Biden chose McDonough because he felt he had undergone a crisis test and knew how to pull back government tools, according to a source close to the transition period. Biden was also impressed that McDonough regularly visited Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and Make a point Visiting the forces In the field While he was Deputy National Security Adviser under Obama.
Biden’s decision not to take advantage of a veteran in office came as a surprise to veteran service organizations and leaders who had expected the president-elect to continue the tradition of having a veteran lead the Department of Veterans Affairs. McDonough was a longtime employee of Capitol Hill before he joined the Obama campaign in 2008, then held various foreign policy positions at the White House before becoming chief of staff.
“Worried, right away, I know our members are going to be very anxious because he’s not a veteran,” said Joe Chenille, national CEO of AMVETS.
“We have a lot of veterans who still have a hard time trusting the Department of Veterans Affairs,” Chenille said. “I’m not sure having someone at the helm that isn’t a veteran would be helpful in the near term.”
Chenille also noted concern that McDonough did not appear to have “much experience with the intricacies of the Department of Veterans Affairs”.
He said, “Although the VA’s central office and the White House are across the street from each other, it’s a great distance when it comes to knowing what’s going on on the ground.”
David Shulkin, who served as Under Secretary of Veterans Affairs for Health during the latter part of the Obama administration and then became a Secretary under Trump, said McDonough “would have a major learning curve on specific issues when it comes to the VA” if confirmed.
“But he knows how to deal with the complexity of Washington and how to get things done, and that’s a good sign for the Department of Veterans Affairs,” Shulkin said.
McDonough did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
As agency head, McDonough will be tasked with implementing one long-term, large-scale, high-risk project: reforming the VA medical records system into a new private sector system designed by Cerner in Kansas City. The replacement system will intertwine with the one that Cerner is building for the Department of Defense and also communicate with electronic health records of private health service providers.
At the initiative of Trump’s White House advisor, Jared Kushner, and budgeted for $ 16 billion over 10 years, the project is widely expected to take longer and cost more to implement. Whether or not he will achieve his stated goal – ensuring that service members’ medical records keep track of them from conscription, post-demobilization, and through the sprawling Veterans Affairs system – remains to be seen. The Cerner VA system has already taken its first small steps, rolling out its records in Spokane, Washington, after several delays.
Since leaving the White House, McDonough has been teaching classes at the Keio School of Global Affairs at the University of Notre Dame. It was so Supervising the School Presidential Transition Index That tracked Biden’s move.
A former Obama administration official who has served with McDonough said he “praises him very much that he’s willing to get into that bureaucracy – some might say it’s in a bog.”
The person said, “A lot of people do a really good job there, but you have to get past the layers of routine and disappointment.” “McDonough is like an ascetic – a holy man in that he is almost greedy for punishment.”
Darius Tahir contributed to this report.