The man temporarily replacing embattled Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki has decades of experience in the non-profit and private sectors, but has only served at the sprawling federal department for just over three months.
VA Deputy Secretary Sloan D. Gibson will take over as acting head of the department, President Obama said on Friday when he announced Shinseki’s resignation during a briefing with White House reporters. Gibson, who was confirmed by the Senate as deputy secretary on Feb. 11, was president and chief executive officer of the United Services Organizations prior to his political appointment. Before his five-year stint at the helm of the USO, the West Point graduate and Army veteran spent more than two decades in the banking industry mostly in cities in the Southeastern United States. Gibson retired in 2004 from AmSouth Bancorporation, where he served as vice chairman and chief financial officer.
Obama praised Gibson’s leadership capabilities and background during his remarks Friday. In response to a reporter’s question about Gibson’s short tenure at the federal government’s second-largest Cabinet agency and whether he had the experience to tackle the department’s long-standing problems, Obama said, “Sloan, I think, would be the first to acknowledge that he’s going to have a learning curve that he’s got to deal with.” The president also reiterated that Gibson is a temporary replacement who will handle immediate issues, namely ensuring every veteran who is waiting for an appointment gets in to see a doctor as soon as possible, and correcting scheduling delays and other snafus.
“Those are things that don’t require rocket science. It requires execution; it requires discipline; it requires focus. Those are things that Sloan has,” Obama said.
Rob Nabors, White House deputy chief of staff, will stay at VA temporarily “to help Sloan and the department through this transition, and to complete his own review of the VHA [Veterans Health Administration],” Obama said.
Gibson is scheduled to attend a reception on June 5 to honor top senior executives who are the 2013 Presidential Distinguished and Meritorious Rank Award finalists. The 2013 awards were canceled because of sequestration, but the White House reinstated the annual awards program for 2014. The Senior Executives Association recently announced the two-hour, scaled-back reception for the 2013 honorees, who will not receive any bonuses.
Of the 100 award finalists from 2013 listed on the Office of Personnel Management’s website, two are from VA: John D. Daigh and Richard J. Griffin, who work in the department’s Office of the Inspector General.