Choosing a nominee to permanently replace former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki is an important and crucial decision. After all, the federal agency has been criticized from all sides -- and justifiably so -- after numerous whistleblowers came forward and reported that veterans were going untreated for years and left to die in VA hospitals so that government employees could profit at their expense. Startlingly, too, the problems at the VA are not isolated to a few clinics or hospitals; corruption at the VA is systemic and well-documented. And, therefore, the next VA Secretary’s top concern is and must be bringing more accountability, efficiency, and transparency to the federal agency.
The Washington Post reports that the administration has tapped Bob McDonald to succeed interim VA Secretary Sloan Gibson -- a somewhat surprising choice given his relatively short military career. Nevertheless, his business acumen and managerial capabilities as a former CEO are obvious pluses:
President Obama on Monday will nominate Bob McDonald, a West Point graduate who served as chief executive of Procter & Gamble, to take over as head of the troubled Department of Veterans Affairs, according to White House officials.
The unorthodox pick of a retired corporate executive whose former company makes iconic household products such as Tide detergent and Charmin toilet paper — rather than a former military general — underscores the serious management problems facing the agency charged with serving more than 8 million veterans a year. On Friday, White House Deputy Chief of Staff Rob Nabors submitted a report to the president finding “significant and chronic system failures” and a “corrosive culture” at the Veterans Health Administration, which has come under fire for record-keeping that was skewed in an effort to cover up the long waits imposed on former troops seeking medical care.
The WSJ reports that lawmakers have greeted the president's decision both positively and with suspicion. And while some veterans groups have attacked the selection process -- i.e., angered over not being fully consulted and included in the search -- others still have welcomed the choice:
While Mr. McDonald would normally be seen as an unexpected choice, a crisis at the agency over extended wait times for health care and other problems means that "right now, they need someone with management skills,'' said Bob Wallace, executive director of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
"He comes with the credentials they need at this time: management expertise and someone who has made a living making tough decisions," Mr. Wallace said. "He has no allegiance to anyone in the VA. He can do what needs to be done without offending his friends."
Perhaps that's exactly why McDonald is the right manager for the job. But will he sail through the nomination process? We'll see.