Eric Shinseki

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Eric Shinseki, a retired general in the United States Army, where his last assignment was Chief of Staff of the Army (CSA), is the Obama Administration nominee as Secretary of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. He was the first American of Japanese heritage to reach four-star rank in the U.S. military. As a wounded veteran and senior military leader, he is seen to bring special expertise to Veterans Affairs.

Veterans Affairs

He was introduced to the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, which would recommend whether his nomination should be approved, by two Senators were recipients of the Medal of Honor, Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii (U.S. state)) and Bob Dole (R-Kansas), showing bipartisan support.

Committee chair Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI)said, after the hearing,

"General Shinseki is an honest, distinguished and capable veteran who is well-equipped to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs. He has a daunting task ahead of him, and I look forward to working with him and the incoming President to help veterans receive the care and services they have earned through their service. I urge my colleagues to support his confirmation as soon as he is formally nominated, so he can begin his work for America's veterans." [1]

Veterans' concerns

When he spoke to the 2009 conference of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, he said three issues, above all others, kept repeating when he spoke to veterans:[2] Out of my encounters with Veterans, three concerns kept coming through

  • access: "Of the 23.4 million Veterans in this country, roughly eight million are enrolled in VA. Five and a half million have used our medical services at least once. Three-and-a-half million visit our medical facilities regularly. Why have over 15 million Veterans never enrolled with us?"
  • the backlog: "Even though less than 50 percent of the Veteran population receives care or benefits from VA, we have a backlog in disability claims. The total number of claims in our inventory today is around 400,000, and backlogged claims that have been in the system for longer than 125 days total roughly 145,000 cases... Regardless of how we parse the numbers, there is a backlog, it is too big, and Veterans are waiting too long for their checks."
  • homeless Veterans.

Senior Army roles

Chief of Staff of the Army

Promoted from Vice Chief of Staff, during his tenure between 1999 and 2003, he was responsible for preparing forces that, among other things, would form a large part of the force that invaded Iraq in 2003.

On a lighter note, he will be remembered as the officer that decreed all soldiers would wear berets of some sort. The black beret selected as the general issue caused some complaint from the elite 75th Ranger Regiment, who had to change to tan berets as their distinctive headgear.

Improving mobility

He was extremely concerned over the Army's difficulty in deploying forces to Kosovo, and championed the Stryker armored vehicle family as a controversial set of tradeoffs to improve strategic mobility.

Opinions on Gulf War

Shinseki's positions before the Gulf War invasion are complex. As Chief of Staff, he was not in the operational line of command from the National Command Authority to the fighting forces in United States Central Command. In Congressional testimony, he had been asked his opinion of the size of the force proposed by the U.S. Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, "The idea that it would take several hundred thousand U.S. forces I think is far off the mark".

GEN Shinseki responded "I would say that what's been mobilized to this point -- something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers -- are probably, you know, a figure that would be required." The head of Central Command, GEN Tommy Franks, would, according to Shinseki, determine the precise figure. [3]

Other senior assignments

Promoted to the rank of general in July 1997, he became Commanding General, United States Army Europe; Commander, Allied Land Forces Central Europe; and Commander, NATO Stabilization Force in Bosnia-Herzegovina. On 24 November 1998, he was named Vice Chief of Staff of the Army.

After division command, he was he was promoted to lieutenant general in July 1996 and became the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Plans, United States Army.

From March 1994 to July 1995, General Shinseki commanded the 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, Texas.

Early career and education

He graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1965. [4] Later education included a Master of Arts Degree in English Literature from Duke University, and professional education including the Armor Officer Advanced Course, the United States Army Command and General Staff College, and the National War College.

He had combat experience in the Vietnam War, where he was wounded twice and decorated three times for valor. Subsequently, he had staff and troop assignments with United States Pacific Command, taught English at West point, and then served with the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment in the U.S.


  1. U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs (January 14, 2009), Akaka chairs hearing on Shinseki nmination
  2. Remarks by Secretary Eric K. Shinseki to the 110th Veterans of Foreign Wars Annual National Convention, United States Department of Veterans Affairs, 18 August 2009
  3. Eric Schmitt (February 28, 2003), "THREATS AND RESPONSES: MILITARY SPENDING; Pentagon Contradicts General On Iraq Occupation Force's Size", New York Times
  4. U.S. Army, General Eric K. Shinseki (Ret.), Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States Army