Eric Shinseki And The Department Of Veteran Affairs

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

I don't know a lot about Shinseki - I'm kind of learning as everyone else is (and it's not like I'm the all knowing MBTI Magic 8-Ball) so here's a bunch o' links on another first.

Thoughts on Shinseki and Cabinet Appointments

Obviously, the big news today for both AAPIs and the transition in general is the nomination of General Eric Shinseki for Secretary of Veterans Affairs. This department was elevated to cabinet level by Congress in 1988, beginning with the H.W. Bush Administration. In recent years with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, this department has gained increasing importance. Under George W. Bush, this was yet another department that became notorious for incompetence, with the discovery of shockingly poor conditions at Walter Reed, our nation’s supposedly pre-eminent veterans hospital (and hospital to many government leaders). It’s now the second largest cabinet department, responsible for managing our enormous VA medical system, which is actually one example of how national health care might work. With the recently passed new GI Bill, VA will oversee the administration of all sorts of services and benefits.

General Shinseki has had an amazing career, having served and been wounded in Vietnam, commanded US and NATO forces in Europe, with the last major move in his career appointment as Army Chief of Staff by President Clinton in 1999. I was interning for the Organization of Chinese Americans in DC when he was nominated and confirmed, and I remember one of my assignments was drafting a letter from OCA commending the nomination. I was extremely happy with the choice at the time, as Shinseki was the first Asian American four star general and the first AAPI to head up the US Army.
Turnabout is Fair Play: Obama Picks Shinseki to Head Veterans Affairs

General Eric Shinseki, the first Asian American commander to attain the Army's 4-star rank, was essentially ushered into retirement for offering Congress a blunt assessment of the number of troops it would take to secure Iraq in the aftermath of a then-theoretical war.

Shinseki's ouster, especially in the wake of all that went wrong in Iraq, seemed to epitomize all that was wrong with a Donald Rumsfeld-led Defense Department, and gave further ammunition to those who claimed W. was a president in a plastic bubble, not interested in hearing dissenting views.

Well, president-elect Barack Obama has decided that the 66-year-old Shinseki is too young and too prescient to be spending the September of his years on a golf course. So, in a corrective of sorts, he has asked the general to get back to work. This time, he'll be heading up The Department of Veterans Affairs.
Obama introduces Shinseki as VA chief, praises his warnings about Iraq war

The very man rejected by the Bush administration for warning that Iraq would be no cakewalk is President-elect Barack Obama's choice to be Veterans Affairs secretary.

Eric Shinseki, 66, was Army chief of staff when months before the Iraq war was launched, he warned that several hundred thousand troops would be needed -- more than the Bush administration planned.

What does Shinseki mean to the Department of Veteran Affairs?

Over the weekend, retired four star Army General Eric Shinseki, was appointed as the Secretary of Veteran Affairs in the new Obama administration. So what does this mean for one of the largest government agencies?

Personally, I don’t think it’ll change too much; it depends on if and how Shinseki shakes things up in the VA. He has definitely presented a record of speaking his mind regardless of status quo and that actually would help shape up the agency, but with Obama’s administration pushing “change”, this is one of the few agencies that runs decently outside of their bad image.