Obama picks Shinseki for VA


POSTED: Sunday, December 07, 2008

WASHINGTON » President-elect Barack Obama has chosen retired Gen. Eric K. Shinseki to be the next Veterans Affairs secretary, turning to a former Army chief of staff once vilified by the Bush administration for questioning its Iraq war strategy.







Eric K. Shinseki

        » Age: 66


» Born: Nov. 28, 1942; in Lihue, Kauai.


» Education: Bachelor of Science, U.S. Military Academy at West Point, 1965; Master of Arts, Duke University, 1976; National War College, 1986.


» Career: Chief of staff, Army, June 1999-June 2003; vice chief of staff, Army, November 1998-June 1999; commanding general U.S. Army Europe and commander Allied Land Forces Central Europe, Germany, July 1997-November 1998; commanding general, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas, March 1994-July 1995; assistant division commander, 3rd Infantry Division, Germany, July 1992-July 1993; deputy chief of staff for support, Allied Land Forces Southern Europe, Verona, Italy, June 1990-June 1992; commander, 3rd squadron, 7th cavalry, 3rd Infantry Division, Germany; regimental adjutant and later executive officer, 1st Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, Fort Bliss, Texas, May 1980-June 1981; commissioned as second lieutenant, June 1965.


» Quotation: “;Beware a 12-division strategy for a 10-division army.”; - Shinseki criticizing the Bush administration's Iraq war strategy in 2003.


Source: Associated Press



Obama will announce the selection of the Kauai-born Shinseki, the first Army four-star general of Japanese-American ancestry, at a news conference today in Chicago. He will be the first Asian-American to hold the post of Veterans Affairs secretary, adding to the growing diversity of Obama's Cabinet.

“;I think that Gen. Shinseki is exactly the right person who is going to be able to make sure that we honor our troops when they come home,”; Obama said in an interview with NBC's “;Meet the Press”; to be broadcast today.

NBC released a transcript of the interview after the Associated Press reported that Shinseki was Obama's pick.

Shinseki's tenure as Army chief of staff from 1999 to 2003 was marked by constant tensions with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, which boiled over in 2003 when Shinseki testified to Congress that it might take several hundred thousand U.S. troops to control Iraq after the invasion.

Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, belittled the estimate as “;wildly off the mark”; and the army general was ousted within months. But Shinseki's words proved prophetic after President Bush in early 2007 announced a “;surge”; of additional troops to Iraq after miscalculating the numbers needed to stem sectarian violence.

Obama said he chose Shinseki for the VA post because he “;was right”; in predicting that the United States would need more troops in Iraq than Rumsfeld believed at the time.

“;When I reflect on the sacrifices that have been made by our veterans and I think about how so many veterans around the country are struggling even more than those who have not served - higher unemployment rates, higher homeless rates, higher substance abuse rates, medical care that is inadequate - it breaks my heart,”; Obama told NBC.

Shinseki, 66, is slated to take the helm of the government's second-largest agency, which was roundly criticized during the Bush administration for underestimating the amount of funding needed to treat thousands of injured veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Thousands of veterans endure six-month waits for disability benefits, despite promises by current VA Secretary James Peake and his predecessor, Jim Nicholson, to reduce delays. The department also is scrambling to upgrade government technology systems before new legislation providing for millions of dollars in new GI benefits takes effect next August.

Veterans groups cheered the decision.

“;Gen. Shinseki has a record of courage and honesty, and is a bold choice to lead the VA into the future,”; said Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. “;He is a man that has always put patriotism ahead of politics and is held in high regard by veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.”;

Obama's choice of Shinseki is the latest indication that the president-elect is making good on his pledge to have a diverse Cabinet.

In Obama's eight Cabinet announcements so far, white men are the minority with two nominations - Timothy Geithner at Treasury and Robert Gates at Defense. Three are women - Janet Napolitano at Homeland Security, Susan Rice as U.N. ambassador and Hillary Rodham Clinton at State. Eric Holder at the Justice Department is African-American, while Bill Richardson at Commerce is Latino.

Shinseki is a recipient of two Purple Hearts for life-threatening injuries in Vietnam.

Upon leaving his post in June 2003, Shinseki in his farewell speech sternly warned against arrogance in leadership.

“;You must love those you lead before you can be an effective leader,”; he said.