After Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki appeared before a Senate committee last week, one television commentator indicated that when Shinseki said he was “mad as hell” about problems within the VA hospital system, he didn’t actually look all that mad. True, he didn’t. But those of us who have known and served with Shinseki realize that this lack of outward emotion should not be read as a lack of passion.
I first met Shinseki 20 years ago, when he was the Army’s chief of training. He had a low-key personality, but he was a passionate advocate for obtaining the facilities, equipment and modern concepts that would keep our Army the best in the world. I was impressed.
Shinseki was soon gone from the Pentagon and headed to Fort Hood to command the 1st Cavalry Division, a choice assignment for a young major general. But in a little more than a year he was back in Washington as the Army’s assistant deputy chief for operations, yet another select position. He did not like coming back to Washington; he preferred to be with the troops. In speeches, he used to introduce himself simply as, “My name is Shinseki; I’m a soldier.”
More from CNAS
CommentarySharper: Day One
The Biden-Harris administration will confront a range of national security challenges from the moment it takes office....
By Chris Estep
CommentaryNow Is a Bad Time to Weaken Civilian Control Over the Military
The mob attacks on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 are a sudden reminder of just how vital a nonpartisan military really is—even in the United States....
By Jim Golby
CommentaryBiden Inherits a Challenging Civil-Military Legacy
Joseph Biden and his team will inherit a civil-military relationship as tenuous as any in recent memory....
By Jim Golby & Peter Feaver
CommentaryHow to build more resilient and innovative US special operations teams
The military is looking for the wrong solutions to support the force....
By Lt Col Kaveri T. Crum & Emma Moore