A 21st Century Veterans Affairs
On December 7, 2008, President-elect Obama named retired Army General Eric Shinseki as his Secretary of Veterans Affairs [VA], promising “the kind of VA that will serve our veterans as well as they have served us.” Shinseki will face one of the country’s most daunting tasks: managing an institution already plagued by backlogs, scandals, and inadequate resources, and is increasingly taxed by wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. During the press conference, Shinseki spoke directly to veterans:” If confirmed, I will work each and every day to ensure that we are serving you as well as you have served us. WE will pursue a 21st -century VA that serves your needs.”
The nomination of the first Japanese-American to the post -Shinseki, grew up in Hawaii - carried extra poignancy coming on the 67th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attacks. Military officials and some veteran’s organizations immediately praised Obama’s announcement.
Shinseki is most famous for publicly contradicting Bush administration official’s overly optimistic predictions about the war in Iraq. In 2003, then serving as the Army’s chief of staff, he told Congress that it would take several hundred thousand U.S. troops to secure Iraq. Shinseki ‘s warnings . The Bush administration’s failure to heed his warnings led to a decimation of the U.S. military-under equipped forces, an over -reliance on the National Guard and Reserves, a dangerous stop-loss policy, and an increasing number of troops coming home with mental and physical problems.
One of Shineki’s most pressing challenges will be modernizing the VA to deal with the increasing number of mental health troubles faced by soldiers coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan.