President Obama has chosen former P&G CEO Bob McDonald as his new secretary of veterans affairs, according to White House officials cited by The Washington Post.
The decision follows a report on Friday from deputy chief of staff Rob Nabors, which found "significant and chronic system failures," and what Nabors and acting VA secretary Sloan Gibson deemed a "corrosive culture" at the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). The VHA has also come under scrutiny for skewed record-keeping designed to cover up long wait times imposed on veterans seeking medical care.
McDonald will succeed former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, who resigned in late May.
The appointment of Bob McDonald is something of an unorthodox one as the position has in recent history been filled by retired military generals, politicians, or medical professionals. Although McDonald is a West Point graduate and military veteran, he spent the last 33 years at Procter & Gamble, rising from brand assistant to chairman, president and CEO, retiring last year. Yahoo reported he "served on the McKinsey Advisory Council, the Singapore International Advisory Council of the Economic Development Board, and on the boards of U.S. Steel and Xerox Corp." The Post describes McDonald as an army veteran, achieving the rank of captain in the 82nd Airborne Division.
In a statement, House Speaker John Boehner referred to McDonald as "a good man, a veteran, and a strong leader with decades of experience in the private sector. With those traits, he's the kind of person who is capable of implementing the kind of dramatic systemic change that is badly needed and long overdue at the VA."
The Washington Post points out that, according to federal election records, McDonald has contributed financially to Republican politicians in the past, including Mitt Romney and Boehner himself. The unorthodox decision to select a retired corporate executive for the position is widely held to be a reflection of the drastic management issues facing the agency. As Phillip Carter, who follows veterans issues for the Center for a New American Security, told The Washington Post, "The choice suggests a real focus on customer satisfaction, as opposed to what you might get from a retired general or medical leader. It is probably a wise choice given the concerns right now of veterans." Carter went on to add that McDonald's "background probably makes him more qualified to run the VA than a retired general officer."