President Obama has elected former Procter & Gamble (P&G) CEO and West Point graduate Robert McDonald as head of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
McDonald, 61, is the first Secretary of Veterans Affairs since the first VA Secretary, Ed Derwinski, who had not pursued a military or military-related career. He earned the rank of captain over five years in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division after graduating in the top 2 percent of his class at the U.S. Military Academy in 1975 with a degree in engineering.
McDonald was born in Gary, Indiana, and grew up in Chicago. Both he and his wife are from military families. After studying at the University of Utah and leaving the military, McDonald got an entry-level position at P&G in 1980.
He spent 33 years at P&G and served as CEO from mid-2009 to mid-2013. An administration official said Obama chose McDonald for his strong corporate and military experience. Corporate leaders from across industries had praise for McDonald. Boeing CEO Jim McNerney said McDonald has experience managing huge organizations through trouble, citing his leadership with P&G in the years following the financial crisis.
McDonald will take over the struggling VA, which saw former secretary Eric Shinseki resign in May amid revelations of systemic failures to care for veterans and large-scale cover-ups of those failures. Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson and adviser Rob Nabors said in a review released Friday the VA suffers from a “corrosive culture” and needs to be “restructured and reformed.”
"Bob is an immensely gifted and caring individual. That was evident to me when we first met as cadets at West Point, over 40 years ago," retired Maj. Gen. James Marks said in a statement. "He came from a military family, and knows the challenges from living them."
Along with P&G, McDonald held positions on the Board of Directors for Xerox Corp. and the United States Steel Corp.