Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Military transformation and the Generals' Revolt

Rowan Scarborough's coverage for the Washington Times of Donald Rumsfeld's press conference yesterday zeroed in on the Sec Def's claim that the current grousing of retired generals is a result of military transformation, not the war in Iraq. Scarborough quotes retired army personnel, speaking anonymously, who concur with Rumsfeld while being critical of current troop levels in Afghanistan and Iraq:

Yet, a number of retired officers say privately that Mr. Rumsfeld is correct and that the resignation calls are rooted in how he has treated the Army during sweeping transformation. They also complain that the Army has too few soldiers to fight wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, in addition to keeping other global commitments. Mr. Rumsfeld has resisted any permanent increase in what is called "end strength," but he has authorized a temporary buildup of 30,000 soldiers.

While not as sexy as war opposition, transformation has been a source of great tension between Rumsfeld and some members of the army brass. It would be futile to try to explain transformation fully in a blog post. (Even Wikipedia doesn't have an entry) It creates a leaner fighting force, but more importantly, it's a transformation of attitude. One aspect is extending special forces style training and mentality through all ranks of the military. As an example of this impact, the current edition of US News and World Report features an article on how the Air Force has begun to emphasize combat skills during its basic training. A big change for that branch of the military.

The most famous breach on transformation came when Rumsfeld named General Eric Shinseki's replacement as Army Chief of Staff in '03. Not only did the secretary appoint a special forces guru, he brought General Peter Schoomaker out of retirement to take the post. posted an article by John Weisman soon after Schoomaker's appointment that addressed the chagrin of Schoomaker detractors rather bluntly:

Let’s get real. This nastiness isn’t just about Schoomaker. It’s about Rumsfeld. This is about the fact that Don Rumsfeld has turned most of the military establishment on its ear. He is dragging America’s top-heavy, cumbersome, often pig-headed military establishment kicking and screaming into the twenty-first century. Dragging them by their noses, and most of ‘em don’t like it at all.

While the struggle over transformation may be hard to decipher, it's not unreasonable to see it looming in the current calls for Rumsfeld's resignation.


Anonymous David Boyd said...

I think Rumsfeld was absolutely right about Transformation and getting rid of the money pit that was The Crusader. No doubt he pissed off a lot of folks who have a WWII mentality. As great as the military is, it's still a bureaucracy with all the bad things inherent to a bureaucracy.

He and others were also right about how to take over Iraq. That was a stunning success exceeding all expectations and if we had found Saddam on the verge of going nuclear that would have been enough.

As it is, what got him, was what he ignored.


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