ITA - Lawmakers Concerned Generals Are Silenced On End Strength Topic
Inside The Army
July 18, 2005 Pg. 1
Lawmakers Concerned Generals Are Silenced On End Strength Topic
Politics, not end strength requirements expressed by the Army’s active-duty generals, are driving the Pentagon’s position that the service’s current troop levels are adequate, according to two democratic members of the House Armed Services Committee.
“I’m deeply disappointed that a lot of what I hear in testimony and in [a] formal forum is vastly different than what I hear in private conversation with active duty officers,” Rep. Ellen Tauscher (CA) said in an e-mail to Inside the Army.
Tauscher and Rep. Jim Cooper (TN) said they are concerned that active-duty Army generals have been dissuaded by the administration from openly disagreeing on hot button topics.
Dissuaded. That's a good word.
“I have serious concerns about whether our generals are being listened to by our secretary of defense,” Cooper told ITA July 14. “Retired generals are far more outspoken than their active duty colleagues [and] it worries me to have such a large disconnect between retired generals and the active-duty generals.”
I suspect that our generals are being listened to by our SecDef. I also suspect that they don't dare tell him the truth. Truthtellers on this topic, having professional opinions contrary to the received wisdom of the SecDef, have very brief professional lives thereafter. Garbage in, garbage out.
Robert Scales -- a retired major general and former commandant of the Army War College -- said a disconnect exists because active-duty generals are required to support the commander in chief’s position.
“No active duty general, wearing a uniform, is going to say ‘I can not accomplish the mission with the forces I have available,’” Scales said during a July 13 interview. “When I was on active-duty I wouldn’t forsake that opinion. That’s not within my purview as a serving officer. That’s our ethics, that’s our values. The rules are very clear when you’re a general. You support the commander in chief or you hang your suit up and then express your opinion.”
While Scales says he supports the administration “wholeheartedly,” he has been a proponent of boosting Army and Marine Corps end strength.
While I can understand an officer's reluctance, in the zero-defect management world of the U.S. Army, to admit inability in any area whatsoever, but can't just one of them say "Sure, I can occupy the entire country of Iraq, but it's going to wear out my equipment and soldiers at an accelerated rate, and since the country won't ever actually be pacified, except periodically and locally, the constant rotations of troops will exhaust and eventually break the force, although the political tipping point domestically will probably occur prior to any actual mutinies."
Okay, that's the end of my dream sequence anyhow.
The Army “has done so much with so few. I just think that if this war is going to last decades, as everyone says it will, you can’t take a force . . . this small and fight a war lasting several decades without harming the institution,” Scales said.
To date, Congress has authorized an end strength of 512,400 Army personal. However, the House Armed Services Committee recommends increasing that figure to 532,400 soldiers in its version of the fiscal year 2006 defense authorization bill, while the Senate Armed Services Committee is recommending hiking Army end strength to 522,400.
A handful of generals on active-duty have been forthcoming about the Army’s need to boost end strength, including: Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Richard Cody; Gen. Eric Shinseki, the service’s former chief; and John Riggs, who spent nearly five years as a lieutenant general but retired in May 2004 with only two stars. Both Shinseki and Riggs stepped down shortly after publicly saying they thought the Army was stretched too thin.
During a March Senate Armed Services airland subcommittee hearing, Cody said the Army could use more than the 30,000 additional troops authorized by Congress last year (ITA, March 21, p15).
“I think the number, at the end of the day, if this is a plateau and not a spike, is going to be higher than 30,000 . . . so that we can retain the National Guard in the right rotation readiness -- not deployable, but ready to deploy . . . as well as give this nation the footprint that we need as a rotational Army,” Cody told lawmakers.
“I think it’s going to be more than 30,000. We’ll be able to come up with that number here as we go through this. I mean, I’ve seen all kinds of numbers, and I’ve been doing this for three years. I’ve seen them higher and lower. But 30,000 -- I think it’s going to be higher than 30,000 in ’06. I think we’re going to come to that realization.”
While Cody remains in the service, Cooper and Tauscher said they were concerned that active-duty generals may not be as forthcoming as he for fear of reprimand.
“There has been a . . . loyalty test to the Pentagon civilian leadership,” Tauscher said. “And if you step out of line -- we all know what happened to Gen. Shinseki, and I think that the dishonorable treatment that that honorable man got was a perfect poster child for what happens if you tell the truth as opposed to what the party line is coming out of the Pentagon.”
Shinseki stepped down in June 2003 after a reportedly stormy relationship with Rumsfeld.
In January 2004, Riggs -- then an active-duty three-star serving as the head of the Objective Force Task Force -- caused a stir when he told a Baltimore Sun reporter the Army was stretched too thin (ITA, Sept. 13, 2004, p1). Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker were entangled in a debate with some in Congress over whether the active-duty Army needed more soldiers to meet service commitments around the world. Battling lawmakers who believed a permanent increase to service end strength was necessary, Rumsfeld and Schoomaker maintained the stress on the force could be managed by a temporary surge in personnel numbers and a new force design.
But Riggs said a congressional proposal to increase Army end strength by 10,000 soldiers might not be enough.
“You probably are looking at substantially more than 10,000,” Riggs is quoted as saying in the Jan. 21 Sun article. “I have been in the Army 39 years, and I’ve never seen the Army as stretched in that 39 years as I have today.”
According to Riggs, the Inspector General was also investigating charges of poor personal conduct, relying on staff for personal services and misuse of contractor personnel, prior to the Sun interview. He said the IG found that most of the allegations were unsubstantiated, but did determine he relied on contractor personnel to prepare communications with Congress -- a function the IG called “inherently governmental” in nature and should have been assigned to his military staff.
Riggs said he received a letter of concern from then-Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. John Keane making him aware of the IG’s findings. Because the letter did not reprimand him, Riggs said he considered the issue to have been resolved.
Meanwhile, new Army leadership was evolving. In October 2003, a new Futures Center was established. Aligned under the four-star command of Training and Doctrine Command at Ft. Monroe, VA, and assigned a two-star commander, the Futures Center began assuming the workload of Riggs’ task force.
Relinquishing his duties on March 1, the three-star submitted his request to retire and began waiting the standard 60 days for the paperwork to go through. His Washington-based task force had been dissolved; today, a small group of task force personnel remains in the area to conduct affairs on behalf of the new Futures Center.
Less than two days before the waiting period was over, Riggs said he received a phone call from Gen. George Casey, Keane’s replacement as Army vice chief of staff. Casey notified Riggs of acting Army Secretary Les Brownlee’s decision to demote him to two stars.
During a July 13 interview with ITA, Riggs said he does not regret his interview with the Sun.
“General officers have a responsibility to state learned opinions. Even if it differs from the administration’s,” Riggs said.“What’s wrong is not being able to state your opinion.”
Riggs, who filed an appeal eight months ago, is awaiting a decision by the Army on whether his third star will be reinstated.
-- Ashley Roque