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Eric Ken Shinseki (//; born November 28, 1942) is a retired United States Army four-star general who has served as the seventh United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs since 2009. His final U.S. Army post was as the 34th Chief of Staff of the Army (1999–2003). He is a veteran of combat in the Vietnam War, where he sustained a foot injury.
Early life and education
Shinseki was born in Lihue, Kauai, in the then Territory of Hawaii, to an American family of Japanese ancestry. His grandparents emigrated from Hiroshima to Hawaii in 1901. He grew up in a sugar plantation community on Kaua'i and graduated from Kaua'i High and Intermediate School in 1960. While attending Kaua'i he was active in the Boy Scouts and served as class president. After high school, he attended the United States Military Academy and graduated in 1965 with a Bachelor of Science degree and a commission as a second lieutenant. He earned a Master of Arts degree in English Literature from Duke University. He was also educated at the Armor Officer Advanced Course, the United States Army Command and General Staff College, and the National War College.
Shinseki served in a variety of command and staff assignments in the Continental United States and overseas, including two combat tours with the 9th and 25th Infantry Divisions in the Republic of Vietnam as an artillery forward observer and as commander of Troop A, 3rd Squadron, 5th Cavalry Regiment. During one of those tours, he stepped on a land mine, which blew the front off one of his feet.
He has served at Schofield Barracks, Hawai'i with Headquarters, United States Army Hawaii, and Fort Shafter with Headquarters, United States Army Pacific. He has taught at the U.S. Military Academy’s Department of English. During duty with the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment at Fort Bliss, Texas, he served as the regimental adjutant and as the executive officer of its 1st Squadron.
Shinseki’s ten-plus years of service in Europe included assignments as Commander, 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry, 3rd Infantry Division (Schweinfurt); Commander, 2nd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division (Kitzingen); Assistant Chief of Staff, G3, 3rd Infantry Division (Operations, Plans and Training) (Würzburg); and Assistant Division Commander for Maneuver, 3rd Infantry Division (Schweinfurt). The 3rd ID was organized at that time as a heavy mechanized division. He also served as Assistant Chief of Staff, G3 (Operations, Plans, and Training), VII Corps (Stuttgart). Shinseki served as Deputy Chief of Staff for Support, Allied Land Forces Southern Europe (Verona), an element of the Allied Command Europe. From March 1994 to July 1995, Shinseki commanded the 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, Texas. In July 1996, he was promoted to lieutenant general and became Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Plans, United States Army. In June 1997, Shinseki was appointed to the rank of general before assuming duties as Commanding General, Seventh United States Army; Commander, Allied Land Forces Central Europe; and Commander, NATO Stabilization Force in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Shinseki became the Army's 28th Vice Chief of Staff on November 24, 1998, then became its 34th Chief of Staff on June 22, 1999. Shinseki retired on June 11, 2003 at the end of his four-year term. His Farewell Memo contained some of his ideas regarding the future of the military. At that time, General Shinseki retired from the Army after 38 years of military service.
As of 2009[update], General Shinseki was the highest-ranked Asian American in the history of the United States. Additionally, as of 2004, he is the highest-ranked Japanese American to have served in the United States Armed Forces.
Army Chief of Staff
During his tenure as Army Chief of Staff, Shinseki initiated an innovative but controversial plan to make the Army more strategically deployable and mobile in urban terrain by creating Stryker Interim-Force Brigade Combat Teams. He conceived a long term strategic plan for the Army dubbed Objective Force, which included a program he designed, Future Combat Systems. One other controversial plan that Shinseki implemented was the wearing of the Black Beret for all Army personnel. Prior to Shinseki implementing this policy, only the United States Rangers could wear the black beret. When the black beret was given to all soldiers and officers, the Rangers moved to the tan beret.
Shinseki publicly clashed with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld during the planning of the war in Iraq over how many troops the United States would need to keep in Iraq for the postwar occupation of that country. As Army Chief of Staff, General Shinseki testified to the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee that "something in the order of several hundred thousand soldiers" would probably be required for postwar Iraq. This was an estimate far higher than the figure being proposed by Secretary Rumsfeld in his invasion plan, and it was rejected in strong language by both Rumsfeld and his Deputy Secretary of Defense, Paul Wolfowitz, who was another chief planner of the invasion and occupation. From then on, Shinseki's influence on the Joint Chiefs of Staff reportedly waned. Critics of the Bush Administration alleged that Shinseki was forced into early retirement as Army Chief of staff because of his comments on troop levels; however, his retirement was actually announced nearly a year before those comments.
When the insurgency took hold in postwar Iraq, Shinseki's comments and their public rejection by the civilian leadership were often cited by those who felt the Bush administration deployed too few troops to Iraq. On November 15, 2006, in testimony before Congress, CENTCOM Commander Gen. John Abizaid said that General Shinseki had been correct that more troops were needed.
Shinseki has served as a director for several corporations: Honeywell International and Ducommun, military contractors; Grove Farm Corporation; First Hawaiian Bank; and Guardian Life Insurance Company of America. He is a member of the Advisory Boards at the Center for Public Leadership, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, and to the U.S. Comptroller General. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Atlantic Council of the United States, and the Association of the United States Army.
On December 7, 2008, then-President-elect Barack Obama announced at a press conference in Chicago that he would nominate Shinseki to become the Secretary of Veterans Affairs. He was unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate on January 20, 2009, and sworn in the next day.
Awards, decorations, and badges
|Defense Distinguished Service Medal (with Oak Leaf Cluster)|
|Coast Guard Distinguished Service Medal|
|Army Distinguished Service Medal|
|Legion of Merit (with Oak Leaf Cluster)|
|Bronze Star (with "V" Device and two Oak Leaf Clusters)|
|Purple Heart (with Oak Leaf Cluster)|
|Defense Meritorious Service Medal|
|Meritorious Service Medal (with two Oak Leaf Clusters)|
|Army Commendation Medal (with Oak Leaf Cluster)|
|Army Achievement Medal|
|National Defense Service Medal with Service star|
|Vietnam Service Medal with four Service stars|
|Armed Forces Service Medal|
|Army Service Ribbon|
|Army Overseas Service Ribbon|
|Yugoslavia service medal|
|Vietnam Campaign Medal|
|Office of the Secretary of Defense Identification Badge|
|Joint Chiefs of Staff Identification Badge|
|Army Staff Identification Badge|
Shinseki is married and has two children, Lori and Ken.
- Gregg K. Kakesako (June 21, 1999). "Native son joining ranks of eminent Army leaders". Honolulu Star Bulletin. Retrieved November 13, 2012.
- Obata, Hiroshi. 両祖父母は広島出身 ("Shinseki: both grandparents are from Hiroshima"). Hiroshima Peace Media (Japan). January 30, 2009
- Bobbie Kyle Sauer (December 18, 2008). "10 Things You Didn’t Know About Gen. Eric Shinseki". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved November 12, 2012.
- Fahrig, Jody T. (June 23, 1999). "Army welcomes Shinseki as new chief". Army News Service. Archived from the original on March 12, 2008. Retrieved May 27, 2006.
- Shinseki, Eric K (June 10, 2003). "End of Tour Memorandum" (PDF). The Washington Post Company. Retrieved December 7, 2008.
- Thom Shanker (January 14, 2009). "A Second Act for General Shinseki". New York Times. Retrieved February 6, 2012.
- Gregg K. Kakesako (March 31, 2004). "An Inspiration for a Generation". Honolulu Star Bulletin. Retrieved February 6, 2012.
- Thom Shanker (October 29, 2002). "Army Takes on Critics of an Armored Vehicle". New York Times. Retrieved March 20, 2011.
- "Objective Force is Needed for Relevancy". AUSA News. Association of the United States Army. April 1, 2001. Retrieved March 20, 2011.
- "Beret battle: Army approves color change". Amarillo Globe=News. March 16, 2001. Retrieved March 20, 2011.
- Schmitt, Eric (February 28, 2003). "Pentagon Contradicts General on Iraq Occupation Force's Size". The New York Times. Retrieved April 4, 2012.
- Shanker, Thom "New Strategy Vindicates Ex-Army Chief Shinseki", New York Times, January 12, 2007.
- CNN Political Unit. CNN Political Unit debate fact check. CNN.com. October 9, 2004.
- Ricks, Thomas E.; Ann Scott Tyson (November 16, 2006). "Abizaid Says Withdrawal Would Mean More Unrest". Washington Post. p. A22. Retrieved December 13, 2006. "General [Eric] Shinseki was right that a greater international force contribution, U.S. force contribution and Iraqi force contribution should have been available immediately after major combat operations."
- Rucker, Philip; Thomas E. Ricks (December 6, 2008). "Shinseki Slated to Head VA, Obama Confirms". Washington Post. Retrieved December 7, 2008.
- "Shinseki biography". Forbes. Retrieved December 7, 2008.
- "The Purpose Prize: Shinseki". Retrieved December 7, 2008.
- "Obama: No one 'more qualified' than Shinseki to head VA". CNN. December 7, 2008. Retrieved December 7, 2008.
- Abrams, Jim (January 20, 2009). "Senate confirms 6 cabinet secretaries". Real Clear Politics. Retrieved January 10, 2013.
- "Eric K. Shinseki". Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs. United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Retrieved January 29, 2013.
- "Overseas Contingency Operations". Asian Pacific Americans in the United States Army. United States Army. Retrieved January 28, 2013.
- "Chief of Staff of the Army Official Portrait". Army Leadership. United States ARmy. June 24, 2001. Archived from the original on April 29, 2003. Retrieved January 29, 2013.
- "Eric Ken Shinseki". Military Times Hall of Valor. Gannett Government Media Corporation. Retrieved January 28, 2013.
- VA Official Biography
- Official U.S. Army biography, in Bell, William Gardner. COMMANDING GENERALS AND CHIEFS OF STAFF 1775–2005: Portraits & Biographical Sketches of the United States Army's Senior Officer, United States Army Center of Military History, 2005. (ISBN 0-16-072376-0)
- "Transcript of the Chief of Staff of the Army's Remarks to Soldiers Radio and Television (after the attacks of September 11th)". Army News Service. September 14, 2001. Archived from the original on December 20, 2008. Retrieved January 26, 2013.
- Burlas, Joe (June 10, 2003). "Commentary: Shinseki leaves legacy of irreversible momentum". Army News Service. Archived from the original on December 10, 2008. Retrieved January 26, 2013.
- Dickey, Connie. "Chief of Staff shares his concerns for the soldier and the Army", ARNEWS, June 28, 1999. From media interview 3 days after becoming Army Chief of Staff. (URL retrieved May 27, 2006)
- Moulin, Pierre. " Commentary: Eric Shinseki Gallery", Fort DeRussy – U.S. Army Museum of Hawaii, April 2008. ISBN 978-1-56647-850-2
- Siemieniec, Jack. "Chief of Staff expands on Army Vision", ARNEWS, January 31, 2000. (URL retrieved May 27, 2006)
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Eric Shinseki|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Eric K. Shinseki.|
- Biography at the United States Department of Veterans Affairs
- Appearances on C-SPAN
- Eric Shinseki collected news and commentary at The New York Times
- (Works by or about Eric Shinseki in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
- Eric K. Shinseki Collection (while CSA) US Army Heritage and Education Center, Carlisle, Pennsylvania
- Eric K. Shinseki Gallery Fort DeRussy Army Museum of Hawaii
|Commanding General of the United States Army Europe
|Vice Chief of Staff of the United States Army
|Chief of Staff of the United States Army
|United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs
|United States order of precedence (ceremonial)|
as Secretary of Education
|Order of Precedence of the United States
as Secretary of Veterans Affairs
as White House Chief of Staff
|United States presidential line of succession|
as Secretary of Education
|14th in line
as Secretary of Veterans Affairs