Mr. President, Who YOU Appoint to Be the Next Secretary of the Army Clearly Demonstrates if YOU Truly Care about the Army and Our Soldiers and by appointing someone who has never served in uniform like Eric Fanning you are clearly sending the message that you don't! The current Army Secretary John McHugh never served in uniform and it has shown. His seven years as secretary have been marked by reduced morale, increased suicides, declining readiness and a hollowing of the force not seen since the Carter Administration. He had no clue what it meant to be a Soldier
Now Mr. President, you are once again showing the Military exactly how little you care about us by nominating this Political Hack Fanning to replace McHugh who says he intends to leave by 1 November. Fanning also has never donned a uniform in defense of this Nation and is definitely NOT what we need as our next Secretary. Granted he is a seasoned community organizer having been a leader of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund helping Democrats get elected but that hardly qualifies him to lead our Nation’s Army. The next few years promise to be challenging as the Army deals with considerable force reductions and refitting from over a decade of War so the next Secretary needs to be able to hit the ground running with a deep understanding of not only how the Army runs but also has the deep respect of serving members, something a non-Vet cannot possible have. Granted, Fanning will only be a "caretaker" as by the time he is confirmed, if he is confirmed, there will be less than a year left of your Administration so the harm he can do is limited but it will be a crucial period as the Army faces the most severe troop draw down since the end of the Vietnam War. The best possible outcome would probably be that Fanning is not confirmed by the Senate and either you appoint someone better suited and qualified for the job or that again, the Army Chief of Staff fill both roles until the end of your term.
As the son of a career military man, birthed by a military doctor and the first time I moved off a military base was when I got drafted, I thought I knew all there was to know about the military. To my surprise, I learned more about what it meant to be a Soldier during my first 24 hours IN the military then I did being AROUND the military for my first 19 years!
With this experience, I have to ask you Mr. President to find someone who has donned a uniform in defense of this Nation to be our next Secretary of the Army, to lead our Army that has endured over a decade of sustained combat.
In my opinion there are several former Soldiers that meet that criterion but none better qualified than former Army Chief of Staff and current President & CEO of the Association of the US Army (AUSA), Retired General Gordon R. Sullivan. Although 77 years old, the General is in excellent health and as AUSA president is intimately familiar with all the challenges facing the service and has been a fierce advocate for Soldiers. A two tour Vietnam Vet with multiple other tours in Europe and Korea, he has never been political although In August 1993, President Bill Clinton appointed him Acting Secretary of the Army while he continued to serve as Army Chief of Staff so he has previous experience in the job.
Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter has also never served in uniform and unfortunately it also shows by his seemingly indifference to personnel issues but at least he did have seven years in the Department of Defense prior to his nomination as SECDEF and he was smart enough to get retired Marine Colonel Bob Work, a combat veteran with over 27 years of active duty, to be his Deputy. Work also had four years as Under Secretary of the Navy. Thankfully, ex-Soldier and former Congressman Patrick Murphy might be the Under Secretary for whomever is selected to be the new secretary. Murphy spent four years on active duty as an Army JAG and served a tour as a staff attorney in Baghdad. Although not a Combat officer, at least he has experience as a Soldier.
With all this said, Political Hack Eric Fanning is definitely NOT what we need as our next Secretary. Granted his community organizer background might give him excellent political skills but it hardly qualifies him to lead our Nation’s Army in the final year of the Obama Administration. As I said, the next few years promise to be challenging as the Army deals with considerable force reductions and refitting from a decade of War so the next Secretary needs to be able to hit the ground running with a deep understanding of not only how the Army runs but also has the deep respect of serving members -- Someone like General Sullivan. Granted, the next secretary will really be a "caretaker" only serving for the remaining months of the Obama Administration but it will be a crucial period as the Army faces the most severe troop draw down since the end of the Vietnam War.
Mr. President, this is another opportunity for you to secure your legacy. Are you going to saddle the Army with a political hack who knows nothing about the Army, strategically, tactically or culturally, for your final time in office or will you appoint a “Gordon Sullivan” type that actually can do something to rebuild the Army after a decade of War. This is your chance to demonstrate you really care about Soldiers and match your rhetoric with actions. Appoint Gordon Sullivan NOW!