Maj. Gen. William Rapp couldn’t have picked a better time get a ticket out of DC. As the Army’s Chief Legislative Liaison, he’s been the embattled service’s point man presenting its 2015 budget on Capitol Hill, where on top of all the usual budget shenanigans, the National Guard Association of the US is raising calculated hell to stop proposed Guard cuts. But in a few months, before the budget horrors hit their height, that won’t be Rapp’s problem anymore. He’ll be heading to the Army War College in small-town Carlisle, Penn., where Rapp will be the 50th commandant of the largest service’s premier institution for training future generals.
“He’s been very well regarded up here during his tenure,” one Hill staffer told me. “Very willing to engage and a straight shooter.”
Even NGAUS president Gus Hargett gave Rapp and his staff a grudging compliment last month when he said the Army has “done an excellent job of educating people on the Hill” about their case for Guard cuts.
Rapp will replace Maj. Gen. Tony Cucolo, another man who had good timing getting out of Washington: Cucolo was previously the Army G-8, responsible for “matching available resources to the defense strategy and the Army plan,” but he left for the War College in 2012 just months before the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration kicked in. Cucolo spoke to me before leaving DC about how the Army needed to wake up to the reality of shrinking budgets. As commandant, Cucolo played host and master of ceremonies to a series of high-profile seminars and wargames on the Army’s future after Afghanistan, an effort organized by the War College’s parent organization, Army Training And Doctrine Command. (One long-running issue in the Army is whether the War College should be independent of TRADOC).
Rapp and Cucolo both have significant combat experienceCucolo was deputy commander of the 10th Mountain Division during its deployment to Afghanistan in 2003-2004 and later commanded all US forces in northern Iraq in 2009-2010. Rapp did things in the opposite order, deploying to Iraq in 2005 with the famed 101st Airborne Division and again in 2008 as a senior aide to Gen. David Petraeus; then he went to Afghanistan in 2011-2012, after which he came to the Pentagon to take the legislative liaison position. Before 9/11, Cucolo deployed to Bosnia as a peacekeeper, while Rapp led an engineer company in Desert Storm.
Because the Army likes its generals to be, well, generalists, neither man is a specialist in inside-the-Beltway politicking: Cucolo’s an infantryman by trade, Rapp’s an engineer. For such soldiers, a Pentagon job can be a period of penance, so getting out of town is good. Getting to head up the Army’s highest institute of professional military learning might be even better.