then-cornmanding general of U.S. Central Command Gen. John P. Abizaid testified before the Armed Services committee that "Gen. Shinseki was right."

Veterans and military leaders cheered the selection of Gen. Shinseki, who would replace Army Lt. Gen. (Dr.) James B. Peake as secretary of the VA, a cabinet-level appointment that must be approved by Congress. At the news conference announcing his nomination for the post, Gen. Shinseki said: "A word to my fellow veterans: If confirmed, I will work each and every day to ensure that we are serving you as well as you have served us."

Gen. Shinseki, 66, is the first four-star general of Asian- American ancestry in U.S. history and the first to lead a U.S. military service. A 1965 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, he held a variety of command and staff positions in the United States and abroad. Serving twice in Vietnam, he was awarded three Bronze Stars and two Purple Hearts. Gen. Shinseki holds a master's degree in English literature from Duke University, Durham, N.C. He graduated from the Armor Officer advanced course and attended the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., and the National War College in Washington, D.C.

Before he became Vice Chief of Staff in 1998, Gen. Shinseki was commanding general, U.S. Army Europe and Seventh Army /commander, Allied Land Forces Central Europe, Germany, with additional duty as commander, NATO Stabilization Force, Bosnia-Herzegovinia.

Gen. Shinseki would take over the VA at a particularly challenging time. One of the largest agencies in the federal government, the VA employs some 240,000 people and last year had a budget of $93.4 billion, but processes claims so slowly that many veterans currently wait six months for disability benefits. The department is also scrambling to upgrade technology before August, when legislation providing new GI benefits takes effect.

DoD Addresses Importance of IW. The Pentagon recently approved a policy directive - Number 3000.07 - that elevates irregular warfare (IW) to equal status with traditional warfare. IW encompasses counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations, guerrilla warfare, foreign internal defense and stability operations, and it can include a variety of steady-state and surge activities and operations.

The document defines irregular warfare as: "A violent struggle among state and nonstate actors for legitimacy and influence over the relevant popula tion(s). Irregular warfare favors indirect and asymmetric approaches, though it may employ the full range of military and other capacities, in order to erode an adversary's power, influence, and will."

The 12-page directive, signed by Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England, spells out the duties and responsibilities of defense personnel, from undersecretaries to combatant commanders. It represents formal acceptance, after more than a year of debate, of the changing role of the military in a world where large-scale warfare poses a diminishing threat while dangers from nonstate entities, such as terrorists, grow.

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