Shinseki to head Veterans Affairs

December 7, 2008 11:43:02 AM PST
President-elect Barack Obama announced today he is nominating retired Army Gen. Eric Shinseki to head the Department of Veterans Affairs. Shinseki warned Congress shortly before the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq that hundreds of thousands of troops would be needed to stabilize the country, but his warnings were dismissed by the Bush administration.

"He was right," Obama told NBC's Tom Brokaw Sunday on "Meet the Press."

"General Shinseki is exactly the right person who is going to be able to make sure that we honor our troops when they come home," Obama said.

Veterans groups are calling Shinseki a "promising choice."

"We have no doubt that General Shinseki has the integrity and personal fortitude to usher in the real changes needed to make the VA a true steward of our nation's veterans and their families." said John Rowan, National President of Vietnam Veterans of America.

Obama said he was moved to nominate Shinseki because he shares his "reverence for those who serve."

"I grew up in Hawaii, as he did. My grandfather is in the Punch Bowl National Cemetery. When I reflect on the sacrifices that have been made by our veterans and, I think about how so many veterans around the country are struggling even more than those who have not served -- higher unemployment rates, higher homeless rates, higher substance abuse rates, medical care that is inadequate -- it breaks my heart, and I think that General Shinseki is exactly the right person who is going to be able to make sure that we honor our troops when they come home," Obama said.

The president-elect also predicted the nation's economic crisis will worsen.

"Things are going to get worse before they get better," Obama said.

He said his advisers are still hashing out how large an economic stimulus package is needed, "but it is going to be substantial," Obama said.

Obama has outlined an economic policy that would create jobs through infrastructure projects -- the largest such public works program since Dwight D. Eisenhower's administration.

"I think we can get a lot of work done fast,"Obama said. "When I met with the governors, all of them have projects that are shovel- ready, that are going to require us to get the money out the door, but they've already lined up the projects, and they can make them work."

As Congress continues to work out the terms of a federal loan package for Detroit automakers, Obama argued that any loans must be predicated on a promise from the auto executives to restructure their industry.

But, Obama said, "The last thing I want to see is the auto industry disappear."

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