Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Why Does Rumsfeld Hate Our Troops?

WASHINGTON - Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld this week won his fight to install his man, Francis J. Harvey, as secretary of the Army.

In the midst of two and a half wars, at a time when the Army is struggling to transform itself and must use extraordinary methods to find enough soldiers to fill the rotations to Iraq, Rumsfeld selected a man who's never served in the military or in government to be the Army's CEO.

Rumsfeld told the man he's passing over for the job - acting Army secretary Les Brownlee, a retired Army infantry colonel and a highly decorated combat veteran - that he "wanted a businessman" to run the Army. Harvey, a longtime Westinghouse executive, was Rumsfeld's second choice in 18 months of bitter wrangling with some powerful senators.
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Rumsfeld told the man he's passing over for the job - acting Army secretary Les Brownlee, a retired Army infantry colonel and a highly decorated combat veteran - that he "wanted a businessman" to run the Army. Harvey, a longtime Westinghouse executive, was Rumsfeld's second choice in 18 months of bitter wrangling with some powerful senators.

Rumsfeld's long fight with the senators began in May 2003 when he fired Army Secretary Tom White, a retired Army brigadier general, over White's support of then-Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric K. Shinseki (who angered Rumsfeld by saying that several hundred thousand American troops would be needed to occupy Iraq).

When the defense secretary tapped Air Force Secretary James Roche, another defense industry exec and a Navy and government veteran, to take over the Army job, he ran afoul of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. McCain was demanding that the Air Force and Roche hand over internal e-mails on its plan to lease new airborne tankers from Boeing, and when they weren't forthcoming he blocked Roche and all Defense Department civilian nominees.

While all of this was dragging on, the Army was left in the hands of acting secretary Brownlee, who'd spent 18 years on the Hill working for Sen. John Warner and the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Brownlee, who was awarded two Silver Stars for heroism in Vietnam, spent the last three Christmases with American troops in war zones. Although Brownlee may have been the ideal candidate for the job he was already doing, there was no way Rumsfeld would nominate him. He was angry at how McCain, and more recently Warner, had thwarted his appointment of Roche to run the Army. This time he'd have his way and his man in that job.

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