President Barack Obama has a busy Monday: He will nominate a new Veterans Affairs secretary, meet with President Michelle Bachelet of Chile and in the evening attend a reception to observe LGBT Pride Month. Not on the schedule but what the White House is bracing for: the Supreme Court ruling on the Hobby Lobby case dealing with contraception and the Affordable Care Act.
White House Schedule – June 30, 2014
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MONDAY June 30th, 2014
THE WHITE HOUSE GUIDANCE & SCHEDULE
MONDAY June 30th, 2014
Later in the morning, the President will hold a bilateral meeting with President Michelle Bachelet of Chile; the Vice President will also attend. There will be a pool spray at the top of the meeting. The visit will highlight our close relationship with Chile and our strong partnership with the Bachelet Administration on advancing peace and global security, social inclusion, and free trade. The President looks forward to consulting with President Bachelet on UN Security Council matters, other multilateral and regional issues, and ongoing negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, as well as on expanding educational exchanges and deepening our collaboration in the areas of energy, science, and technology.
In the afternoon, the President will make a personnel announcement at the Department of Veterans Affairs. The President’s remarks will be pooled press.
In the evening, the President will host a reception to observe LGBT Pride Month; the First Lady will also attend. There will be pool press coverage of the President’s remarks in the East Room.
Monday, June 30 2014 All Times ET
10:00 AM: THE PRESIDENT and THE VICE PRESIDENT receive the Presidential Daily Briefing, Oval Office.
10:55 AM: THE PRESIDENT holds a bilateral meeting with President Michelle Bachelet of Chile; THE VICE PRESIDENT also attends, Oval Office.
11:30 AM: Press Briefing by Press Secretary Josh Earnest, Brady Press Briefing Room.
12:30 PM: The Vice President and Secretary of State John Kerry host a lunch in honor of President Bachelet, Department of State.
4:30 PM: THE PRESIDENT makes a personnel announcement, he will nominate a new Veterans Affairs secretary: Proctor & Gamble chief executive Bob McDonald. The Department of Veterans Affairs.
5:25 PM: THE PRESIDENT hosts a reception to observe LGBT Pride Month, East Room.
Bob McDonald, former P&G chief, to be Obama’s nominee to lead Veterans Affairs
BY JULIET EILPERIN Washington Post:
President Obama on Monday will nominate Bob McDonald, a West Point graduate who served as chief executive of Procter & Gamble, to take over as head of the troubled Department of Veterans Affairs, according to White House officials.
The unorthodox pick of a retired corporate executive whose former company makes iconic household products such as Tide detergent and Charmin toilet paper — rather than a former military general — underscores the serious management problems facing the agency charged with serving more than 8 million veterans a year. On Friday, White House Deputy Chief of Staff Rob Nabors submitted a report to the president finding “significant and chronic system failures” and a “corrosive culture” at the Veterans Health Administration, which has come under fire for record-keeping that was skewed in an effort to cover up the long waits imposed on former troops seeking medical care.
In recent years, the job of VA secretary has been filled by retired generals, medical professionals or politicians. McDonald’s background is a significant departure, though he and his wife have deep family ties to the military. McDonald graduated in the top 2 percent of his class at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., and served in the Army for five years, achieving the rank of captain in the 82nd Airborne Division before taking an entry-level job at P&G. He is the son of an Army Air Corps veteran of World War II, and his wife’s father was shot down over Europe and survived harsh treatment as a prisoner of war.
“The choice suggests a real focus on customer satisfaction, as opposed to what you might get from a retired general or medical leader,” said Phillip Carter, who follows veterans issues for the Center for a New American Security. “It is probably a wise choice given the concerns right now of veterans.”
Retired Maj. Gen. James “Spider” Marks, who served as a cadet with McDonald at West Point, described him as “an incredibly gifted guy” who stood out among his classmates for his intensity and commitment. Marks, who now serves as an executive dean at the University of Phoenix, said that during the recession, when McDonald was under pressure as P&G’s chief executive, he had to be “delivering numbers every day” but also took steps to cultivate senior managers who could steer the firm through the fiscal crisis.
“Bob was providing an immediate return on investment but simultaneously putting things in place for the future,” he said, adding that McDonald lived up to the line in the cadet’s prayer: “Make us to choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong, and never to be content with a half-truth when the whole can be won.”
VA “is a business. He’s not afraid to make the hard calls,” Marks said, adding that McDonald was a rugby player in college who always treated his classmates well but spared nothing on the field. “When he joined the scrum, you felt it.”
How McDonald relates to the younger population of veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan — smaller in numbers compared with the overall group of veterans but powerful politically — will be critical if he is confirmed.
McDonald has maintained his Army ties over the years as a major supporter of the U.S. Military Academy and as a life member of the U.S. Army Ranger Association and the 75th Ranger Regiment Association. He is also a member of the West Point Association of Graduates, and he established the McDonald Cadet Leadership Conference at the academy to address emerging global issues.
Paul Rieckhoff, chief executive of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), said he had mixed feelings about the choice. “He’s got a good military record and a history of running a large bureaucracy, but no medical background,” he said. “Hopefully he’ll be meeting with us more regularly than the White House. This was not a pick that was socialized with the veterans community.”
Rieckhoff said that among his biggest concerns was that McDonald has not been involved with the most recent U.S. wars. “He doesn’t come from our generation. He never served in Iraq or Afghanistan. He’s going to have to work very hard to get up to speed on our issues,” he said. Rieckhoff and IAVA have been very critical of Obama and former VA secretary Eric K. Shinseki for not meeting more regularly with the veterans community before and during the current crisis. “The White House and Shinseki were surprised by this stuff because they didn’t listen to the veterans community,” he said.
Jim McNerney, who is chairman of Boeing and served on P&G’s board when McDonald headed the company, said in a statement Sunday that McDonald is “an outstanding choice for this critically important position.”
“Prior to retirement, he navigated Procter & Gamble through the difficult post-financial-crisis years, where he expanded business in developing markets and made substantial progress improving the efficiency of the company’s internal operations,” McNerney said.
Xerox chief Ursula Burns, on whose board McDonald sits as a member of its audit and compensation committees, said in a statement that his experience “managing and leading a global corporation was especially helpful during a multi-billion dollar acquisition we made in 2010, doubling our workforce and shifting our business considerably.”
McDonald stepped down from his post at P&G in May 2013 amid some controversy. Analysts reported at the time that large investors and some employees were losing confidence in his ability to expand the company in the face of increasing global competition.
The Wall Street Journal and other business publications also reported that McDonald had come under fire over the time he spent serving on an array of corporate boards.
Still, he has won plaudits from many of his fellow corporate executives and has experience running a global consumer-products firm with more than 120,000 employees and sales in more than 180 countries.
During McDonald’s tenure, P&G was recognized multiple times for its leadership development, including twice being named the best company for leaders by Chief Executive Magazine and being named No. 1 in Hay Group’s annual Best Companies for Leadership study, which analyzes more than 2,200 firms around the world.
The White House has yet to select a new head for the Veterans Health Administration, which remains a priority, but top officials were particularly intent on finding a replacement for Shinseki, who resigned as VA secretary a month ago.
It wasn’t immediately clear Sunday when the White House would formally send McDonald’s nomination to Capitol Hill. Congress is on recess this week and returns next Monday for the rest of July before a five-week summer break, leaving little time for a confirmation hearing and a vote by the full Senate before lawmakers leave on Aug. 1. The two key committee chairmen issued cautious statements Sunday.
“The VA needs significantly improved transparency and accountability and it needs an increased number of doctors, nurses and other medical staff so that all eligible veterans get high-quality health care in a timely manner,” said Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.).
Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said that if McDonald is confirmed, he will inherit an agency “under a specter of corruption.”
“The only way McDonald can set the department up for long term success is to take the opposite approach of some other VA senior leaders,” Miller said in his statement. “That means focusing on solving problems instead of downplaying or hiding them.”
Even if McDonald is confirmed quickly, the agency will remain under intense scrutiny. The House and the Senate are negotiating legislation that would make it easier to fire senior VA officials, while the FBI has opened an investigation into whether VA hospital administrators knowingly lied about wait times for veterans in order to receive performance bonuses.
Retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who followed McDonald in the same 82nd Airborne infantry company, said in a statement that he knows McDonald “to be a man who cared for his fellow men and women in uniform when we served together in the 82nd Airborne Division. Bob’s business acumen, coupled with his dedication and love of our nation’s military and veteran community make his a truly great choice for the tough challenges we have at VA.”
Greg Jaffe, Stephanie McCrummen, Josh Hicks and Ed O’Keefe contributed to this report.
Statements and Releases
Letter from the President — Efforts to Address the Humanitarian Situation in the Rio Grande Valley Areas of Our Nation’s Southwest Border
Dear Mr. Speaker: (Senator Reid:) (Senator McConnell:)
I am writing to update you on my Administration’s efforts to address the urgent humanitarian situation in the Río Grande Valley areas of our Nation’s Southwest border, and to request that the Congress support the new tools and resources we need to implement a unified, comprehensive Federal Government response.
While overall apprehensions across our entire border have only slightly increased during this time period and remain at near historic lows, we have seen a significant rise in apprehensions and processing of children and individuals from Central America who are crossing into the United States in the Río Grande Valley areas of the Southwest border. The individuals who embark upon this perilous journey are subject to violent crime, abuse, and extortion as they rely on dangerous human smuggling networks to transport them through Central America and Mexico.
My Administration continues to address this urgent humanitarian situation with an aggressive, unified, and coordinated Federal response on both sides of the border. Earlier this month, I directed the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate this Government-wide response. This includes fulfilling our legal and moral obligation to make sure we appropriately care for unaccompanied children who are apprehended, while taking aggressive steps to surge resources to our Southwest border to deter both adults and children from this dangerous journey, increase capacity for enforcement and removal proceedings, and quickly return unlawful migrants to their home countries.
Specifically, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and DHS are deploying additional enforcement resources — including immigration judges, Immigration and Customs Enforcement attorneys, and asylum officers — to focus on individuals and adults traveling with children from Central America and entering without authorization across the Southwest border. Part of this surge will include detention of adults traveling with children, as well as expanded use of the Alternatives to Detention program, to avoid a more significant humanitarian situation.
The DHS is working to secure additional space that satisfies applicable legal and humanitarian standards for detention of adults with children. This surge of resources will mean that cases are processed fairly and as quickly as possible, ensuring the protection of asylum seekers and refugees while enabling the prompt removal of individuals who do not qualify for asylum or other forms of relief from removal. Finally, to attack the criminal organizations and smuggling rings that are exploiting these individuals, we are surging law enforcement task forces in cooperation with our international partners, with a focus on stepped-up interdiction and prosecution.
To address the root causes of migration and stem the flow of adults and unaccompanied children into the United States, we are also working closely with our Mexican and Central American partners. Two weeks ago, at my direction, the Vice President convened leaders from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, as well as Mexico, to discuss our shared responsibility for promoting security, and agree on concrete ways that we can work together to stem the flow of migrants taking the dangerous trip to the United States. These countries committed to working together and with the United States to address the immediate humanitarian crisis as well as the long-term challenges. On Tuesday, Secretary Kerry will meet with the leaders of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to follow up on the items agreed to in the Vice President’s trip, and next week, Secretary Johnson will travel to Guatemala.
I also spoke with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto about our shared responsibility to promote security in both our countries and the region. As part of this effort, the United States committed foreign assistance resources to improve capacity of these countries to receive and reintegrate returned individuals and address the underlying security and economic issues that cause migration. This funding will enable El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to improve their existing repatriation processes and increase the capacity of these governments and nongovernmental organizations to provide expanded services to returned migrants. Additional resources will support community policing and law enforcement efforts to combat gang violence and strengthen citizen security in some of the most violent communities in these countries.
Finally, we are working with our Central American partners, nongovernmental organizations, and other influential voices to send a clear message to potential migrants so that they understand the significant dangers of this journey and what they will experience in the United States. These public information campaigns make clear that recently arriving individuals and children will be placed into removal proceedings, and are not eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals process and earned citizenship provisions that are part of comprehensive immigration reform currently under consideration in the Congress. The Vice President made this clear in his public and private events on June 20, I addressed this last week in an interview, and we will continue to use multiple channels to counteract the misinformation that is being spread by smugglers.
While we are working across all of these channels, to execute a fully effective Government-wide strategy as the influx of migrants continues, we are eager to work with the Congress to ensure that we have the legal authorities to maximize the impact of our efforts. Initially, we believe this may include:
• providing the DHS Secretary additional authority to exercise discretion in processing the return and removal of unaccompanied minor children from non-contiguous countries like Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador; and
• increasing penalties for those who smuggle vulnerable migrants, like children.
In addition, we will request congressional action on emergency supplemental appropriations legislation to support:
• an aggressive deterrence strategy focused on the removal and repatriation of recent border crossers;
• a sustained border security surge through enhanced domestic enforcement, including interdiction and prosecution of criminal networks;
• a significant increase in immigration judges, reassigning them to adjudicate cases of recent border crossers, and establishing corresponding facilities to expedite the processing of cases involving those who crossed the border in recent weeks;
• a stepped up effort to work with our Central American partners to repatriate and reintegrate migrants returned to their countries, address the root causes of migration, and communicate the realities of these dangerous journeys; and
• the resources necessary to appropriately detain, process, and care for children and adults.
My Administration will be submitting a formal detailed request when the Congress returns from recess, and I look forward to working with you to address this urgent situation as expeditiously as possible.
Remarks by President Obama and President Michelle Bachelet of Chile Before Bilateral Meeting
11:05 A.M. EDT
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I want to welcome back to the Oval Office President Bachelet. She is my second favorite Michelle. (Laughter.) And I’m very much pleased to see her again. We had the opportunity to work together when I first came into office. Since that time, President Bachelet has been extraordinarily busy doing excellent work at the United Nations, particularly around women — an issue that the United States has been very supportive of. And we’re very proud of the work that she did there.
She’s now back in office, and it gives us an opportunity to just strengthen further the outstanding relationship between the United States and Chile.
Let me say, first of all, congratulations to the Chilean National Football Team for an outstanding showing at the World Cup. I know it was a tough loss, but it also showed the incredible skill and talent of the Chilean team. This is as well, I think, as it’s ever done against a very tough Brazilian team on their home turf. And so congratulations to them. We play — coming up, we’ve got a tough match as well. So I want to wish the U.S. team a lot of luck in the game to come.
The basis for Chile’s and the United States’ strong bilateral relationship includes the fact that we have a free trade agreement that has greatly expanded commerce in both countries and has created jobs in both countries.
We have excellent cooperation when it comes to a wide range of issues — energy, education, people-to-people relations. Chile has been a model of democracy in Latin America. It’s been able to consistently transition from center-left governments to center-right governments, but always respectful of democratic traditions. Obviously, those traditions were hard-won, and President Bachelet knows as well as anybody how difficult it was to bring about democracy. And now, the fact that Chile across the political spectrum respects and fights for the democratic process makes it a great model for the entire hemisphere.
Today, we’re going to have an opportunity to discuss how we can deepen those relationships even further. I know that education, for example, is an issue that is at the top of President Bachelet’s agenda. It’s something that’s at the top of my agenda here in the United States. For us to be able to strengthen student exchanges and compare mechanisms and ideas for how we can build skills of young people in both countries is something that we’ll spend some time on.
We’re both very interested in energy and how we can transition to a clean energy economy. And we’ll be announcing some collaborations, including the facilitation of a construction of a major solar plant inside of Chile that can help meet their energy needs.
We’ll talk about regional issues. Obviously, we’ve seen great progress in democratization throughout the region, in part because of Chile’s leadership, but there are obviously still some hotspots that we have to try to address, as well as issues of security in areas like Central America and the Caribbean. And I’ll be very interested in hearing President Bachelet’s views.
And we’ll discuss international issues. Chile, with its seat on the United Nations Security Council, can serve as a leader on a wide range of issues, from peacekeeping to conflict resolution, to important issues like climate change. And we have great confidence that in that role Chile will continue to be a positive force for good around the world.
So I just want to say thank you for not only the friendship with President Bachelet, but more broadly, our friendship with the Chilean people. And President Bachelet’s predecessor, he and I had an excellent relationship; she and I have had an excellent relationship. I think that indicates that it really goes beyond any particular party. I’m confident that my replacement after I’m gone will have an excellent relationship, because it’s based on common values and a strong respect in both countries for the value of the U.S.-Chilean relationship.
So, welcome, and I look forward to an excellent conversation.
PRESIDENT BACHELET: Thank you, President Obama. I want to, first of all, thank you for the invitation to visit you and your country. And, of course, we are looking forward to enhance our cooperation in many different areas.
As you just mentioned, Chile and the U.S. have had a very strong and mature relation for so many years, and we want to make it deeper and to enhance them in different areas. Of course, this will be a great opportunity, as you said, to discuss some of the regional and international issues, given the fact that we’re also sitting at the Security Council. But also, we will be able to in the bilateral dimension be able to increase our cooperation in areas that are very sensible, and for the U.S. and for Chile, such as you mentioned, education, energy, science and technology, people-to-people relation.
We already have, as you know, a very good — I mean, not only the bilateral way, we also have a very good Chile-California and Chile-Massachusetts programs. We have been working very strongly and we will continue on that path.
And we are really interested — this year, I think we are commemorating 10 years of the free trade agreement from the U.S. and Chile. And the U.S. is our, I would say, our most important foreign investor. We want to continue that path, and of course, we will have also the possibility of having activities with the Chamber of Commerce and others because we really want to make our relations in all dimensions — political, economical, social, et cetera — stronger and stronger every day.
So I’m very happy to be here with you again, and I’m sure this will be a great meeting.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you.
11:12 A.M. EDT