If it’s Friday, you know what that means . . . it’s time for the Friday news dump!
The big news Friday morning was that Gen. Eric Shinseki tendered his resignation to President Obama, stepping down as the embattled Secretary of the Veterans Administration. VA chief Shinseki resigns over delays at hospitals. Sloan Gibson has been appointed acting Secretary of the VA. The Statement by the President:
This morning, I think some of you also heard Ric take a truly remarkable action — in public remarks, he took responsibility for the conduct of those facilities, and apologized to his fellow veterans and to the American people. And a few minutes ago, Secretary Shinseki offered me his own resignation. With considerable regret, I accepted.
Ric Shinseki has served his country with honor for nearly 50 years. He did two tours of combat in Vietnam — he’s a veteran who left a part of himself on the battlefield. He rose to command the First Cavalry Division, served as Army Chief of Staff, and has never been afraid to speak truth to power.
As Secretary at the VA, he presided over record investments in our veterans — enrolling 2 million new veterans in health care, delivering disability pay to more Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange, making it easier for veterans with post-traumatic stress, mental health issues and traumatic brain injury to get treatment, improving care for our women veterans. At the same time, he helped reduce veteran homelessness, and helped more than 1 million veterans, servicemembers and their families pursue their education under the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
So Ric’s commitment to our veterans is unquestioned. His service to our country is exemplary. I am grateful for his service, as are many veterans across the country. He has worked hard to investigate and identify the problems with access to care, but as he told me this morning, the VA needs new leadership to address them. He does not want to be a distraction, because his priority is to fix the problem and make sure our vets are getting the care that they need. That was Ric’s judgment on behalf of his fellow veterans. And I agree. We don’t have time for distractions. We need to fix the problem.
For now, the leader that will help move us forward is Sloan Gibson, who will take on the reins as Acting Secretary. Sloan became Deputy Secretary at the VA just three months ago, but he, too, has devoted his life to serving our country and our veterans. His grandfather fought on the front lines of World War I. His father was a tail-gunner in World War II. Sloan graduated from West Point, earned his Airborne and Ranger qualifications, and served in the infantry. And most recently, he was President and CEO of the USO, which does a remarkable job supporting our men and women at war, their families, our wounded warriors, and families of the fallen.
So all told, Sloan has 20 years of private sector and nonprofit experience that he brings to bear on our ongoing work to build a 21st century VA. And I’m grateful that he is willing to take on this task.
I met with Sloan after I met with Ric this morning, and made it clear that reforms should not wait. They need to proceed immediately. I’ve also asked Rob Nabors to stay at the VA temporarily to help Sloan and the department through this transition, and to complete his own review of the VHA. In the meantime, we’re going to look diligently for a new permanent VA Secretary and we hope to confirm that successor and fill that post as soon as possible.
We’re going to do right by our veterans across the board, as long as it takes. We’re not going to stop working to make sure that they get the care, the benefit, and the opportunities that they’ve earned and they deserve. I said we wouldn’t tolerate misconduct, and we will not. I said that we have to do better, and we will. There are too many veterans receiving care right now who deserve all of our best efforts — and an honest assessment if something is not working.
This week, I visited some of our men and women in uniform at different stages of their service: our newest Army officers who graduated from West Point; our troops currently serving in Afghanistan; our veterans and our military families at Arlington. And what I saw is what I’ve seen in every single servicemember, veteran, and military spouse that I have had the privilege to meet — a selfless, clear-eyed commitment to serving their country the best way that they know how. They’re the best that our country has to offer. They do their duty. They expect us to do ours.
So, today, I want every man and woman who’s served under our flag to know — whether your tour has been over for decades, or it’s just about to end — we will never stop working to do right by you and your families.
Here is a link to Gen. Eric Shinseki’s farewell message to VA employees.
Friday afternoon, the man I like to call “Opie” because he reminds me of Opie Taylor from the Andy Griffith Show, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney announced that he is leaving. He is being replaced by his deputy, Josh Earnest. White House spokesman steps down:
President Obama announced Friday that Jay Carney will step down as White House press secretary after more than three years and be replaced by his deputy Josh Earnest, who worked on the Obama campaign in 2008.
Carney, 49, a former Time Magazine White House correspondent, joined the administration in late 2008 as spokesman for Vice President-elect Biden. He was promoted to Obama’s chief spokesman in February 2011, replacing Robert Gibbs.
Earnest, 39, has been Carney’s top deputy and regularly fills in for the press secretary during daily briefings at the White House and aboard Air Force One when the president leaves Washington. Carney said Earnest would travel with Obama to Europe next week, and the press secretary said he would formally leave his job in mid-June.
Carney cited spending time with his wife, television journalist Claire Shipman, and children as a reason for his departure, but he did not disclose future career plans. Obama made the surprise announcement in the briefing room, cutting off Carney during an answer to a question about Ukraine.
“Jay has become one of my closest friends and is a great press secretary and a great adviser,” Obama said. “He’s got good judgement, he has good temperament and he’s got a good heart. And I’m going to miss him a lot. I will continue to rely on him as a friend, an adviser after he leaves to spend as much of his summer as he can with his kids before he decides what’s next for him.”
Josh Earnest is well regarded among White House reporters, and he was long viewed as a likely Carney replacement.