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Eric Shinseki
7th United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs
Assumed office
January 21, 2009
President Barack Obama
Deputy vacant
Preceded by James Peake
34th Chief of Staff of the United States Army

In office
June 21, 1999 – June 11, 2003
President Bill Clinton
George W. Bush
Preceded by Dennis Reimer
Succeeded by Peter Schoomaker
28th Vice Chief of Staff of the United States Army

In office
November 24, 1998 – June 21, 1999
President Bill Clinton
Preceded by William Crouch
Succeeded by Jack Keane
Personal details
Born November 28, 1942(1942-11-28) (age 80)
Lihue, Hawaii, U.S.
Alma mater United States Military Academy
Duke University
United States Army Command and General Staff College
National Defense University
Religion Lutheranism[1]
Military service
Allegiance United States
Service/branch U.S. Army
Years of service 1965–2003
Rank US-O10 insignia.svg General
Unit 14th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division
Commands Army Chief of Staff
Army Vice Chief of Staff
Seventh United States Army
Allied Land Forces Central Europe
NATO Stabilization Force in Bosnia and Herzegovina
1st Cavalry Division
2d Brigade, 3d Infantry Division
3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division
3rd Squadron, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 9th Infantry Division
Troop A, 3d Squadron, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 9th Infantry Division
Battles/wars Vietnam War
Bosnian War
Awards Defense Distinguished Service Medal
Army Distinguished Service Medal
Legion of Merit (2)
Bronze Star (3)
Purple Heart (2)
Meritorious Service Medal
Air Medal
Army Commendation Medal (2)

Eric Ken Shinseki (/ʃɨnˈsɛki/; born November 28, 1942) is a retired United States Army four-star general who has served as the seventh United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs since 2009. His final U.S. Army post was as the 34th Chief of Staff of the Army (1999–2003). He is a veteran of combat in the Vietnam War, where he sustained a foot injury.

Early life and education

Shinseki at West Point in 1962

Shinseki was born in Lihue, Kauai, in the then Territory of Hawaii, to an American family of Japanese ancestry. His grandparents emigrated from Hiroshima to Hawaii in 1901.[2] He grew up in a sugar plantation community on Kaua'i and graduated from Kaua'i High and Intermediate School in 1960.[3] While attending Kaua'i he was active in the Boy Scouts and served as class president.[3] After high school, he attended the United States Military Academy and graduated in 1965 with a Bachelor of Science degree and a commission as a second lieutenant. He earned a Master of Arts degree in English Literature from Duke University. He was also educated at the Armor Officer Advanced Course, the United States Army Command and General Staff College, and the National War College.

Military service

Official portrait as Chief of Staff of the Army

Official painting portrait of General Eric Shinseki

Shinseki served in a variety of command and staff assignments in the Continental United States and overseas, including two combat tours with the 9th and 25th Infantry Divisions in the Republic of Vietnam as an artillery forward observer and as commander of Troop A, 3rd Squadron, 5th Cavalry Regiment. During one of those tours, he stepped on a land mine, which blew the front off one of his feet.

He has served at Schofield Barracks, Hawai'i with Headquarters, United States Army Hawaii, and Fort Shafter with Headquarters, United States Army Pacific. He has taught at the U.S. Military Academy's Department of English. During duty with the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment at Fort Bliss, Texas, he served as the regimental adjutant and as the executive officer of its 1st Squadron.

Shinseki's ten-plus years of service in Europe included assignments as Commander, 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry, 3rd Infantry Division (Schweinfurt); Commander, 2nd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division (Kitzingen); Assistant Chief of Staff, G3, 3rd Infantry Division (Operations, Plans and Training) (Würzburg); and Assistant Division Commander for Maneuver, 3rd Infantry Division (Schweinfurt). The 3rd ID was organized at that time as a heavy mechanized division. He also served as Assistant Chief of Staff, G3 (Operations, Plans, and Training), VII Corps (Stuttgart). Shinseki served as Deputy Chief of Staff for Support, Allied Land Forces Southern Europe (Verona), an element of the Allied Command Europe. From March 1994 to July 1995, Shinseki commanded the 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, Texas. In July 1996, he was promoted to lieutenant general and became Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Plans, United States Army. In June 1997, Shinseki was appointed to the rank of general before assuming duties as Commanding General, Seventh United States Army; Commander, Allied Land Forces Central Europe; and Commander, NATO Stabilization Force in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Shinseki became the Army's 28th Vice Chief of Staff on November 24, 1998, then became its 34th Chief of Staff on June 22, 1999.[4] Shinseki retired on June 11, 2003, at the end of his four-year term. His Farewell Memo contained some of his ideas regarding the future of the military.[5] At that time, General Shinseki retired from the Army after 38 years of military service.

As of 2015, General Shinseki was the highest-ranked Asian American in the history of the United States.[6] Additionally, as of 2004, he is the highest-ranked Japanese American to have served in the United States Armed Forces.[7]

Army Chief of Staff

Shinseki as Army Chief of Staff thanks Senator Strom Thurmond for his service to the country during his 100th birthday celebration. Shinseki joined Thomas White in naming the centerpiece of the National Museum of the Army in Thurmond's honor in a ceremony at his office on Capitol Hill December 4, 2002.

During his tenure as Army Chief of Staff, Shinseki initiated an innovative but controversial plan to make the Army more strategically deployable and mobile in urban terrain by creating Stryker Interim-Force Brigade Combat Teams.[8] He conceived a long-term strategic plan for the Army dubbed Objective Force, which included a program he designed, Future Combat Systems.[9] One other controversial plan that Shinseki implemented was the wearing of the Black Beret for all Army personnel.[10] Prior to Shinseki implementing this policy, only the United States Rangers could wear the black beret. When the black beret was given to all soldiers and officers, the Rangers moved to the tan beret.

Shinseki publicly clashed with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld during the planning of the war in Iraq over how many troops the United States would need to keep in Iraq for the postwar occupation of that country. As Army Chief of Staff, General Shinseki testified to the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee that "something in the order of several hundred thousand soldiers" would probably be required for postwar Iraq. This was an estimate far higher than the figure being proposed by Secretary Rumsfeld in his invasion plan, and it was rejected in strong language by both Rumsfeld and his Deputy Secretary of Defense, Paul Wolfowitz, who was another chief planner of the invasion and occupation.[11] From then on, Shinseki's influence on the Joint Chiefs of Staff reportedly waned.[12] Critics of the Bush Administration alleged that Shinseki was forced into early retirement as Army Chief of staff because of his comments on troop levels; however, his retirement was actually announced nearly a year before those comments.[13]

When the insurgency took hold in postwar Iraq, Shinseki's comments and their public rejection by the civilian leadership were often cited by those who felt the Bush administration deployed too few troops to Iraq.[14] On November 15, 2006, in testimony before Congress, CENTCOM Commander Gen. John Abizaid said that General Shinseki had been correct that more troops were needed.[14]

Post-military career

President Barack Obama and guests at signing of bill to grant Congressional Gold Medal to 100th Infantry Battalion and 442nd Regimental Combat Team in recognition of their World War II service. Shinseki is at the far right.

Shinseki has served as a director for several corporations: Honeywell International and Ducommun, military contractors; Grove Farm Corporation; First Hawaiian Bank;[15] and Guardian Life Insurance Company of America.[16] He is a member of the Advisory Boards at the Center for Public Leadership, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, and to the U.S. Comptroller General. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Atlantic Council of the United States, and the Association of the United States Army.[17]

On December 7, 2008, then-President-elect Barack Obama announced at a press conference in Chicago that he would nominate Shinseki to become the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.[18] He was unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate on January 20, 2009, and sworn in the next day.[19]

Awards, decorations, and badges

Shinseki was awarded the following medals, ribbons, badges, and tabs:[20][21][22]

Bronze oak leaf cluster
Defense Distinguished Service Medal (with Oak Leaf Cluster)[23]
Coast Guard Distinguished Service Medal[23]
Army Distinguished Service Medal
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Legion of Merit (with Oak Leaf Cluster)
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze Star (with "V" Device and two Oak Leaf Clusters)
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Purple Heart (with Oak Leaf Cluster)
Defense Meritorious Service Medal
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Meritorious Service Medal (with two Oak Leaf Clusters)
Air Medal
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Army Commendation Medal (with Oak Leaf Cluster)
Army Achievement Medal
Bronze star
Width=44 scarlet ribbon with a central width-4 golden yellow stripe, flanked by pairs of width-1 scarlet, white, Old Glory blue, and white stripes
National Defense Service Medal with Service star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Vietnam Service Medal with four Service stars
Armed Forces Service Medal
Army Service Ribbon
Army Overseas Service Ribbon
Yugoslavia service medal
Vietnam Campaign Medal
US Army Airborne basic parachutist badge.gif Parachutist Badge
RangerTab TIoH.gif Ranger Tab
Office of the Secretary of Defense Identification Badge.png Office of the Secretary of Defense Identification Badge
Joint Chiefs of Staff seal.svg Joint Chiefs of Staff Identification Badge
GeneralStaffID.gif Army Staff Identification Badge


Shinseki is married and has two children, Lori and Ken.[3]


  1. Gregg K. Kakesako (June 21, 1999). "Native son joining ranks of eminent Army leaders". Retrieved November 13, 2012. 
  2. Obata, Hiroshi. 両祖父母は広島出身 ("Shinseki: both grandparents are from Hiroshima"). Hiroshima Peace Media (Japan). January 30, 2009
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Bobbie Kyle Sauer (December 18, 2008). "10 Things You Didn’t Know About Gen. Eric Shinseki". Retrieved November 12, 2012. 
  4. Fahrig, Jody T. (June 23, 1999). "Army welcomes Shinseki as new chief". Archived from the original on March 12, 2008. Retrieved May 27, 2006. 
  5. Shinseki, Eric K (June 10, 2003). "End of Tour Memorandum" (PDF). The Washington Post Company. Retrieved December 7, 2008. 
  6. Thom Shanker (January 14, 2009). "A Second Act for General Shinseki". Retrieved February 6, 2012. 
  7. Gregg K. Kakesako (March 31, 2004). "An Inspiration for a Generation". Retrieved February 6, 2012. 
  8. Thom Shanker (October 29, 2002). "Army Takes on Critics of an Armored Vehicle". Retrieved March 20, 2011. 
  9. "Objective Force is Needed for Relevancy". AUSA News. Association of the United States Army. April 1, 2001. Retrieved March 20, 2011. 
  10. "Beret battle: Army approves color change". March 16, 2001. Retrieved March 20, 2011. 
  11. Schmitt, Eric (February 28, 2003). "Pentagon Contradicts General on Iraq Occupation Force's Size". The New York Times. Retrieved April 4, 2012. 
  12. Shanker, Thom "New Strategy Vindicates Ex-Army Chief Shinseki", New York Times, January 12, 2007.
  13. CNN Political Unit. CNN Political Unit debate fact check. October 9, 2004.
  14. 14.0 14.1 Ricks, Thomas E.; Ann Scott Tyson (November 16, 2006). "Abizaid Says Withdrawal Would Mean More Unrest". Washington Post. p. A22. Retrieved December 13, 2006. "General [Eric] Shinseki was right that a greater international force contribution, U.S. force contribution and Iraqi force contribution should have been available immediately after major combat operations." 
  15. Rucker, Philip; Thomas E. Ricks (December 6, 2008). "Shinseki Slated to Head VA, Obama Confirms". Washington Post. Retrieved December 7, 2008. 
  16. "Shinseki biography". Forbes. Retrieved December 7, 2008. 
  17. "The Purpose Prize: Shinseki". Retrieved December 7, 2008. 
  18. "Obama: No one 'more qualified' than Shinseki to head VA". CNN. December 7, 2008. Retrieved December 7, 2008. 
  19. Abrams, Jim (January 20, 2009). "Senate confirms 6 cabinet secretaries". Retrieved January 10, 2013. 
  20. "Eric K. Shinseki". Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs. United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Retrieved January 29, 2013. 
  21. "Overseas Contingency Operations". Asian Pacific Americans in the United States Army. United States Army. Retrieved January 28, 2013. 
  22. "Chief of Staff of the Army Official Portrait". Army Leadership. United States ARmy. June 24, 2001. Archived from the original on April 29, 2003. Retrieved January 29, 2013. 
  23. 23.0 23.1 "Eric Ken Shinseki". Military Times Hall of Valor. Gannett Government Media Corporation. Retrieved January 28, 2013. 


Further reading

External links

Military offices
Preceded by
William Crouch
Commanding General of the United States Army Europe
Succeeded by
Montgomery Meigs
Vice Chief of Staff of the United States Army
Succeeded by
Jack Keane
Preceded by
Dennis Reimer
Chief of Staff of the United States Army
Succeeded by
Peter Schoomaker
Political offices
Preceded by
James Peake
United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs
United States order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Arne Duncan
as Secretary of Education
Order of Precedence of the United States
as Secretary of Veterans Affairs
Succeeded by
Denis McDonough
as White House Chief of Staff
United States presidential line of succession
Preceded by
Arne Duncan
as Secretary of Education
14th in line
as Secretary of Veterans Affairs

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