– President Barack Obama plans to nominate former Proctor & Gamble executive Robert McDonald as the next Veterans Affairs secretary, as the White House seeks to shore up an agency beset by treatment delays and struggling to deal with an influx of new veterans returning from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
An administration official said Obama would announce McDonald’s appointment Monday. If confirmed by the Senate, McDonald would succeed Eric Shinseki, the retired four-star general who resigned last month as the scope of the issues at veterans’ hospitals became apparent.
In tapping McDonald for the post, Obama is signaling his desire to install a VA chief with broad management experience. McDonald also had military experience, graduating near the top of his class from West Point and serving as a captain in the Army, primarily in the 82nd Airborne Division.
The administration official insisted on anonymity in order to confirm McDonald’s appointment before the president’s announcement.
Jim McNerney, Chairman and CEO of The Boeing Company, welcomed the development. “I believe Bob McDonald is an outstanding choice for this critically important position. Following his military service, Bob spent more than three decades in business, where he rose through the ranks leading increasingly large and complex organizations by demonstrating strong management skills and by understanding and attending to the needs of hundreds of thousands of individual consumers of Procter & Gamble.”
Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said in a statement that he looked forward to meeting with McDonald next week to get his views on issues he views as important.
Among them, Sanders said in a statement, “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.”
A biography of McDonald on Procter & Gamble’s website says he led the company from 2009 to 2013.
During that time, the company website states: “P&G realized annual sales of over $84 billion. The company had more than 120,000 employees, 120 plants and 200 brands in 35 categories, of which 25 brands generate over $1 billion in sales each year.”
The company’s Tide detergent, Crest toothpaste and other products can be found in 98 percent of American households. But under McDonald’s leadership, it struggled to grow under increased competition and global economic challenges. Critics suggested he was having trouble getting the 150-year-old-plus company to fire on all cylinders.
Investors, including activist investor William Ackman, voiced frustration over the company’s slow revenue growth and stagnant market share gains. Ackman, who took a 1 percent stake in the company, pressed for the company to streamline operations and improve results.
In a letter announcing his retirement from P&G, McDonald wrote, “This has been a very difficult decision for me, but I’m convinced it is what is in the best interests of the company and you. During the past year, much attention has been focused on me from several angles, which has been a distraction that is not in our best interests.”
McDonald also has served on the boards of directors of the Xerox Corp., the United States Steel Corp., the McKinsey Advisory Council and the Greater Cincinnati regional initiative intended to “grow high-potential startups” in the Cincinnati region.
The 61-year-old native of Gary, Indiana, McDonald grew up in Chicago and graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1975 with a degree in engineering. He earned an MBA from the University of Utah in 1978.