Obama picks new VA chief from the private sector

posted at 2:41 pm on June 30, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

Not all of the news in Washington today is coming from the steps of the Supreme Court. Barack Obama has finally settled on a replacement for Eric Shinseki at the VA, which is reeling from exposure of corruption that cost the lives of dozens of veterans, if not hundreds. Bob McDonald, the former CEO of Proctor & Gamble and a West Point graduate, will assume command at the VA as demands for bottom-to-top reform crescendoes:

McDonald, who retired from P&G in June 2013, will replace VA Secretary Eric Shinseki who resigned in late May amid reports of widespread problems within the Veterans Health Agency, including allegations that some veterans died while waiting for care.

The White House says McDonald’s 33 years at the consumer products giant “prepares him well for a huge agency with management challenges in servicing more than 8 million veterans a year.”

McDonald has already picked up one important endorsement from across the aisle, as well as a warning:

House Speaker John Boehner hailed the choice, saying McDonald is “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 he said it will only happen if Obama “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.”

Don’t forget that John Koskinen was also hailed as a “turnaround artist” when Obama appointed him to run the IRS in post-scandal mode. McDonald, though, seems to be cut from a different cloth. He has spent his entire career in the private sector after leaving the US Army rather than move up through alternating stints in government. Unlike Koskinen, who is also a big donor to the Democratic Party, McDonald is an occasional donor to Republicans — maxing out twice for Mitt Romney, but that’s about the extent of his politics over the last several years. One might wonder whether the IRS scandal would have taken a much different turn had the two appointments been reversed.

McDonald will have an arguably more difficult task at the VA, though, because the root of the problem is the VA itself. Its single-payer system creates incentives that have everything to do with protecting bureaucracies and nothing to do with customer service. McDonald comes from a company that operates in highly-competitive markets, where customer service and quality are make-or-break points for organizational survival. Boehner’s correct that McDonald can’t come in with a mission to just clean up the current system, and more to the point, he’s the wrong choice for that kind of mission anyway.

Expect him to fly through a confirmation hearing and vote. The real test for McDonald and the administration is what comes afterward.


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“You didn’t build that”.

Schadenfreude on June 30, 2014 at 2:44 PM

The oaf will speak, shortly, in favor of illegal immigration by pen…because his big ego can’t stand to be upstaged by the SC.

Schadenfreude on June 30, 2014 at 2:44 PM

If Obama picked him, then he is a snake in the grass Marxist whose only job is to screw up the VA even more than it already is. Cause that is how Obama rolls.

oscarwilde on June 30, 2014 at 2:44 PM

When was the last time a hospital chain hired a toothpaste salesman to perform a turnaround?

McDonald is a Chicago Crony. He will be in charge of hard drives.

faraway on June 30, 2014 at 2:47 PM

The White House says McDonald’s 33 years at the consumer products giant “prepares him well for a huge agency with management challenges in servicing more than 8 million veterans a year.”

How exactly does spending 33 years pushing toothpaste and mouthwash prepare one for reform of a massive bureaucractic single-payer health system? Shinseki was supposedly qualified because of his experience commanding troops.

Here’s a radical suggestion. How about hiring somebody that has been in charge of a large healthcare system.

Happy Nomad on June 30, 2014 at 2:49 PM

OT- Israeli officials confirm to Fox News that the bodies of three kidnapped Israeli teenagers have been discovered in the West Bank town of Hebron.

Yeah, who could have seen that coming?

Happy Nomad on June 30, 2014 at 2:52 PM

OT:
Obama to use executive actions to advance immigration reform

Obama is scheduled to speak at 2:50 p.m. EDT.

“The president will address the Republican leadership’s unwillingness to bring immigration reform up for an up-or-down vote and the president will announce a new effort to fix as much of our broken immigration system as he can through executive action,” the official said in a statement.

kcewa on June 30, 2014 at 2:55 PM

So desperate, Obama had to make a good decision…

right2bright on June 30, 2014 at 2:56 PM

The real test for McDonald and the administration is what comes afterward.

Start firing administrators!

GarandFan on June 30, 2014 at 3:00 PM

Here’s a radical suggestion. How about hiring somebody that has been in charge of a large healthcare system.

Happy Nomad on June 30, 2014 at 2:49 PM

You don’t mean Kathleen Cruella Syphilis, do you?

BobMbx on June 30, 2014 at 3:00 PM

Here’s a radical suggestion. How about hiring somebody that has been in charge of a large healthcare system.

Happy Nomad on June 30, 2014 at 2:49 PM

Happy, the answer to that question may be this simple:

you won’t find a successful healthcare exec willing to take it on.

In fact I’m surprised anyone from the private sector was willing, so to me this is potentially good news. Certainly no government bureaucrat was ever going to do any good at VA, so at least McDonald has a shot, slim though it is, of making some improvements.
As Ed points out though, it’s the root concept of single payer that dooms the whole system, not to mention the inability to make individuals accountable. I’ll give Mr. McDonald 18 months before he throws the towel in, he will be frustrated as he learns that the tools he had available at P @ G simply do not exist in government.

JusDreamin on June 30, 2014 at 3:02 PM

Ed, we need a post on Hillary’s GFY meltdown

faraway on June 30, 2014 at 3:05 PM

So desperate, Obama had to make a good decision…

right2bright on June 30, 2014 at 2:56 PM

The jury is out on the whole “good decision” thing. If this guy doesn’t start by firing all the senior staff where this criminal behavior happened, then he’s just a whitewash appointee.

My money says he tries to come up with the some meaningless crap that sounds good and fixes nothing.

dogsoldier on June 30, 2014 at 3:06 PM

I doubt Obama will back him if he tries to do anything the SEIU does not like. And they won’t like anything that would punish the wrongdoers, and reward those who deserve it. That would, no doubt, be contrary to union rules.

So all the problematic entrenched organizational establishment will remain and the institutional abuse of veterans will continue at VA.

In the end, the most McDonald may be able to do to effect change will be to resign in disgust and air his experiences and feelings to Congress and the citizenry.

s1im on June 30, 2014 at 3:06 PM

Blaming the gop…..the year of obstruction …..its the gop fault for not strengthening the borders

cmsinaz on June 30, 2014 at 3:06 PM

As a disabled veteran, I am not quite sure about this. While I applaud the fact a not inside the beltway retired 4 star will be heading up the VA, I still think that instead of nominating some former or retired officer, why don’t they nominate some retired Command E-9, who can see through the (B)ravo (S)ierra of staff personnel?

In my years in the military, I have known many Senior Enlisted personnel that I would follow through the the gates of hell with, but very few senior officers or Flag Rank officers.

Just because someone was a former or retired officer, doesn’t automatically qualify them for a position such as this.

Just my two cents worth.

Gothguy on June 30, 2014 at 3:08 PM

cmsinaz on June 30, 2014 at 3:06 PM

He’s taking no responsibility for the border clusterfark at all. How typical.

CoffeeLover on June 30, 2014 at 3:08 PM

Just a simplle up or down vote NEVERMIND Harry Reid not bringing. ANY of the house bills for an up or down vote

Idiot!!!!!

cmsinaz on June 30, 2014 at 3:08 PM

Ed, we need a post on Hillary’s GFY meltdown

faraway on June 30, 2014 at 3:05 PM

Link what happened. Thanks.

Schadenfreude on June 30, 2014 at 3:09 PM

No indeed coffeelover

cmsinaz on June 30, 2014 at 3:09 PM

Hah, this is funny

Schadenfreude on June 30, 2014 at 3:10 PM

I’m going to do everything on my own

cmsinaz on June 30, 2014 at 3:14 PM

Yay! The King is taking immigration into his own hands!

John the Libertarian on June 30, 2014 at 3:14 PM

“America can not wait forever to act!”

Asking Holder DOJ and Johnson (DHS) to:

1. Move resources from interior to the border

2. Identify add’l actions O can take

Swears his steps are within his powers. Oivey

He didn’t take one bit of responsibility for the mess he’s created nor did he say one thing that would help stop the mess from occurring on that border.

CoffeeLover on June 30, 2014 at 3:18 PM

Hillary down in the dumps: Is Clinton about to drop out of 2016 race?

“Right now I’m feeling like they can all go f**k themselves,” Hillary said, referring to the media.

“I know the country needs us, but they aren’t acting like they deserve us. Just f**k ‘me.

faraway on June 30, 2014 at 3:20 PM

I gotta say I am OK with this. Obama seems to have made a good pick this time. Now let’s see if he backs him up or is just making an empty gesture. Time will tell.

Johnnyreb on June 30, 2014 at 3:20 PM

OT: Stompyfoot stomping his foot in the Rose Garden…..

d1carter on June 30, 2014 at 3:22 PM

The Rose Garden Rant is now over…

d1carter on June 30, 2014 at 3:23 PM

It’s best just to stay clear of the VA I think.

claudius on June 30, 2014 at 3:26 PM

Psst. McDonald got run out of Dodge at P&G. Still, probably better than some bureaucrat in government service for 30 years.

BuckeyeSam on June 30, 2014 at 3:26 PM

Strap on your sword, McDonald!

Prepare to meet the VA bureacracy that is SMAUG!

Smaug says, “Mmmm, McDonald’s for dinner!”

Marcola on June 30, 2014 at 3:29 PM

You cannot reform a system where a single private doctor treats more patients than EIGHT on its payroll.

You cannot reform a system where at least 72 regional offices falsified data to appear to improve service, while veterans suffered long waits for medical appointments and many even died waiting.

You cannot reform a system where everyone from top managers to local managers used the phony numbers to collect millions of dollars in bonuses for “improving.”

Shut it down, fire them all.

Give veterans with service-related medical problems full coverage via federal employee insurance with coverage for copays and deductibles. We cannot afford to treat all veterans free for life for all health matters unrelated to their service.

That’s the reality. Anything else is throwing good money down the rathole after the bad.

Adjoran on June 30, 2014 at 3:31 PM

Gothguy on June 30, 2014 at 3:08 PM

From the outside looking in, I’d agree with you on Senior NCOs Goth. I know a couple of Marines, a Master Gunn and a Sgt. Major. Both EXCEPTIONAL leaders, I mean both from a pure management standpoint and the ability to motivate.
Still, experience in the healthcare field would seem to be vital. What E-9 roles would fit? And how much would government bureaucracy interfere with the that ability to lead? Too much I fear.

JusDreamin on June 30, 2014 at 3:41 PM

Forgive me if I don’t hold out hope that this will be his *first* decent appointment.

Midas on June 30, 2014 at 3:53 PM

Bob McDonald, the former CEO of Proctor & Gamble

…a very left-wing corporation, of course, which is why we don’t buy Panteen shampoo, Tide laundry soap, or Crest toothpaste.

itsnotaboutme on June 30, 2014 at 4:00 PM

“Right now I’m feeling like they can all go f**k themselves,” Hillary said, referring to the media.

“I know the country needs us, but they aren’t acting like they deserve us. Just f**k ‘me.
faraway on June 30, 2014 at 3:20 PM

Alright, who scripted that utterly bullshit discussion? No way that was an actual conversation; reads more like something out of a very badly written romance novel. Good grief. “Bill bit his lip and said… you’ve got history to make.”

… and Hillary: “I know the country needs us, but they aren’t acting like they deserve us.”

Good f*cking grief.

Midas on June 30, 2014 at 4:01 PM

House Speaker John Boehner hailed the choice, saying McDonald is “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.”

…Bonehead?…I count that…as a strike against him!

JugEarsButtHurt on June 30, 2014 at 4:01 PM

Hah, this is funny

Schadenfreude on June 30, 2014 at 3:10 PM

Your link is mostly about Hillary’s contempt for the President, but it included this quote:

“I hate that man Obama more than any man I’ve ever met, more than any man who ever lived,” Bill told pals, according to the book.

The three highlighted words remind me of a more famous BC quote:

I did not have sexual relations with that woman Miss Lewinski.

Kinda makes the quote credible.

itsnotaboutme on June 30, 2014 at 4:08 PM

Don’t expect much to really change. The whole of the problem is that the VA is a single payer system. Obama will not let that go as he wants everybody in such.

As far as cleaning up the current system, don’t look for much relief there. Nothing will change as long as McDonald can’t fire bureaucrats on the spot and can’t kick unions out the door.

I hope the guy has the courage to quite after a few months when he sees he was given an impossible mission. The real mission Obama wants accomplished is to provide a smoke screen over the whole mess.

bartbeast on June 30, 2014 at 4:44 PM

Likely an intentional pick that will fail against an unmovable bureaucracy… then Obama will scream the ‘private sector’ guy failed.

HopeHeFails on June 30, 2014 at 5:07 PM

I bet the union rules prevent a wholesale clean out of personnel.

Sorta like the USPS, way overstaffed cause they cant be fired.

txdoc on June 30, 2014 at 5:10 PM

In my years in the military, I have known many Senior Enlisted personnel that I would follow through the the gates of hell with, but very few senior officers or Flag Rank officers.

Just because someone was a former or retired officer, doesn’t automatically qualify them for a position such as this.

Just my two cents worth.

Gothguy on June 30, 2014 at 3:08 PM

The guy was an Army Captain…company grade all the way, not a senior officer. I’d say he was hired for his abilities at P&G, being former military only helped the resume`. He could turn out to be another Obama crony, but I’ll reserve judgement for now, and hope the guy can be effective.

Kevin71 on June 30, 2014 at 6:09 PM

Wasn’t Koskinen also supposed to be a turnaround artist?

Batten down the emails.

Hillary down in the dumps: Is Clinton about to drop out of 2016 race?

“Right now I’m feeling like they can all go f**k themselves,” Hillary said, referring to the media.

“I know the country needs us, but they aren’t acting like they deserve us. Just f**k ‘me.

faraway on June 30, 2014 at 3:20 PM

FWIW, my wife heard somewhere Hillary! may have a brain tumor.

Fits the symptoms a little more than a bad heart.

formwiz on June 30, 2014 at 6:11 PM

If he’s not allowed to fire anyone, then he will make no difference.

virgo on July 1, 2014 at 12:37 AM

The question is, will the Obama administration allow the new head of the VA, to do what is necessary to turn that organization around.

kjatexas on July 1, 2014 at 11:07 AM