West, Togo D. Jr. 1942–
Togo D. West, Jr. 1942–
Secretary of the U.S. Army
In November of 1993, Togo D. West, Jr., was named by President Bill Clinton as the Secretary of the Army. West is the second African American to be Army secretary, the first being Clifford Alexander who held the position from 1977 to 1981, during the administration of President Jimmy Carter. Secretary of the Army is a relatively new position, created in 1947, when the United States military was restructured and the old departments of War and Navy were merged into the newly founded Department of Defense. As Secretary of the Army, West’s duties are to provide that branch of the service with a civilian chief and to oversee recruitment, training, and equipping of Army personnel. He manages an annual budget of nearly $60 billion and leads a work force of over one million soldiers and 270,000 civilian employees.
Togo Dennis West, Jr. was born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina in 1942. His father was a high school principal. Addressing the faculty and graduating class of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, in 1994, West passed along advice he received from his educator father. “Teachers, remember this: you teach the life you live. You, as officers, will teach the value of integrity, and you will teach its importance in the life of our Army and our country by the way you live it,” West was quoted in the New York Times as telling the West Point commencement.
West attended Howard University in Washington, D.C., among the most elite of historically black colleges, from which he received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1965. He briefly worked as an engineer for the Duquense Power and Light Company before enrolling at Howard University’s law school. As a law student, West held internships at private law firms and at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Graduating with cum laude honors in 1968, West moved on to a year-long clerkship with the Honorable Harold R. Tyler, a judge with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
In 1969, West joined the U.S. Army and was commissioned as an officer in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps. He spent four years as an Army officer, serving on the staff of the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs. Leaving the Army but not public service, West worked as an Associate
Born Togo Dennis West, Jr. on June 21, 1942 in Winston-Salem, NC, the son of Togo Dennis West, Sr. (a high school principal) and Evelyn Carter West; married Gail Estelle Berry West (an attorney); children: Tiffany Berry West, Hilary Carter West; Education-Howard University, B.S., electrical engineering, 1965; Howard University Law School, J.D., 1968; Politics —Democrat. Religion —Episcopalian.
Career: Duquense Light and Power Company, electrical engineer, 1965; patent researcher, Sughrue, Roth-well, Mion, Zinn, and McPeak law firm, 1966-67; legal intern, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 1967; law clerk, Covington and Burling law firm, 1967-68; judicial clerkship for Hon. Harold R. Tyler, judge of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of NY, 1968-69; officer in the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General Corps, 1969-73; associate attorney at Covington and Burling law firm, 1973-75; associate deputy attorney general, U.S. Department of Justice, 1975-76; general counsel for the U.S. Dept.of the Navy, 1977-79; special asst. to the secretary and the deputy secretary, U.S. Dept. of Defense, 1979-80; general counsel for the U.S. Dept. of Defense, 1980-81; managing partner at Washington office of Patterson, Belknap, Webb, and Tyler law firm, 1981-90; senior vice president for govt, relations, Northrop Corp., Arlington, VA, 1990-93; Secretary of the Army, 1993-.
Awards: U.S. Army Legion of Merit; Defense Dept. Medal for Distinguished Public Service; Boy Scouts of America Distinguished Eagle Scout rank.
Memberships: American Bar Assn., Metropolitan Club, Univ. Club of Washington, Boy Scouts of America (Eagle scout).
Addresses: Home— Washington, D.C. Office— Office of the Secretary of the Army, 101 Army Pentagon, Washington, D.C. 20310-0101.
Deputy Attorney General at the U.S. Department of Justice from 1973 to 1975. After a brief stint in private practice with the law firm of Covington and Burling, West was appointed to the position of general counsel for the Department of the Navy in 197 7. He then served as special assistant to the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Defense, and was general counsel of the Department of Defense in 1980 and early 1981.
A Democrat, West was out of public service during the Republican administrations of Ronald Reagan and George Bush. From 1981 to 1990 he was managing partner of the Washington office of the New York law firm of Patterson, Belknap, Webb, and Tyler. From 1990 to 1993 West was a senior vice president at the Northrop Corporation, a defense contractor. West headed Northrop’s Washington office and was the company’s top lobbyist.
In September of 1993, President Bill Clinton nominated West as Secretary of the Army. West’s extensive experience in military and legal affairs, as well as his steady, low-key personal style made him a non-controversial candidate for the position. At the time of West’s nomination, the acting Secretary of the Army, John Shannon, was on self-imposed administrative leave after being accused of shoplifting a skirt and blouse from the base store at Fort Myer, Virginia. West quickly won Senate approval and was sworn-in as 16th Secretary of the Army in November of 1993.
West wrote in the October 1996 issue of Army that “the primary mission of the Army remains what it has always been—to fight and win the nation’s wars. And, in the post-Cold War world, the Army has also performed a number of other missions—from enforcing peace and preventing conflict to providing humanitarian assistance.” To enable the Army to accomplish its increasingly complex duties, West has a three-pronged strategy: maintaining readiness, increasing modernization, and improving the quality of life for soldiers and their families.
West sees the recruitment and training of high-quality personnel, especially in the non-commissioned officer ranks, as crucial to the maintenance of readiness. Under his leadership, the Army has added to its number of recruiting officers and boosted its annual budget for advertising. Recruitment is especially important as the downsizing of the U.S. military that has taken place since the end of the Cold War comes to an end and stabilization and replacement becomes the focus. In regard to training, the Army is making greater use of joint exercises with other branches of the military, creating more opportunities for formal educational instruction, including videotapes and distance learning, and is utilizing high technology simulators to realistically reproduce battlefield conditions.
Modernization has mostly to do with keeping equipment and weapons systems up-to-date. West must accomplish this task without the benefit of the generous budgetary allotments once enjoyed by military. According to Ethnic NewsWatch, the Army budget dropped from $90 billion in 1989 to $60 billion in 1994. The Army has invested in a limited number of new, “high-payoff” weapons, and is extending the lives and capabilities of many existing systems. West wrote in Army that the “some older, expensive-to-maintain systems that provide minimal return in combat capability are being retired. There measures will provide near-term modernization benefits. For the long term, the Army is programming the resources necessary to maintain decisive battlefield dominance.”
Quality of life issues encompass the pay and benefits, healthcare, housing, recreational activities, commissary and exchange privileges, and retirement packages offered to Army personnel. The Army has long been accused of not providing a standard of living equal to that of other services, especially the Air Force. In an interview with Army Times, West suggested that this inequality is more a perception than a reality. “I’m not so sure that their [the Air Force] members are better off than our members on a whole host of things. I do know this: We ought not persist in the perceived disparity, if there is such a perception, between members of the various services... I believe that we do very well by our soldiers, and that if I were to look at the things we need to do most for the Army, it is to [improve] housing.”
According to Army, 65 percent of U.S. soldiers are married and eight percent are single parents. Under West’s leadership, funding has increased for off-base family housing allowances and revitalization or demolition of substandard Army base housing has taken place. Child care facilities on army installations have grown in number and new programs for school age children have been established. “Our soldiers are our Army’s greatest asset. They deserve the best, and we must give them the best if they are to keep the Army on it’s current path of unprecedented success,” West wrote in Army.
Sexual harassment issues have plagued West’s tenure as Army secretary. In November of 1996, West ordered a wide-ranging investigation into the chain of command’s responsibility in the sexual abuse scandal at Maryland’s Aberdeen Proving Ground. The inquiry was the first high-level look at the possible role of senior officers in fostering inappropriate behavior among Army personnel. “We will go where the evidence takes us... At bottom, the violations we are looking at are violations of clear rules of law on the one hand, and the way leaders conduct themselves on the other,” West said at a press conference and was quoted in the Washington Post West also appointed a nine-member civilian-military panel to consider changes in the Army’s sexual harassment policies and training. Chris Black of the Boston Globe wrote that West “has been a calm and consistent voice at congressional hearings” looking into Army sexual harassment issues.
Accusations of discrimination in the Army are another problem West has faced. Both white and black, and male and female, personnel have made claims of being unfairly treated because of their race or gender. “I think the key to affirmative action is the sense of every party to it—whether black or white or short of tall—that they will be fairly treated. If you give them that sense, then whatever it is that is going on around them will be less significant,” West said in the Army Times.
As Army secretary, West has stewardship over 25 million acres of land. As the Army has grown smaller, many Army facilities have closed and the land sold to private investors. One controversial real estate issue with which West has become involved is a proposed stadium in Boston to be used by the New England Patriots and Boston Red Sox. West put a crimp in stadium plans when he said the Army has no expectations of giving up the Fargo Building, a World War II-era structure that stadium developers want to tear down in order to build a gigantic parking garage. This was good news to many local residents who object to the proposed stadium.
West, who makes his home in Washington, D.C., has been married since 1966 to Gail Berry West, an attorney and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force. They have two daughters, Tiffany, an attorney in private practice in Washington, D.C., and Hilary, who is on the staff of a member of the U.S. Congress. West is a vestryman at historic St. John’s Episcopal Church on Lafayette Square, across from the White House. He is also active in many cultural and philanthropic organizations in the Washington, D.C. area, including the Boy Scouts of America, the YWCA, and the World Affairs Council.
Army, October 1995, pp. 13-19; October 1996, pp. 13-16.
Army Times, March 20, 1995, p.9; April 10, 1995, p.10.
Boston Globe, February 9, 1997, p.15.
Jet, March 6, 1980, p.7.
New York Times, September 18, 1993, p.7; May 29, 1994, p.32.
Washington Post, November 22, 1996, p.l; November 23, 1996, p.9.
Information also obtained from the U.S. Army Office of Public Affairs, and Ethnic NewsWatch (Softline Information, Inc.).
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