President Obama will nominate former Procter & Gamble CEO Robert McDonald to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, a White House official said Sunday. Obama will announce the pick on Monday, exactly one month after the growing scandal at the VA forced former agency head Eric Shinseki to tender his resignation. McDonald will have to be confirmed by the Senate; so far, his prospects look good but not absolutely guaranteed.
In a sense, McDonald seems like an unusual choice. He isn’t a former military leader, unlike Shinseki and most other VA chiefs, and he’s a Republican, having donated thousands of dollars to a number of prominent Republicans over the last couple of years, including Mitt Romney and Speaker John Boehner. But there is a logic to the selection.
For one, the VA scandal — wherein veterans seeking medical care were subject to unfathomably long (and sometimes fatal) wait times — was largely the result of mismanagement, according to a report sent to the president on Friday by acting VA secretary Sloan Gibson. McDonald, on the other hand, has extensive management and bureaucratic experience, which at least in theory makes him well-equipped to rectify the agency’s woes.
Also, while he’s not a four-star general like Shinseki, he did graduate from West Point near the top of his class, and later served as a captain in the Army.
McDonald’s political affiliation, meanwhile, could blunt any potential Republican opposition to his nomination that might arise in the Senate. On the face of it, his prospects would seem to be rather good: He’s a Republican businessman, after all. Senator Rob Portman, to whom McDonald has also donated, reacted positively to his nomination.
Senator Bernie Sanders, who caucuses with the Democrats and chairs the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, also commented on McDonald’s nomination, but as of now, he’s still non-committal.
“The VA needs significantly improved transparency and accountability and it needs an increased number of doctors, nurses and other medical staff so that all eligible veterans get high-quality health care in a timely manner,” Sanders said in a statement. “I look forward to meeting with Mr. McDonald next week in order to ascertain his views on these important issues.”
McDonald was head of Procter & Gamble from 2009 to 2013. He’s a native of Gary, Indiana, and also served on the board of directors at Xerox, United States Steel, and the McKinsey Advisory Council.