Tuesday, June 8, 1999

Kauai’s Shinseki
is considered
a sure thing as
Army’s top boss

It's a question of when,
not if, says a senator at
the general's hearing

By Pete Pichaske
Phillips News Service


WASHINGTON -- Gen. Eric Shinseki, the grandson of Japanese laborers who immigrated to Hawaii, appears on his way to becoming the next Army chief of staff after a Senate hearing today at which he was uniformly praised as a perfect fit for the job.

"It's a question of when you're confirmed by the Senate, not if," said Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., at the Armed Services Committee hearing.

"We look forward to your being confirmed -- hopefully, very rapidly," added Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., senior Democrat on the panel.

Born in Lihue and a graduate of Kauai High School, Shinseki is already the highest-ranking Asian American in U.S. military history.

In a brief interview after the hearing, he declined to comment on the significance of his appointment as a Japanese American, and noted that he has not yet been confirmed.

But another Hawaii-born Japanese American was not so reticent. Sen. Daniel Inouye, who introduced him at the hearing, recalled how in 1942, the year Shinseki was born, Japanese Americans were designated as "enemy aliens" by the U.S. government.

"It was a day of shame for many of us," said Inouye, who was a decorated World War II veteran. "But today, I have the privilege of presenting (Shinseki) as the nominee to be the 34th chief of staff of the Army. On this day, the shame that has been on our shoulders has been clearly lifted.''

"I was touched by what he said," said Shinseki, 56, of the introduction.

During the hearing, Shinseki and Gen. James Jones, who has been nominated to be Marine Corps commandant, were grilled for two hours on matters ranging from the Kosovo conflict to the military's ability to fight two "major theater wars" at once.

But questions were largely friendly, and there were no complaints about the generals' responses.

"These are exciting times," said Shinseki. "The position to which I've been nominated carries enormous responsibilities. I welcome the challenge."

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