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October 2003   david T. Pyne
Rumsfeld's War Against The United States Army By David T. Pyne


By: David T. Pyne

When he first ran for President in 2000, then-Governor George W. Bush promised members of the armed forces that "help is on the way." With that promise he appeared to acknowledge that the Clinton defense cuts had been too deep and that the readiness of the US armed forces had been reduced drastically. After being elected, the President allowed Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to continue the Clinton-era transformation of the United States Army to a smaller, less-capable force, better suited to UN peacemaking missions but incapable of fighting and winning major wars. Three years later, many senior Army officers, both serving and retired have expressed their belief that the Bush Administration and Rumsfeld in particular have stabbed the Army in the back. They believe that the Rumsfeld plan to slash the Army by as many as four divisions and eliminate the tanks and tracked vehicles that form the very backbone of the US Army is indicative of his ongoing disdain for the Army and his desire to marginalize it despite the fact that it remains the only service which has the capability to win the nation’s wars. Following what appeared to be a promising beginning, Rumsfeld as Secretary has since proven arrogant and autocratic like former Secretary of Defense Robert Strange McNamara and all too often has proven unwilling to pay heed to military advice from his own Joint Chiefs of Staff. He has surrounded himself with "yes men" in and out of uniform that tell him what he wants to hear and execute his directives no matter how imprudent without question. In this environment, those who know more about the business of improving our nation’s national security than he does and are willing to stand up to him when his policies are in error have been forcibly evicted from their positions of leadership and influence. No where has this been more the case than with regards to the United States Army.

The stories are legion of Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s dislike of the US Army and his personal distaste for his leaders such as Secretary of the Army Thomas White whom he fired in May for daring to defend the US Army against the Defense Secretary’s attempts to slash its force structure and eliminate key weapons systems like the recently cancelled hi-tech Crusader self-propelled howitzer. Rumsfeld’s acrimonious relationship with Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki who retired this past June, had been even more pronounced. Secretary White and General Shinseki fought successfully against Rumsfeld’s attempts to slash the Army’s force structure the year he became Secretary of Defense. Unfortunately, they were unsuccessful in their efforts to oppose his decision to cancel the high-technology Crusader self-propelled howitzer program which was to replace the Army’s aging four decade old Paladin self-propelled artillery systems.

Since firing White and following Shinseki’s retirement, the main obstacles to Rumsfeld’s plans to decimate the Army have been largely removed. Just to make sure, beginning in August he proceeded to sack no less than forty-seven US Army general officers whom he perceived, rightly or wrongly, as being closely associated with the former Army Chief of Staff, replacing them with general officers perceived as more likely to comply with his wishes. Widely respected retired Army Colonel David Hackworth called this action "a major purge" of the Army’s senior leadership on the part of Rumsfeld. In another unprecedented move which left many senior Army officers bitter, he installed General Shoemaker who had retired years prior as Shinseki’s successor and tapped the Secretary of the Air Force, James Roche, a former US Navy Captain who had absolutely no experience with Army issues as the next Secretary of the Army. Roche’s confirmation remains stalled due to his perceived connection with allegations of covering up sexual assaults against female cadets at the Air Force Academy.

These Rumsfeld-directed assaults against the US Army as well as the Iraq deployment/redeployment cycle are contributing to sagging morale among many US Army troopers and commanders. The Washington Times published an article in May underscoring much of the discontent in the Army directed against Rumsfeld and his top lieutenants. The article quoted an unnamed Pentagon official as stating that most Army officers at the Pentagon "suspect that the next Secretary of the Army and Chief of Staff will be lapdogs." The official stated that the situation is viewed as so bad for many in the Army that many "refer to the times of the Clinton Administration as 'the good old days.' "

Rumsfeld’s plan to gut the Army and transform it into a constabulary force consisting of a mere six divisions incapable of winning major wars in the future should remain all but dead as long as half of the US Army’s combat brigades remain bogged down in Iraq. Realistically that will likely continue to be the case for the duration of the Bush Administration, which as it happens may well end prematurely in January 2005 due in no small part due to the ongoing Iraq war debacle. A newly-sworn in Democrat presidential successor would likely withdraw our forces from Iraq, but nevertheless gleefully proceed with the Rumsfeld plan to slash the Army by an additional forty percent, using Rumsfeld’s longtime support as cover for this inexcusable exercise in unilateral disarmament of the US military.

President Bush is being poorly served by Secretary Rumsfeld and his top lieutenants who are pushing for the dismantlement of the venerable United States Army. The President should insist that Rumsfeld, et al immediately cease and desist from their efforts to decimate and disarm the US Army. If they do not, he should replace him with men and women who realizes the importance of maintaining a strong Army to deter future aggressors and to win major conflicts when called upon to do so without unnecessary casualties.

Related articles: Iraq War is Stretching US Army to Breaking Point Iraq Occupation Returning Army to the 'Hollow Force' of the 1970s

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David T. Pyne, Esq. is a national security expert who serves as President of the Center for the National Security Interest, a national security think-tank based in Arlington, VA. Mr. Pyne is a licensed attorney and former United States Army Officer. He holds an MA in National Security Studies from Georgetown University. Mr. Pyne also serves as Acting President of the Virginia Republican Assembly. He is a regular columnist for Ether Zone.

We invite you to visit his website: Center for the National Security Interest

David T. Pyne can be reached at:

Published in the October 27, 2003 issue of Ether Zone. Copyright © 1997 - 2003 Ether Zone.

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