Buried in this article, I noted an idea which I believe is equally true in Canada:
"The Army has long been criticized as being the least deft of the armed services in lobbying for its cause with Congress and the public."
Army Chief Seeks Changes to Improve Lives
By THOM SHANKER
The Associated Press
Gen. Eric K. Shinseki, Army chief of staff, wants to improve morale.
WASHINGTON, May 28 - Responding to an Army survey of more than 13,000 officers, soldiers and family members released just before the Memorial Day holiday, the Army chief of staff has acknowledged that too many qualified personnel and future commanders are leaving and has pledged to improve the morale of service members and their families.
The chief of staff, Gen. Eric K. Shinseki, said his goal was to make sweeping changes in how the Army trained and transferred personnel.
General Shinseki said he wanted an Army that rotated its troops only in the summer, when it would be less disruptive to families with school- age children, and that any transfer order for a move in less than six months be reviewed by a senior officer to assure that the stress of a last- minute move was warranted.
The Army must help its soldiers and officers find a balance between service and family, General Shinseki said, so he is instructing senior commanders to cut back and even cancel weekend training.
"We have an Army smaller than the mission profiles we have," he said in an interview. "The things we are asked to do and be ready for are significant. There is more to do than there is time to do it."
General Shinseki's comments did not cover pay, benefits or housing, which must be financed by Congress, but those areas of Army life that are completely under the control of Army officers.
He emphasized, of course, that front-line duties must always come first: "If a Somalia blows up and we have to get a contingency there, that's an operational requirement. That's what we're paid to do."
"But it's the routine replacement actions that are the problem," he added. "And if we wanted to, we could work every weekend. We lose great youngsters who don't see any way out of this box. Unless the senior leadership provides some balance to this, enforces some balance, we end up burning our youngsters at both ends."
The discussion of General Shinseki's plans for improving Army life was his first detailed response to the blistering survey. In the Army Training and Leader Development report, directed by Lt. Gen. William M. Steele, commander of the Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., more than two-thirds of those surveyed said the Army had unacceptable standards for quality of life.
"What came out of the study was reinforcement for concerns that many of us have had and wrestled with over the years," General Shinseki said. "A good portion of that study described things we lived with ourselves. These were things that needed to be corrected for years. And the time is now for doing what's right."
Today, the Army transfers its troops in more or less equal monthly rotations. On his plans to move the entire Army to summer rotations, General Shinseki conceded, "we couldn't change the whole system today if we wanted to."
"But," he said, "I've asked the question, Does it make sense to go to all summer moves? Initially the answer came back, `We can't do it.' But I said, `That's not the question. The question is, Does it make sense? And then the answer came back, `Well, yes, we think it does make sense.' So I said, `O.K., then, let's put a plan in place to achieve that in time.' "
General Shinseki said he had begun rotating officers in the summer, both because he had more control over the change of commanders and to illustrate to those commanders the value of summer transfers.
"If we can demonstrate to commanders, `Look. We've invested in the movement of you and your family and put you on a summer cycle. Don't you think, commander, that this is a good thing for you to do for your subordinates?' " he said.
Soldiers with children entering their senior year of high school will be allowed to request a delay of transfer until after that child graduates, General Shinseki said, and he is working with public school districts surrounding the Army's largest installations to waive requirements for state history exams and instead accept scores from history exams of any state in which that child has lived. The Army is also asking these school districts to be more lenient in accepting newly transferred students into extracurricular activities and sports.
General Shinseki said he was particularly concerned about the number of hastily ordered transfers, which put extreme stress on Army families.
"I will not take these last-minute taskings and shove it down on subordinates," he said.
As a first step, General Shinseki said, he reviews every transfer of the Army Headquarters staff members at the Pentagon that requires a move in fewer than six months.
"And if there isn't what I think is a reasonable explanation for why we subject our subordinates to this late tasking, I won't send them," he said. "I expect every commanding officer to take on this same responsibility."
General Shinseki also said he had "instructed senior leaders to preserve weekends to provide that balance to our youngsters, understanding that there are things that get put off to next week."
The Army today has about 479,000 active troops, with 120,000 of them deployed in forward bases abroad. But all militaries calculate deployment numbers in multiples of three: For every soldier on a mission, one is training to take over that role, and one has just returned from the mission and must go through retraining.
"My Navy friends say, `Why are you so concerned?' " General Shinseki said. "I tell them, `You take six- month cruises. You define your rhythm by these six-month cruises.' Well, I've got a six-month cruise. It's called the U.S.S. Bosnia, the U.S.S. Kosovo, the U.S.S. Sinai, the U.S.S. Southwest Asia. And I have a one- year cruise called the U.S.S. Korea. I don't think any other force rotates like we do."
General Shinseki will sit with the other service chiefs this week at a series of meetings in the Pentagon's secure conference room, known as the Tank, during which Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld is expected to discuss more than a dozen military review panels he initiated. Those conclusions will be integrated into the Quadrennial Defense Review required by Congress, which will define the guiding military strategy - as well as the weapons and personnel it will need to carry out that strategy.
The Army has long been criticized as being the least deft of the armed services in lobbying for its cause with Congress and the public. General Shinseki comes in for his share of complaints as being cut from this same conservative mold when it comes to politicking and public relations - especially as he pursues his vision of transforming the Army from heavy divisions, dependent on tanks and infantry fighting vehicles, to a lighter, more lethal force.
But General Shinseki says he has decided to push Army transformation from inside the Army. For example, since becoming chief of staff in June 1999, he has traveled to every pre-command course to speak to the rising generation of officers, and their spouses, about Army transformation, and the quality-of-life issues that concern them.
"I am now coming up on my second anniversary," the general said. "Our commands are generally two years long. I will have spoken to just about every battalion and brigade commander currently in the force, whether they are in Korea or Bosnia or Germany or across the United States. They and their spouses have had a chance to hear the chief speak about transformation, and to answer the questions on their minds."