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Obama to nominate former P&G CEO as vets secretary

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By Steve Holland

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama has chosen former Procter & Gamble Chief Executive Officer Bob McDonald, an Army veteran, as his nominee to be the next secretary of veterans affairs, a senior Obama administration official said on Sunday.

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Obama’s announcement of McDonald, 61, will be made this week, possibly today. If confirmed by the Senate, McDonald would be tasked with repairing the Veterans Administration after widespread evidence of delays in military veterans getting health care at VA facilities.

The announcement is to come days after a White House review found significant and chronic failures across the board at the Veterans Administration and evidence that a “corrosive culture” prevails.

A senior administration official said Obama was attracted to McDonald by his corporate background and military service. He would succeed Eric Shinseki, who resigned late in May after the depth of the VA’s problems became clear.

McDonald is the former chairman, president and CEO of Procter & Gamble, having retired a year ago after 33 years with the Fortune 500 company, where he started as a brand assistant in 1980 and rose through the ranks.

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.

Officials believe his lengthy tenure at P&G prepares him well for a huge agency with management challenges in providing services to more than 8 million veterans a year. At P&G, he oversaw more than 120,000 employees, with operations around the world, selling products in more than 180 countries.

Military, business background

U.S. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner called McDonald “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.”

But Boehner, the top Republican in Congress, added: “The next VA secretary can only succeed in implementing that type of change if his boss, the president, first commits to doing whatever it takes to give our veterans the world class health care system they deserve by articulating a vision for sweeping reform. Our nation’s veterans deserve nothing less.”

American Express Chief Executive Ken Chenault, who served on the P&G board during McDonald’s time there, called McDonald a strong manager who knows how to make large organizations work effectively.

“He’s an excellent choice to set the right course for the Veterans Administration at a difficult time,” Chenault said in a statement.

The White House review, which was conducted by senior Obama aide Rob Nabors, said the agency’s 14-day scheduling standard for new patients to receive care was arbitrary, ill-defined and misunderstood.

Obama accepted the findings on Friday by Nabors and acting Veterans Secretary Sloan Gibson, who said: “We can and must solve these problems as we work to earn back the trust of veterans.”

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