Jewish World Review June 17, 2003 / 17 Sivan, 5763
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld surprised and delighted both admirers and
critics with his selection of retired General Peter Schoomaker, 57, to be
the next chief of staff of the Army.
Schoomaker began his career as an armor officer. After service with the 2nd
Armored Cavalry Regiment in Germany, he joined Delta Force. Schoomaker spent
most of the rest of his career in special operations, concluding as
commander of U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) from 1997 to 2000.
"When you get a special ops guy who was armor, you get the best of both
worlds," said Maj. Donald Vandergriff, a noted military reformer. "Armor
guys understand speed. Special ops guys understand flexibility and unit
"It's a very good and gutsy move by Rumsfeld," said Michael Vickers, a
former Special Forces soldier and CIA operative. "Above all, Schoomaker has
a reputation as a good leader. Everybody I know who has ever met him has
been very impressed."
"I don't know him personally, but he has a great reputation," said retired
LtCol. Ralph Peters, a reknowned writer on military affairs and Rumsfeld
critic. "Schoomaker will come in with the trust of the Army and the hope he
is not Rumsfeld's stalking horse."
Schoomaker is the first retired general to be recalled to head the Army,
though President Kennedy recalled Gen. Maxwell Taylor, a former chief of
staff of the Army, to be Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1961.
Rumsfeld selected Schoomaker after his first two choices, General John
Keane, currently the Army's vice chief of staff, and Gen. Tommy Franks,
commander of U.S. Central Command, turned the job down.
LtCol. Rich Liebert, a tactics instructor at the Army Command & Staff
College at Fort Leavenworth, thinks the fact that Rumsfeld had to reach into
the retired ranks to find a chief of staff is a damning commentary on Army
leadership: "It speaks volumes about the current state of Army three and
four stars," he said.
Peters thinks it's a damning commentary on Rumsfeld: "No general wants to
preside over Rumsfeld's dismantlement of the U.S. Army," he said.
Many green suiters think Rumsfeld "hates the Army" because he cancelled the
Crusader artillery system, and because of his strained relationships with
the former chief of staff, Gen. Erik Shinseki, and with Army Secretary
Thomas White, who Rumsfeld forced out at the end of April. These critics
fear Rumsfeld plans to cut the size of the Army to pay for Air Force fighter
procurement programs. Army suspicions were not allayed when Rumsfeld chose
James Roche, the current Air Force secretary, to replace White.
The challenges facing the Army's new leaders are immense. There are only ten
active divisions, down from 18 at the end of the 1991 Gulf War. Many are
heavily engaged in peacekeeping missions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo and
Six of the ten divisions "heavy" - armor or mechanized infantry. These are
poorly suited for peacekeeping, or for chasing guerrillas through the
mountains of Afghanistan. This places enormous strain on the four light
divisions, reserve units, and special operations forces.
The Iraq war was won by the equivalent of less than three heavy divisions.
But traditional Army doctrine calls for deployment of overwhelming ground
forces backed by prolonged air and artillery bombardment. Rumsfeld was
harshly criticized by retired Generals Barry McCaffrey and Wesley Clark for
not sending more troops to Iraq.
"As the United States finds itself simultaneously engaged on multiple
battlefields against foes ranging from...irregular forces to large
conventional armies, it cannot afford the political or logistical delays
inherent in massive buildup," said Stratfor, a private intelligence service.
"Rumsfeld's plan envisions an entire Army comprised of highly mobile units
ranging in size from special operations teams to brigade combat teams,
exploiting the latest space-based and airborne sensors and communications
links and capable of autonomous action."
Rumsfeld shocked and awed the Iraqis. It remains to be seen whether he can
shock and awe the Army bureaucracy and its many friends in Congress.
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JWR contributor Jack Kelly, a former Marine and Green Beret, was a
deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan
administration. Comment by clicking here.
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© 2002, Jack Kelly