- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 19, 2003

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld surprised and delighted both admirers and critics with his selection of retired Gen. Peter Schoomaker, 57, to be the next Army chief of staff.

Gen. Schoomaker began his career as an armor officer. After service with the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment in Germany, he joined Delta Force. Gen. 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 cohesion.”

“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 Lt. Col. Ralph Peters, a renowned 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.”

Gen. 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.

Mr. Rumsfeld selected Gen. Schoomaker after his first two choices, Gen. John Keane, currently the Army’s vice chief of staff, and Gen. Tommy Franks, commander of U.S. Central Command, turned the job down.

Lt. Col. Rich Liebert, a tactics instructor at the Army Command & Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, thinks the fact Mr. 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.

Col. Peters thinks it’s a damning commentary on Mr. Rumsfeld: “No general wants to preside over Rumsfeld’s dismantlement of the U.S. Army,” he said.

Many green suiters think Mr. Rumsfeld “hates the Army” because he canceled 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, whom Mr. Rumsfeld forced out at the end of April. These critics fear Mr. Rumsfeld plans to cut the size of the Army to pay for Air Force fighter procurement programs. Army suspicions were not allayed when Mr. Rumsfeld chose James Roche, the current Air Force secretary, to replace Mr. White.

The challenges facing the Army’s new leaders are immense. There are only 10 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 Bosnia.

Six of the 10 divisions are “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. Mr. Rumsfeld was harshly criticized by retired Gens. 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.”

Mr. 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.

Jack Kelly, a former Marine and Green Beret, was a deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan administration and is national security writer for the Pittsburgh (Pa.) Post-Gazette.

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