By Herb Rosenbleeth, National Executive Director
Robert L. Wilkie, who is currently serving as the Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs, while also serving as the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, has been nominated by the President to be the Secretary of the VA. About a week ago I attended a meeting of the Veterans Day National Committee at which Acting Secretary Wilkie participated. He told us that no one was more surprised than he was when he was selected to be the Acting VA Secretary. He said he had absolutely no idea who might be selected to be the Secretary and that he had no reason whatsoever to think it might be him. He said he was taking one day at a time and doing the best he could each and every day.
Acting Secretary Wilkie said he has three major goals. First, to calm the waters at the VA. He said when VA employees say it is difficult to work not knowing who is going to be in charge he said he tells them it is their job to take care of veterans, that it doesn’t matter who is going to be in charge. Second, Wilkie said he wants to finalize the electronic record system of the VA and combine it with that of the Department of Defense (DoD). And third, he said he wants to see legislation passed which would provide the same benefits for caregivers of those veterans who became disabled before 9/11 as is now authorized for those veterans disabled after 9/11.
Wilkie, the son of an Army artillery officer, was born in Frankfurt, West Germany. His father, Robert Leon Wilkie Sr. (1038-2017) retired from the U.S. Army as a lieutenant colonel. Wilkie grew up in Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, graduating from Fayetteville, North Carolina’s Reid Ross Senior High School. Wilkie Jr. received his bachelor’s degree from Wake Forest University in North Carolina. He later obtained his law degree from Loyola University School of Law in New Orleans and a Master of Laws in International and Comparative Law from Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C. He also holds a Master of Science (MS) degree from the United States Army War College.
Mr. Wilkie has an outstanding professional background. He first served on Capitol Hill as Counsel to Senator Jesse Helms and later as legislative director for Rep. David Funderburk of North Carolina. He served on the Committee on International Relations and the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe. Later, he served as counsel and advisor on international security affairs to Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott.
An intelligence officer in the United States Naval Reserve, Wilkie served as special assistant to the President for national security affairs and as a senior director of the National Security Council where he was a senior policy advisor to then-National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice as well to her successor, Stephen Hadley. Wilkie developed strategic planning for the implementation of the Moscow Treaty, the Millennium Challenge Account, Iraqi Reconstruction and NATO Expansion. In 2009, Wilkie was awarded the Defense Distinguished Public Service Medal, the highest civilian award of the Department of Defense.
Wilkie was nominated to be Under Secretary for Personnel and readiness by President Trump on July 25, 2017. This nomination was confirmed by the Senate on November 16, 2017. If confirmed by the Senate as Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Robert Wilkie would be the tenth Secretary of that Department. He will bring a strong Department of Defense background to the position at a time when the VA and DoD are seeking to work more closely together.
Volume 72. Number 2. Summer 2018