Comment Of The Day
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Wednesday September 30, 1998

Republican "Pets"

The Joint Chiefs appeared before the Republican-dominated Armed Services Committee yesterday and told the leadership frankly that the "pet projects" of Speaker Gingrich and Majority Leader Trent Lott were, "weakening the nation's defenses."

(Above, left to right): The Joint Chiefs Of Staff -- General Dennis J. Reimer (Army), Admiral Jay L. Johnson (Navy), General Henry H. Shelton (Chairman), General Michael E. Ryan (Air Force), and General Charles C. Krulak, (Marine Corps).

Now, that is quite a group of men, wouldn't you say? And, chances are that they are all conservative Reagan Republicans. Usually, these appearances are mutual admiration societies where the generals praise Congress and Congress takes the opportunity to tune up the Veteran vote and praise the world-ranging power and almighty dignity of the American Armed Forces. But not this time. There have been strong arguments and fingers pointed at Gingrich and Lott and a bunch of other Republican members who will not accept the base closing program and the elimination of unneeded programs. Instead these powerful Republicans persist in funding these outdated elements of the defense grid and postponing new technologies and new bases. Pilot shortages, training cuts, and all sorts of long-called-for initiatives on the part of all branches have been ignored. Senator John McCain complained bitterly, "The fact is that you (the Joint Chiefs) were not candid to this member in the problems and challenges that we faced." The Chiefs, momentarily dumbstruck by this comment (they clearly knew better, CSPAN was great here) the Chiefs recessed and regrouped. They courageously returned fire after recess, back at the table.

They said that they had in fact been warning lawmakers for months, and in some cases years. They said that the problems would not now be so acute if Congress had allowed the armed forces to close bases as planned and to stop buying all of these planes and ships they clearly did not need.

Probably referring to the 20 C-130s ($1 billion each, built in the Newtland of Marietta, Georgia and mostly stationed on bases in Mississippi, Senator Lott's stomping ground). The Chiefs were complaining not just about the fact that they were told to get them when they clearly didn't need them, but there were also told where to station them with no regard to actual deployment strategies. Plus, if Congress would allow the Chiefs to close the bases as planned it would save the forces $21 billion, which as reported, would be enough for 459 new strike fighters, 12 warships or 650 Comanche helicopters.

And, just for those of you who think all of the nation's ills can be rectified by impeaching President Clinton, when he first received these reports, he acted on them with endorsing recommendations to Congress, which were all ignored. (Maybe they were too busy to read them.)

And then in the face of this self-serving intransigence, the President offered the military an immediate infusion of cash (increasing the budgets) and promised to consider larger increases in FY2000 to offset some of these Congressional pork barrels. The Congress responded by saying that the Administration was overtaxing the armed forces with "an increasing number of overseas missions." Now, we are in a compromised and foolish position, brought to you by Newt and Trent in which the defense department needs $20 billion quick to fix the problems that are clearly effecting national security. The Air Force is short of pilots by 700 at least. The Army's weapons budget is at 1959 levels. And accidents in the Navy's aviation programs has increased by 82 percent from just a year ago due to declining budgets for training, and lack of pilots which pushes existing pilots over long established, but recently increased work and flight limits.

The Republican leadership is frustrated, angry and critical of the Chiefs. Naturally. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Henry H. Shelton, responded: "For four years, I've come here and told you exactly what our problems were, didn't pull a punch and got my butt chewed out."

But the Republican leadership of Congress did not budge an inch. They blamed the Chiefs for everything. So, when it comes to honesty and forthright language that tells it like it is... let's see... politicians... career, highly decorated, combat generals.... oh, I don't know... but I'd go with the generals every time.

Those very same Congressional leaders, despite polls that clearly show people want the President to stay, continue roll along towards impeachment with undying energy and enthusiam. And our prediction that the President will survive, is looking better and better.


Commissioned a second lieutenant in the Infantry in 1963 through the Reserve Officer Training Corps, General Shelton spent the next 24 years in a variety of command and staff positions in the continental United States, Hawaii, and Vietnam.

He served two tours in Vietnam - the first with the 5th Special Forces Group, the second with the 173d Airborne Brigade. He also commanded the 3d Battalion, 60th Infantry in the 9th Infantry Division at Fort Lewis, Washington, served as the 9th Infantry Division's assistant chief of staff for operations, commanded the 1st Brigade of the 82d Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and served as the Chief of Staff of the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, New York.

Following selection for brigadier general in 1987, General Shelton served two years in the Operations Directorate of the Joint Staff. In 1989, he began a two-year assignment as Assistant Division Commander for Operations of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), a tour that included the Division's seven-month deployment to Saudi Arabia for Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Upon returning from the Gulf War, General Shelton was promoted to major general and assigned to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where he assumed command of the 82d Airborne Division.

In 1993, he was promoted to lieutenant general and assumed command of the XVIIIth Airborne Corps. In 1994, while serving as corps commander, General Shelton commanded the Joint Task Force that conducted Operation Uphold Democracy in Haiti. In March 1996, he was promoted to general and became Commander in Chief of the U.S. Special Operations Command.

General Shelton's awards and decorations include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal (with 2 oak leaf clusters - earned in combat), Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit (with oak leaf cluster), Bronze Star Medal with V device (with 3 oak leaf clusters), and the Purple Heart. He has also been awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge, Joint Chiefs of Staff Identification Badge, Master Parachutist Badge, Pathfinder Badge, Air Assault Badge, Military Freefall Badge, and Special Forces and Ranger Tabs.

See you next time.

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