SCHOOMAKER: I AM NOT A SHILL! I caused a bit of a kerfuffle on my blog today when I suspected General Peter Schoomaker, the Army's chief of staff, of shifting his views on whether or not the Army is breaking under the strain of current deployment to suit the tenure -- and now departure -- of Donald Rumsfeld. After I wrote the post, I spoke with Lieutenant Colonel Gary Kolb, Schoomaker's spokesman, who "absolutely" denied that pleasing Rumsfeld played any role in his shifting stance on the health of the Army. "I'll personally vouch that General Schoomaker will tell you what's on his mind, and he'll be blunt and candid," Kolb told me.
Kolb emphasized that what Schoomaker is worried about is the Defense Department's policy regarding how long after a deployment a National Guard or Army Reserve unit can be certified as fit to redeploy, without what's called "cross-leveling" -- that is, taking soldiers from other units to get the full unit back up to deployment readiness. And in Schoomaker's testimony on the Hill yesterday, he certainly emphasized that the policy is too restrictive. According to Kolb, the head of the Army National Guard, Lieutenant General Clyde Vaughn, favors a more-restrictive policy on Guard-unit redeployment -- understandably, from Vaughn's persective -- but Schoomaker hasn't come to a decision on what the new policy should be.
OK, but it's not as if Schoomaker suddenly figured out that the deployment schedule is onerous. Kolb wouldn't answer my questions as to when exactly Schoomaker grew so alarmed as to speak out in public, or what the "magic number" is for when a Guard or Reserve unit is "ready" to redeploy back to a combat zone. He did, however, emphasize that when Schoomaker over the past year said that the Army isn't "broken," he was not addressing whether the Army was "breaking." So I hope that's clear to everyone.