© 2001 MilitaryCorruption.com
If Eric Shinseki was CEO of a Fortune 500 company and had the record of repeated failure that he has accumulated as Army Chief of Staff, he would have been fired a long time ago. But Bill Clinton's "politically-correct" choice to lead the U.S. Army into the new century continues in power. However, with the Senate giving final approval to Thomas White as the next Army Secretary, Shinseki may finally be shown the door.
It won't be a moment too soon for many in the Army who have contacted MilitaryCorruption.com and complained of Shinseki's autocratic and incompetent reign.
First was the chief of staff's hair-brained idea to mothball the Army's tanks and switch to all-wheel vehicles. That's "good news" to any potential adversary on the battlefield with even minimal firepower.
Next came the loony advertising campaign - the "Army of One." Ever since the first drill instructor donned a Smokey Bear hat, recruits and soldiers have been trained to operate as a team. You need teamwork, to be able to depend on your buddy, especially in combat. But in the "feel good" Army of Eric Shinseki, all that is out the window. We must make the military "more appealing" and create an environment where soldiers want to become the Lone Ranger. DI's used to snarl at boot camp trainees: "Who do you think you are, an individual?" Well, now the trainees can respond, "Yes, indeed."
A STUPID DECISION
The biggest blunder of all has been the "Black Beret" fiasco. Shinseki's dictate that all Army personnel - from cooks to company clerks - don the sacred black beret, until now a symbol of excellence only available to Army Rangers who earned the right to wear it, was billed as a "morale booster." Instead, it turned into an unmitigated disaster. "The beret thing was a creation of the White House," said a now-retired senior officer, who was willing to cut the chief of staff a little slack. "Clinton was winding up his last term in office and wanted to throw a little business to some friends of his. Eric was just following orders. He never expected the uproar that resulted."
Shinseki wasn't the only one out of touch with reality. After news stories appeared about widespread opposition to the uniform change, the chief of staff's spokesman, LTC Lew Boone said with a straight face: "WE ARE NOT SERIOUSLY INVESTIGATING THAT THERE IS A MORALE PROBLEM, BECAUSE WE DON'T BELIEVE THERE IS ONE."
THE ARROGANCE OF POWER
When Ranger associations expressed concern about the black beret policy, Shinseki declined to meet with them. His solution to addressing widespread outrage over the denigration of the black beret was to issue a gag order to the Special Operations Command, forbidding the Rangers from publicly discussing the issue. Arrogant and isolated, Shinseki refused to rethink the order or admit he may have been wrong.
When MilitaryCorruption.com the Army TIMES and other news media outlets published critical articles about the controversial beret policy, the chief of staff's spinmeisters dreamed up a compromise. The Ranger Association would say they wanted to switch to tan-colored berets, letting the rest of the Army wear the black headgear. Shinseki would grant their "request," and thus the heat would be off the general.
Even more ridiculous, the Pentagon announced troops would have to pass a "history test" before being able to wear the berets. When that stunt blew up in their faces, Shinseki's damage-control crew ditched the tests altogether.
OPPOSITION IN CONGRESS
But a storm was brewing in Congress. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman, Sen. John Warner of Virginia led the way in asking the chief of staff to hold up on implementing the order. Numerous Congressmen asked what justification Shinseki had to squander millions of defense budget dollars on a "cosmetic change" such as the color of berets, while thousands of soldiers are still on food stamps?
Rep. Roscoe Bartlett of Maryland introduced a bill prohibiting the "purchasing, issuing or wearing of berets as standard Army head gear - except for certain units like Rangers, Special Forces or Airborne troops" - until the GAO-reported $3 billion Army ammunition shortfall has been eliminated. "Bullets are more important than berets," Bartlett said.
Another Congressional critic was Rep. Walter B. Jones of North Carolina. "We have trouble without adequate ammunition stocks, our pilots can't fly because of a lack of funds, so why in the world should the Army spend $23 million to change the color of a beret on some general's whim?"
The ultimate clash with Congress came when Rep. Donald Manzullo had to threaten Shinseki with a subpoena to make him testify before a congressional committee. Someone needs to tell the chief of staff his "protector," - the most notorious draft-dodger to ever disgrace the Presidency - is out of office and a new President and administration is in charge. Then it is up to the new administration to exert its authority and "clean house." They owe it to our men and women in uniform, whose lives have been adversely affected by the idiotic policies of men like Eric Shinseki.
BREAKING THE LAW
What kind of planning and leadership is exhibited when the general tries to skirt "The Berry Amendment," - a Federal statute passed by Congress requiring the Pentagon buy clothing made by U.S. manufacturers, made only from U.S. components - except in the case of emergency? And what was Shinseki's "emergency?" Why, he wanted all the troops to be outfitted with black berets by June 14, the "birthday" of the U.S. Army. Isn't it interesting that the one U.S. manufacturer to land a multi-million dollar contract to make the black berets just so happens to be located in Bill Clinton's Arkansas? An added insult was factories in Communist China got a big slice of the contract too. All this while holding the crew (since released) of a U.S. Navy spy plane and refusing (to date) to return the aircraft itself.
It's public record that bigwigs in the Communist Chinese Peopleâs Liberation Army got away with making illegal campaign contributions to President Clinton's 1996 re-election campaign. But of course, no "quid pro quo" was involved. Certainly not! Not as long as Attorney General Janet Reno held the reins at the Justice Department.
WHAT ABOUT THE ENLISTED TROOPS?
The job of sergeant major of the Army is not to be the chief of staff's "yes man." He already has a coterie of sycophants for that. SMA Jack Tilley is supposed to be Shinseki's "eyes and ears" as to what the enlisted troops are concerned about. It is incredible that Tilley (apparently) was not consulted or given a heads up about the beret scheme. If he had been told early enough, a savvy long-time NCO like him, would surely have detected the devastating impact on morale and passed the word on to his boss.
But he didn't, and we can only think that he was left out of the loop.
On May 2, Shinseki said U.S. Army troops won't have to wear Chinese-made berets after all. And later on last month, the Defense Logistics Agency pulled the plug on distribution on black berets by the Bancroft Cap Company.
It seems the Arkansas firm was using foreign-made materials that would have violated the Berry Amendment's "buy American" provisions.
A WORKABLE SOLUTION
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld needs to inform Shinseki he is going to retire, right now, but not before apologizing to the entire U.S. army for the ordeal of the past few years.
Then Congress needs to take whatever steps are necessary to put an end to the black beret scam. Cancel the contracts. Do whatever must be done. Cut your losses. Make sure defense dollars are used for REAL needs, not some public-relations stunt or pork barrel project.
Restore the coveted black beret to those who won the right to wear it - the Army Rangers. Keep the headgear we have now for the rest of the troops. Stop destroying military readiness and morale with "feel good" policies that just don't work.