WHO IS HENRY SHELTON?
JULY 17, 1997
President Clinton nominated Army General Henry Shelton to be the next Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The nomination must now be confirmed by the Senate. To find out more about the nominee, Charles Krause talks to Susanne Schafer, who covers the Pentagon for the Associated Press.
JIM LEHRER: President Clinton's nomination to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is Army General Henry Shelton. Here is some of what he and the President said at a White House announcement ceremony this morning.
A RealAudio version of this NewsHour segment is available.
June 9, 1997:
The nomination of Gen. Joseph Ralston ends in his withdrawal from the running.
June 5, 1997:
Public reaction to adultery allegations against Gen. Ralston threaten his bid for chairmanship of the Joint Chiefs.
January 5, 1996:
A Newsmaker interview with Joint Chiefs chair Gen. John Shalikashvili about military actions in Bosnia.
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PRESIDENT CLINTON: Over more than three decades of service to our nation, he has distinguished himself as a decorated solder, an innovative thinker, a superb commander. From Vietnam to Desert Storm he has proven his skill and courage in combat. And through long experiences in special operations he also brings to this job a unique perspective in addressing the broad range of challenges we face on the brink of new century, from war fighting to peacekeeping, from conventional threats to newer threats, like the spread of weapons of mass destruction and terrorism.
Gen. Shelton's extensive experience in joint military operations and building coalitions with other nations give him invaluable tools to serve as chairman in our more inter-dependent world. I believe he is the right person for the job, the right person for our troops, for our security, the right man for our country. I'm proud to nominate him to help to lead our military into the 21st century. General. (applause)
GEN. HENRY SHELTON, Nominee, Joint Chiefs Chairman: Thank you very much. With this honor comes the awesome responsibility of ensuring that our own forces remain trained, ready, and equipped to deal with the threats and dangers of today, as well as an uncertain future.
This is a responsibility that I accept without hesitation or reservation, and I certainly look forward to continuing to serve on the side of America's best, the great men and women of our armed forces who serve proudly and selflessly. General Shalikashvili has done a magnificent job, and if confirmed by the Senate, I look forward to following in his footsteps in the days ahead. Again, I'm deeply honored by my nomination, and I sincerely appreciate President Clinton's trust and confidence. Thank you. (applause)
JIM LEHRER: Charles Krause has more.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Gen. Shelton's nomination to head the Joint Chiefs of Staff came five weeks after the administration's first choice for the job, Air Force General Joseph Ralston, was forced to withdraw his name from consideration. Gen. Ralston admitted having an extramarital affair, which doomed his nomination. Joining us now is Susanne Schafer, who covers the Pentagon for the Associated Press. Susanne Schafer, welcome.
SUSANNE SCHAFER, Associated Press: Thank you.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Tell me about General Shelton. Who is he, and what's his background?
SUSANNE SCHAFER: He's really not well known outside of military circles, Charles, but inside the Pentagon he's known as a soldier's soldier. He's been trained as a paratrooper, did special forces work in Vietnam, served with the 101st Airborne Division in Desert Storm, and then went on to lead the invasion--well, actually, which turned into a peaceful infusion of troops in Haiti in 1994. He's the kind of guy that's the first to jump out of the aircraft. He thinks of his soldiers first. He's also got a broad strategic view of the world. He's been in an interesting command. The special operations command, the base at Medill, has Navy Seals, Air Force special forces, has Army special forces. So he's got to have a view that encompasses all the services and to be able to be the adviser to the President and to the Secretary of Defense, he is going to have to take a step into a new world, which is Washington.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Let's talk for a moment about the world he's coming from, the special operations command that you had mentioned. What kinds of things do they do? What kind of troops are down there that he's been commanding?
SUSANNE SCHAFER: This is a really interesting group. It's the type of people who work under the cover of darkness. They can respond to terrorist attacks, sabotage, insert forces, get them out really quickly, so they have to be highly trained, and they can also be flexible.
Sometimes what they do is go into countries and work with local military forces, local civilian groups. It was interesting to watch in Haiti. I was able to see a group of special forces who were in Jakmal after a heavy rainstorm. They were called out in the middle of the night by the local people, who were basically clinging from the trees. They went out with their rubber boats and plucked babies out of houses that were being washed away. It was an amazing operation. They were both warriors and diplomats. And this is the kind of training that they've got, which perhaps is something that will go to Gen. Shelton's stead in the future. These are the types of things that they are in the Pentagon looking up as the threats of the future: terrorism, chemical, biological warfare, ethnic war. These are the kinds of missions that the United States military sees itself taking on more and more, less land combat, naval combat, air combat.
CHARLES KRAUSE: So, in a sense, does his nomination represent change--the change of priorities? Is that what you're suggesting?
SUSANNE SCHAFER: It could. It's certain that he's got the background in land warfare, ground combat. He showed that in his Haiti operation. He was able to switch from a hostile invasion of paratroopers to a peaceful takeover. That's the kind of flexibility, though, that people think is needed in the future from a military leader. He's going to have to be able to advise the President in the coming year whether to retain troops in Bosnia. That's going to be a big question. He's also going to have to show some deftness in terms of reorganizing the American military for the future. One of the big questions is the role of women in the military, and that's something that he--people have said he doesn't have a lot of experience in, but every Army commander has had to take a look at what's going on in Aberdeen and has had to realize whether they can address that kind of problem among forces.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Do you have any sense of where he'll come down on some of these really controversial issues?
SUSANNE SCHAFER: People who've worked with him say that he's just a quintessential army commander; that he really cares for the soldiers; that he's able to get down and talk with the troops, listen to them, and then act; that that's a very important thing. He's not just a soldier. He's also a good manager, and he listens to his people.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Now, much has been made of the fact that the President reached down over a number of more senior generals to select General Shelton. Why do you think they decided to do that?
SUSANNE SCHAFER: Well, under the Goldwater-Nickles Act, the Secretary of Defense is required to look at 13 individuals who are the service chiefs and then the geographical war fighting commanders that have responsibility for U.S. troops around the world. What happened with the Ralston affair was that people who may not have had a real solid first look got a second look the second time around. And that includes people who had much more specialty in their backgrounds, just like Gen. Shelton. So it's not that he's diminished by this, I think. It's just that perhaps by an accident of history we've got an interesting person for an interesting time.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Tell me this. How did the President and the Secretary of Defense satisfy themselves that Gen. Shelton might not have the same kind of problems that Gen. Ralston had?
SUSANNE SCHAFER: Well, certainly the question was asked or made certain that if you had any problems along the line of Gen. Ralston, please make them known now; we don't need any further political embarrassments of this sort for the President or the Secretary. Gen. Shelton is known as a family man. He has three sons. One of them is a Secret Service agent. One of them is an Army captain. He married his high school sweetheart. When you're on an Army base for as long as he's been, your life is in many cases an open book. So from all the testimonials that I've had of people that have known him, they see him as a very religious and family-centered man, so if there'd been any problems, one would have thought by now they'd come up.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Last question quickly. Do you see any--what has the reaction been from Congress, any problems there?
SUSANNE SCHAFER: It looks like he's going to have pretty smooth sailing through the confirmation hearings, even though he's not well known outside Washington. The committee, Senate Armed Services Committee, knows him. He's testified there before, and he's had to ask for money. They know what he's all about, and every single comment so far has been very favorable.
CHARLES KRAUSE: You said General Ralston. I think you meant General Shelton.
SUSANNE SCHAFER: Oh, excuse me. Yes. General Shelton.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Susanne Schafer, thank you very much for joining us.
SUSANNE SCHAFER: Thank you.