Former CEO of P&G nominated to run VA

President Obama will nominate Bob McDonald, a West Point grad and -former CEO of consumer product giant Proctor and Gamble, as the next head of the Veterans Administration.

The president's choice has elicited mostly praise from veterans groups and members of Congress.

Washington Post:

“The choice suggests a real focus on customer satisfaction, as opposed to what you might get from a retired general or medical leader,” said Phillip Carter, who follows veterans issues for the Center for a New American Security. “It is probably a wise choice given the concerns right now of veterans.”

In a statement, House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), usually an administration critic, hailed McDonald’s experience as a veteran and as a leader in the private sector, calling him 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 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.”

Another Ohio Republican, Sen. Rob Portman, praised Obama for selecting “someone with a wealth of experience managing a complex organization who has also had a distinguished military career.”

McDonald has financially supported Republican politicians in the past, according to federal election records, including Boehner and 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

I'm not doubting McDonald's abilities. I'm sure he's more than qualified to do the job. The questions I have are about the differences between dealing with employees in the private sector and those in a huge government bureaucracy like the VA.

The permanent government bureaucracy have seen political appointees come and go, and generally see no reason to change the way they work for someone who will be out in a couple of years. So they delay, or ignore directives to get them to become more efficient, or alter the culture of their offices in order to better serve their clients.

Every reform minded cabinet secretary has commented on this phenomenon - usually when they leave office. They wanted to do more, but the sub-culture in the bureaucracy proved to be steadfast in their refusal to change. Civil service rules will prevent McDonald from thoroughly cleaning house, while ossified federal workers will prevent the kind of changes necessary to make the VA responsive to the needs of veterans.

I hate to be so cynical, but after watching Washington for 35 years, this story will not have a happy ending.

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