|8th United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs|
July 30, 2014 – January 20, 2017
|Preceded by||Eric Shinseki|
|Succeeded by||David Shulkin|
Robert Alan McDonald
Gary, Indiana, U.S.
|Education||United States Military Academy (BS)|
University of Utah (MBA)
|Branch/service||United States Army|
|Years of service||1975–1980|
|Awards||Meritorious Service Medal|
Robert Alan McDonald (born 1953) served as the eighth United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs. He is the retired chairman, president, and CEO of Procter & Gamble. In 2014 he became Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
Early life and education
McDonald was born in 1953 in Gary, Indiana, and grew up in Chicago. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1975 in the top 2% of his class with a Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering. At West Point he served as the Brigade Adjutant for the Corps of Cadets and was awarded the Silver Medal from the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufacturing and Commerce. After graduation, he served in the U.S. Army for five years, primarily in the 82nd Airborne Division, attaining the rank of captain, and earned an MBA from the University of Utah in 1978. Upon leaving the military he received the Meritorious Service Medal.
McDonald joined Procter & Gamble in 1980 and worked in various roles before becoming president and Chief Executive in 2009. He assumed the Chairman of the Board role 2010. As chief operating officer, McDonald oversaw a $10 billion restructuring plan.
Amid the 2008 economic downturn, investors criticized McDonald for being too loyal to P&G traditions, too slow to pursue layoffs and other cuts, and unable to produce new product innovations, particularly compared to his predecessor and replacement A.G. Lafley. He resigned from P&G in 2013 following pressure from the company board and activist investors such as Bill Ackman; he was replaced by his predecessor A.G. Lafley, who returned from retirement.
U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs
Obama cited McDonald's business background with P&G and experience revitalizing organizations in his decision. Obama said, "[W]hat especially makes Bob the right choice to lead the VA now is his three decades of experience in building and managing one of the world's most recognized companies, Procter & Gamble. The VA is not a business, but it is one of our largest departments... And the workload at the VHA alone is enormous..." Obama added, "Bob is an expert at making organizations better. In his career he's taken over struggling business units... putting an end to what doesn't work; adopting the best practices that do; restructuring, introducing innovations, making operations more efficient and effective. In short, he's about delivering better results."
McDonald was approved by the United States Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs and the full Senate by unanimous vote.
One of McDonald's first decisions in September 2014 was to increase salaries for physicians and dentists to close the pay gap with the private sector and to make VA an employer of choice. McDonald personally visited several medical schools to recruit new medical personnel in the early months of his tenure at VA. As of June 2015, VA had increased onboard staff by more 12,000 including over 1,000 physicians, 2,700 nurses, and 4,600 other select critical occupations.
A major goal of McDonald was the reduction of homelessness among veterans. During his tenure, McDonald directed the VA to build new housing for disabled and elderly veterans and for female veterans with children. As of June 2019, the "master plan" for a housing first model McDonald wrote remains under construction, to be installed at the West Los Angeles campus of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
McDonald opposed privatization of the VA. "I`ve never met a veteran who wants to privatize the VA," McDonald said. Privatization advocates usually have a stake in privatization, he said. The private sector couldn't absorb the 9 million veterans, with all their comorbidities, in the VA system. The VA trains 70% of the doctors in the country, and has relationships with 1,800 medical schools. Veteran's groups wanted McDonald to stay, but after a long delay, president Donald Trump replaced him with David Shulkin, who also opposed privatization, and was also replaced.
In 2015, McDonald admitted he misspoke trying to engage a homeless veteran about his serving in the U.S. Army Special Forces, a conversation that was recorded by a CBS television news crew accompanying him during a nationwide count of homeless veterans. "I have no excuse, I was not in the special forces" he told The Huffington Post, which first broke the story. The Huffington Post reported that "special operations forces" includes the Army Rangers and that McDonald "completed Army Ranger training and took courses in jungle, arctic and desert warfare. He qualified as a senior parachutist and airborne jumpmaster, and was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division until he resigned his commission in 1980. While he earned a Ranger tab designating him as a graduate of Ranger School, he never served in a Ranger battalion or any other special operations unit.
In 2016, Secretary McDonald stated that Disney does not measure wait times at its amusement parks, arguing that VA wait times are not an important measure. This statement was viewed as both insensitive to patients and incorrect, as Disney does measure wait times. McDonald apologized the next day.
McDonald is on the boards of RallyPoint Networks and serves on the Board of Directors of Partnership for Public Service, Audia International, the Association of Graduates of the United States Military Academy, the Boulder Crest Retreat Foundation, and the McCormick Research Institute.
McDonald and his wife, Diane, founded the McDonald Conference for Leaders of Character.
In July 2020, McDonald was appointed by the George W. Bush Institute as the April and Jay Graham Fellow where he serves as a key member of the Military Service Initiative team. In September 2020, McDonald was selected by presidential nominee Joe Biden to be a member of his transition team's advisory board.
In 2007, McDonald received the inaugural Leadership Excellence Award from the U.S. Naval Academy and Harvard Business Review. He serves on the Board of Directors of Xerox, the McKinsey Advisory Council, and the Singapore International Advisory Council of the Economic Development Board.
McDonald and his wife, Diane, have two children.
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- Jr, Richard A. Oppel (June 30, 2014). "V.A. Nominee McDonald Faced Criticism at Procter & Gamble". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved October 23, 2017.
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- The Enquirer. "Bob McDonald ready for next act". www.cincinnati.com. The Enquirer. Retrieved June 12, 2019.
- The News Record. "Union terminal levy passes". www.newsrecord.org. The News Record. Retrieved July 16, 2019.
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- Wax-Thibodeaux, Emily (September 17, 2014). "VA plans to offer salary boost to attract new doctors". Retrieved March 25, 2018.
- "VA Making Progress to Improve Service for Veterans" (PDF). Retrieved September 30, 2020.
- Denkmann, Libby (June 5, 2019). "Veteran Homelessness Has Barely Budged In LA. Here's Why That's A Win". LAist. Archived from the original on April 29, 2020. Retrieved June 2, 2020.
- Steinhauer, Jennifer (February 16, 2020). "As Homelessness Plagues Los Angeles, Success Comes for Veterans". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved June 2, 2020.
- Los Angeles (May 5, 2015). "Mayor Garcetti Celebrates Opening of Women Veteran Housing Program". Office of the Mayor of Los Angeles. Los Angeles. Retrieved March 4, 2020.
- Jackson withdraws from nomination for VA Secretary. Interview with Robert McDonald, former secretary. By Rachel Maddow. The Rachel Maddow Show. MSNBC. April 26, 2018
- Huffington Post. "VA Secretary Robert McDonald Falsely Claimed He Served In Special Forces". The Huffington Post. Retrieved February 24, 2015.
- Washington Post. "Disney Remark". Retrieved May 23, 2016.
- "VA Secretary 'Deeply Regrets' Wait Time Remarks". ABC News. May 24, 2016. Retrieved March 25, 2018.
- "Bob McDonald, Former VA Secretary and P&G CEO, Joins RallyPoint Board of Directors". Globe Newswire. Retrieved January 8, 2021.
- "'Secretary Bob' joins Partnership for Public Service board". Federal Times. Retrieved January 8, 2021.
- "Quotient Technology Names Robert McDonald to Board of Directors". BusinessWire. Retrieved January 8, 2021.
- "Bob McDonald, Former VA Secretary and P&G CEO, Joins Boulder Crest". News Wire. Retrieved January 8, 2021.
- "Spotlight on Leaders". NY Times Education. Retrieved April 3, 2019.
- George W. Bush Presidential Center. "Bush Institute Announces Endowed Fellows to Advance Mission and Broaden Expertise". bushcenter.org. Retrieved September 22, 2020.
- "Biden expands transition team, adding key campaign allies and top Obama-Biden policy hands". CNN. Retrieved September 18, 2020.
- RecordOnline. "West Point unveils statue of Grant". www.recordonlilne.com. Times Herald-Record. Retrieved April 30, 2019.
- "Robert McDonald, Director since: 2005". www.xerox.com.
- "Bob McDonald - Thayer Development Group". www.thayerleaderdevelopment.com.
- "International Advisory Council". www.edb.gov.sg.
| United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs