President Obama will nominate former Procter & Gamble chief executive Bob McDonald as the next secretary of veterans affairs, calculating that a corporate manager and outsider can turn around the beleaguered department.
If confirmed by the Senate, McDonald, a 61-year-old Army veteran, would be tasked with overcoming a scandal over long wait times at Veterans Affairs hospitals and other medical facilities — and what a White House review called the “corrosive culture” of the VA.
McDonald would succeed Eric Shinseki, who resigned in late May after a preliminary report released by the VA’s inspector general revealed officials had manipulated waiting lists to cover up delays in scheduling appointments for military veterans seeking medical treatment.
The FBI is investigating criminal allegations against the VA, which runs more than 1,700 facilities serving more than 8 million veterans a year.
A reform-minded veterans group, Concerned Veterans for America, offered cautious optimism that McDonald’s corporate experience will help him clean up and improve the VA.
“[We] are hopeful that McDonald will use his management experience as a corporate executive to turn around the VA and bring accountability,” Pete Hegseth, CVA’s chief executive officer, said in a prepared statement.
McDonald is the former chairman, president, and CEO of Procter & Gamble Co. He retired a year ago after 33 years with the Fortune 500 company, where he started as a brand assistant in 1980.
Obama’s choice differs significantly from the one he made five years ago, when he appointed Shinseki, a retired four-star Army general, to the top VA post.
Rather than choose another military commander to fix the VA, the nation’s largest integrated health care network, Obama oped for someone with decades of experience in the private sector.
At Procter & Gamble, McDonald oversaw more than 120,000 employees selling products in more than 180 countries.
Hegseth, head of the veterans group, said:
If confirmed, Mr. McDonald will have to fight relentlessly for systemic reform, shake up the senior leadership, fire executives, and protect whistleblowers from reprisals if he is to earn our membership’s support.
House Speaker John Boehner released a statement complimenting McDonald as “a good man, a veteran, and a strong leader.”
But, the Ohio Republican cautioned, McDonald can succeed only “if his boss, the president, first commits to doing whatever it takes to give our veterans the world-class health system they deserve by articulating a vision for sweeping reform.”