December 6, 2008 – The chairmen of the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs committees Saturday strongly endorsed President-elect Barack Obama ’s choice of retired Army Gen. Eric K. Shinseki to head the Veterans Affairs Department.
Obama’s announcement was expected to come Sunday during an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press.” News of the appointment leaked out earlier Saturday after the interview was taped.
“Gen. Shinseki is a great choice; he is well aware of the needs of our veterans and will make an excellent secretary of Veterans Affairs,” said Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Daniel K. Akaka , D-Hawaii. “I have great respect for Gen. Shinseki’s judgment and abilities. I’ve worked with him in the past and I look forward to working with him in the future.”
Bob Filner , the chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, echoed Akaka’s sentiments.
“His past leadership as chief of staff in the Army coupled with his brave service as a four-star general will bring a new energy to the department and bring hope to our veterans,” said Filner, D-Calif. “I look forward to working with Gen. Shinseki and the Obama administration to restore the sacred trust with our nation’s veterans and provide the care and benefits our veterans deserve.”
The nomination of Shinseki — whose name had not been floated publicly before Obama’s interview — revitalizes a career that was set back by the Bush administration in 2003, when he retired after four years as Army chief of staff. His relationship with then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld was widely regarded as cool, and he incurred the wrath of many administration officials when he publicly predicted U.S. military forces would need several hundred thousand more troops to invade Iraq, defeat Iraqi forces and stabilize the country than Rumsfeld wanted to use.
“He was right,” Obama told NBC.
Like Obama and Akaka, Shinseki is a native of Hawaii. A veteran of the Vietnam War, he also was U.S. Army commander in Europe and head of the NATO peacekeeping force in Bosnia-Herzegovina during his 38-year career.