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Why Bob McDonald is a big departure for the VA

Robert McDonald

US President Barack Obama announces his choice of Robert McDonald (R) to be the next veterans affairs secretary on June 30, 2014 in the Department of Veterans Affairs on June 30, 2014 in Washington, as Vice President Joe Biden (L) looks on.

Today, one month to the day after Eric Shinseki resigned as the Secretary of Department of Veterans Affairs, President Obama announced his pick to replace him: Bob McDonald, former president and CEO of Procter & Gamble, the world’s largest consumer products company.

In the past, the VA has been led by generals, a colonel, and a congressman, in addition to lobbyists and lawyers. Alan Simpson, who used to chair the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, praises the president for picking someone who hasn’t spent his career in the military or government service: “Oh, that’s big,” he says. “It’s huge and it’s critical.”

It's definitely different -- check out this list of McDonald's forbears: 

Ed Derwinski attended Loyola University, a private university in Chicago, and graduated in 1951. Before he became a Republican congressman, he served in the U.S. Army.

Anthony Principi, a Naval Academy graduate, served in Vietnam before attending law school at Seton Hall. He was a Navy JAG and a lawyer for the Department of the Navy before he became deputy secretary of the VA.

Jesse Brown graduated from City College of Illinois, then served as a marine in the Vietnam War. From 1973 until 1983, Brown was the supervisor of the National Service Office, National Appeals Office, Chief of Claims, National Service and Legislative Headquarters, and Deputy National Service Director.

Hershel Gober served in Vietnam, before he became the director of the Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs and the Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

Togo West went to Howard University for college and law school, before he became a U.S. Army JAG. He went on to become a corporate lawyer, then the Defense Department’s general counsel.

Jim Nicholson, a West Point graduate, received a master’s in public policy from Columbia University, and a law degree from the University of Denver School of Law.

Gordon Mansfield, a Villanova University graduate, served two tours of duty in Vietnam. Injured by an enemy solider, he received the Distinguished Service Cross.

James Peake went to West Point. After he served in the Army, he became the executive vice president and chief operating officer of Project Hope; then, QTC’s chief medical officer and CEO.

Eric Shinseki, who went to West Point, received a master’s degree in English literature from Duke Uiversity. He received a purple heart for his service in Vietnam, and was the director of several major corporations.

Sloan Gibson, another West Point grad, led the USO. He was an Army Ranger.

About the author

David Gura is a reporter for Marketplace, based in the Washington, D.C. bureau.

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