In Unusual Sweep, Several Army Generals Told to Retire Early

Aug. 4, 2003 Over the past several weeks, Army Gen. John Keane acting as chief of staff has called in several senior general officers who rose under now-retired Army chief Gen. Eric Shinseki and directed them to take early retirement, senior defense officials tell Inside the Pentagon.

The move appears to be part of a "housecleaning" effort that will allow Gen. Peter Schoomaker who became the new Army chief of staff Aug. 1 to fill key positions with fresh faces, Army officers and observers say. Keane late last week resumed his role as vice chief of staff, pending the nomination of his replacement.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld plucked Schoomaker from retirement to assume the top post after three active-duty Army generals including Keane declined the offer to become chief.

High-ranking officers asked to leave the service, these sources said, include Lt. Gen. John Caldwell, military deputy to the Army's civilian acquisition director; Lt. Gen. Joseph Cosumano, commanding general of the Army's Space and Missile Defense Command; and Lt. Gen. Dennis Cavin, commanding general of the Army Accessions Command. Caldwell and Cavin have told their staffs they are retiring, but Cosumano has not, Army officials said.

Those told to retire are just the first wave of nearly a dozen Army generals on Keane and Schoomaker's list, according to a number of senior defense officials.

"More will follow when Schoomaker becomes chief," said one officer last week, before the new Army leader's swearing-in ceremony.

Almost any incoming leader likes to bring in new lieutenants, but this overhaul is different in some key respects: Some early retirements almost certainly will translate to demotions, and the Army's acquisition community appears to be prominent in the crosshairs, defense officials said.

Military officers who retire before spending three years at their current rank must revert to a lower rank and receive less retirement pay, unless "exceptional circumstances" prompt the service to waive the requirement, defense officials say. The Army personnel office has implemented a strict "no exceptions" policy over the past couple of years, barring unusual health or family circumstances for leaving service early, officials said.

Gen. Paul Kern, who commands the Army Materiel Command, is also among those tapped for early retirement, according to one defense official. Kern will have served just two years at his four-star rank as of late October, and is already appealing for an exception to being taken down a notch in rank upon retirement, the official said this week.

Keane also asked Lt. Gen. Johnny Riggs, director of the Army Objective Force Task Force, to retire, according to senior officials. But Riggs, who was promoted in August 1999, has spent more than three years "in grade" and thus is eligible to retain his full rank after retiring.

"It's very interesting that officers most clearly associated with acquisition, research and development have been asked to go away," said one officer. "It tells me [Schoomaker] is going to dump some of these programs and change directions."

Potential acquisition programs to be targeted for overhaul or cancellation may include the Army's Stryker light armored vehicle and perhaps broader plans for the service's future "Objective Force," sources said.

Rumsfeld has pushed the Army to introduce organizational and deployment reforms more quickly, but service leaders have resisted changes they fear will gut the ground force structure.

"These guys grew up in the Cold War and it could be thought their time has passed," one senior Army officer told ITP late last week.

Lt. Gen. Charles Mahan is another leader Keane has selected to retire, one defense observer said last week. The deputy chief of staff for logistics, Mahan is expected to retire Aug. 27, his office confirmed. Hewill have served a full three years as of Oct. 6.

An Army spokesman said Aug. 4 that none of the six retirements has been announced formally and thus could not be confirmed.

Any new service chief can be expected to clear out long-serving officers to make way for handpicked lieutenants, and Schoomaker has already said he is planning for change, defense experts say.

"When we are at war, we must think and act differently," Schoomaker said in an "arrival message" distributed throughout the service Aug. 1. "We become more flexible and adaptable .... We must win both the war and the peace. We must be prepared to question everything. What is best for the nation? What must endure? What must change?"

Still, some experts say Keane's housecleaning presumably backed by Schoomaker and ultimately Rumsfeld is noteworthy for its haste, particularly if several departing generals drop in rank.

One senior defense official says Caldwell, the acquisition deputy, is being retired virtually "for cause." Defense officials say his retirement is likely meant to send a signal to the Army acquisition community that Schoomaker will usher in buying reform.

Caldwell, who will have spent just two years at his three-star rank as of late October, has served for more than 35 years. The Vietnam veteran's career in the acquisition community included a four-year stint as program manager for the M1 Abrams tank and nearly a year working on acquisition reform at the Office of the Secretary of Defense. He spent another year as director of the Army's Digitization program, an effort aimed at linking battlefield equipment through advanced electronics.

Caldwell informed his staff of his impending retirement in a July 14 e-mail, Army officials said. The general anticipates retiring Jan. 2, which would still leave him nine months short of the 36 months required to remain at three-star rank.

Maj. Gen. Joseph Yakovac, program executive officer for ground combat systems, is widely regarded as a likely candidate to gain another star and replace Caldwell, defense officials said. Yakovac was expected to meet with Rumsfeld early this week.

Another officer thought to be a rising star in the Army is Lt. Gen. William Boykin, deputy under secretary of defense for intelligence and warfighting support. Boykin, who only recently was "frocked" as a three-star, has a background similar to Schoomaker's on the classified side of special operations forces.

He most recently met with Rumsfeld last Friday (Aug. 1), along with Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith, the Pentagon's policy chief, defense officials said.

"We have already shown that we have innovative and adaptive leaders," Schoomaker said in his message last week. "But our enemies are adapting as well.

"Will our development programs continue to produce leaders who can meet this challenge?" he asked. "Are we developing the George C. Marshalls for the new era?" Elaine M. Grossman

August 4, 2003, (c) Inside Washington Publishers, Reprinted with permission.