President Bush has nominated former Army Surgeon General, Vietnam veteran, and West Point graduate retired Lt. Gen. James Peake to lead Veterans Affairs. Pending Senate confirmation, Peake would be the first physician and the first general to serve as VA secretary. Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), Veterans Affairs committee chair, promised to address Peake’s nomination “as expeditiously as possible.” His counterpart in the House, Rep. Bob Filner (D-Calif.), expressed the hope that Peake’s medical career, his personal experience as a wounded and decorated veteran, and his work with private sector disability and health groups would “equip him to address the unresolved problems plaguing the VA.” Filner believes that for “many people VA stands for ‘Veterans Adversary,’ so he wants the next VA secretary “to work hard so that the VA will stand for ‘Veterans Advocate.’ ” Former VA chief Jim Nicholson said in one of his last Congressional appearances as VA secretary, that he and his predecessors had been “bedeviled” by the VA claims process and the problems continue to grow with the new influx of war on terror vets. Nicholson’s tenure also was plagued by a series of data breaches last year. (White House fact sheet on Peake.)
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.