View Full Version : Pentagon Hails Military Meeting (Commanders' Conference)

01-23-2006, 08:24 AM
23 Jan. Washington Times - Pentagon Hails Military Meeting (http://www.washtimes.com/national/20060123-123302-4931r.htm).

Pentagon officials say this month's closed-door conference of the military's top field commanders was gratifying, describing it as an uninhibited exchange of ideas rather than a fixed-agenda meeting monopolized by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

Officials said Mr. Rumsfeld, four-star generals and admirals, and top civilians brainstormed over two main topics: how to fight the war on Islamic terrorists and how to reconfigure the military for future threats.

"Four years ago, we could not have had a discussion like this without people getting into parochial interests," said a senior defense official. "Rumsfeld didn't steer the discussion. They all went at it."

The Pentagon conference room was full of top brass Mr. Rumsfeld handpicked during the past five years in a search for out-of-the-box thinkers who would "lean forward" in a war against Islamic terrorists.

It is clearly Mr. Rumsfeld's Pentagon today, but it was not always that way. Mr. Rumsfeld inherited Joint Chiefs and four-star combatant commanders, in this case ones promoted by President Clinton. "Rummy would have to drive the discussion at earlier commanders' conferences," said the defense official.

In those days, Mr. Rumsfeld did not always share his thinking with them, and in some cases had outright clashes, such as with Gen. Eric Shinseki, the former Army Chief of Staff. Mr. Rumsfeld solved his Army problem by picking Mr. Shinseki's successor from the ranks of the retired. The new chief, Gen. Peter Schoomaker, had worked closely with Mr. Rumsfeld on transforming U.S. Special Operations Command.

At the Jan. 9-11 biannual commanders' conference, around-the-table discussions kicked off once the Joint Staff -- the planning and operations arm of the Joint Chiefs of Staff -- presented a slide show on a particular topic. There were candid back-and-forths about both successes and failures...