President Barack Obama will name former Procter and Gamble CEO Bob McDonald as Secretary of Veterans Affairs on Monday, according to the Associated Press.
BREAKING: Obama selects former Procter and Gamble executive Robert McDonald to head Veterans Affairs
— The Associated Press (@AP) June 29, 2014
McDonald will become the permanent replacement at the top of the VA after Eric Shinseki, a retired Army general, resigned last month amid ongoing scandals over delays in the VA hospital system.
McDonald is, as the Washington Post points out, an “unorthodox pick” for the post, but he is a West Point graduate whose private sector background “underscores the serious management problems facing the agency charged with serving more than 8 million veterans a year.”
The 61-year-old graduated from West Point in 1975 before a five-year career in the Army that ended when, as a captain, he left to join P&G. That career ended when he stepped down as CEO in May 2013 after pressure from activist investors.
“The VA is more like a big business than a military organization, so his background probably makes him more qualified to run the VA than a retired general officer,” Phillip Carter of the Center for a New American Security told the Post. McDonald was at the military academy around the same time as many of today’s highest-ranking officers, as well as the current acting secretary Sloan Gibson.
In an interview with the Cincinnati Enquirer last winter, McDonald reflected on how his time in the military benefited his later life:
When your life’s in danger – whether it’s war or peace – where you’re jumping out of an airplane with a parachute, it makes anxiety real. So as you remember those situations, future situations may become less anxiety-ridden. And you learn to depend upon the people around you. You learn to love the people you work with.
The interview also touched on McDonald’s philosophy of “servant leadership” and reputation for “accessibility,” which might serve him well in his new job given how deep the problems run at VA.
Last week, a White House report delivered a “damning analysis of the VA’s health care system,” according toUSA Today. The report blamed a “corrosive culture” for the massive delays and lackluster care, pointing to a systemic problem that requires a more substantial overhaul than just a change in the secretary’s chair. You can see the summary of the report embedded below.
The report was the conclusion of an investigation ordered by Obama last month and conducted by his deputy chief of staff, Rob Nabors. In addition to the White House report, Veterans Affairs conducted its own Access Audit and found a need to reform the way veterans accessed care and the system’s overall level of transparency.
As NPR pointed out, the “bottom line” according to the White House is that the entire Veterans Affairs system has “to be restructured and reformed.”
Last week, the VA announced that two top officials would be resigning: Dr. Robert Jesse, acting under secretary for health, and Will Gunn, general counsel.
Gibson, the current acting secretary as well as deputy secretary, will likely remain as Bob McDonald’s deputy.
While McDonald’s long career has focused on consumer goods like toilet paper and laundry detergent, it seems that Obama is hoping that decades dealing with corporate management along with roots in the Army can help remake the Department of Veterans Affairs in a way that generals like Shinseki could not.