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Eric Shinseki : Veterans Affairs Secretary

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***UPDATE*** 12/7 2:21PM Obama formally announced his choice of General Eric Shinseki as Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Below is an excerpt of Obama's remarks, as prepared for delivery. (Scroll to the bottom for the full text.)

That is the kind of VA that will serve our veterans as well as they have served us. And there is no one more distinguished, more determined, or more qualified to build this VA than the leader I am announcing as our next Secretary of Veterans Affairs - General Eric Shinseki. No one will ever doubt that this former Army Chief of Staff has the courage to stand up for our troops and our veterans. No one will ever question whether he will fight hard enough to make sure they have the support they need.

A graduate of West Point, General Shinseki served two combat tours in Vietnam, where he lost part of his foot, and was awarded two Purple Hearts and three Bronze Stars. Throughout his nearly four decades in the U.S. Army, he won the respect and admiration of our men and women in uniform because they have always been his highest priority. He has always stood on principle - because he has always stood with our troops. And he will bring that same sense of duty and commitment to ensuring that we treat our veterans with the care and dignity they deserve.

A decorated soldier who has served at every level in the Army, General Shinseki understands the changing needs of our troops and their families. And he will be a VA Secretary who finally modernizes our VA to meet the challenges of our time.

Barack Obama will name General Eric Shinseki as his Secretary Of Veterans Affairs. Obama will make the announcement tomorrow, on the anniversary of Pearl Harbor. Watch Obama confirm the appointment during his appearance on Meet the Press.

PRESIDENT-ELECT OBAMA: Tomorrow, you had mentioned earlier, is when we commemorate Pearl Harbor, and so I'm going to be making announcement tomorrow about the head of our Veterans Administration, General Eric Shinseki, who was a commander and has fought in Vietnam, Bosnia, is somebody who has achieved the highest level of military service. He has agreed that he is willing to be part of this administration because both he and I share a reverence for those who serve. I grew up in Hawaii, as he did. My grandfather is in the Punch Bowl National Cemetery. When I reflect on the sacrifices that have been made by our veterans and, I think about how so many veterans around the country are struggling even more than those who have not served -- higher unemployment rates, higher homeless rates, higher substance abuse rates, medical care that is inadequate -- it breaks my heart, and I think that General Shinseki is exactly the right person who is going to be able to make sure that we honor our troops when they come home.

BROKAW: He's the man who lost his job in the Bush Administration because he said we will need more troops in Iraq than Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld thought we would need at that time.

PRESIDENT-ELECT OBAMA: He was right.

Think Progress flashes back to Shinseki's Senate testimony:

In the run-up to war in Iraq in early 2003, General Eric Shinseki testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee that it would take "several hundred thousand soldiers" to secure Iraq:

I would say that what's been mobilized to this point, something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers, are probably, you know, a figure that would be required. We're talking about post-hostilities control over a piece of geography that's fairly significant with the kinds of ethnic tensions that could lead to other problems.

Just two days later -- and exactly five years ago today -- then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, swiftly and infamously dismissed Shinseki's assessment:

The organization of Iraq And Afghanistan Veterans of America released this statement praising the choice of Shinseki:

"IAVA applauds President-elect Obama and the transition team for making this historic selection. General Shinseki has a record of courage and honesty, and is a bold choice to lead the VA into the future. The President-elect has demonstrated an understanding of the urgency of the issues facing America's veterans by making this announcement early. General Shinseki is widely-respected, honest and experienced. He is a man that has always put patriotism ahead of politics, and is held in high regard by veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. IAVA looks forward to supporting him to implement the historic change that is needed at the VA.

As a wounded, decorated, combat veteran, and the first Asian American in US History to be a four-star general, General Shinseki, has the potential to be an effective and dedicated advocate for veterans of all generations.

From AP:

Shinseki, 66, is slated to take the helm of the government's second largest agency, which has been roundly criticized during the Bush administration for underestimating the amount of funding needed to treat thousands of injured veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Thousands of veterans currently endure six-month waits for disability benefits, despite promises by current VA Secretary James Peake and his predecessor, Jim Nicholson, to reduce delays. The department also is scrambling to upgrade government technology systems before new legislation providing for millions of dollars in new GI benefits takes effect next August.

Sen. Daniel Akaka, chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, praised Shinseki as a "great choice" who will make an excellent VA secretary.

"I have great respect for General Shinseki's judgment and abilities," said Akaka, D-Hawaii, in a statement. "I am confident that he will use his wisdom and experience to ensure that our veterans receive the respect and care they have earned in defense of our nation. President-elect Obama is selecting a team that reflects our nation's greatest strength, its diversity, and I applaud him."

Below is the full text of Obama's announcement of General Eric Shinseki as Secretary of Veterans Affairs on Sunday, Dec. 7th, as prepared for delivery.

Good afternoon.

Earlier this week, I announced key members of my national security team. They have served in uniform and as diplomats; they have worked as legislators, law enforcement officials, and executives. They share my sense of purpose about American leadership in the world, my pragmatism about the use of power, and my vision for how we can protect our people, defeat our enemies, and meet the challenges of the 21st century.

As we seek a new national security strategy that uses all elements of American power, we must also remember those who run the greatest risks and make the greatest sacrifices to implement that strategy - the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States of America. Even as I speak, they are serving brilliantly and bravely in Iraq, Afghanistan, and around the world. And we must show them and their families the same devotion that they have shown this country.

We don't have to do our troops and our veterans a favor, we have a sacred trust to repay one. That starts with recognizing that for many of today's troops and their families, the war doesn't end when they come home. Far too many are suffering from the signature injuries of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan - Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury. And far too few are receiving the screening and treatment they need. The servicemen and women who embody what's best about America should get the best care we have to offer, and that is what we will provide when I am President.

And in this struggling economy, we also have to do more to ensure that when our troops come home and leave the service, they can find jobs that pay well, provide good benefits, and help them support their families.

But we don't just need to better serve veterans of today's wars. We also need to build a 21st Century VA that will better serve all who have answered our nation's call. That means cutting red tape and easing transition into civilian life. And it means eliminating shortfalls, fully funding VA health care, and providing the benefits our veterans have earned.

That is the kind of VA that will serve our veterans as well as they have served us. And there is no one more distinguished, more determined, or more qualified to build this VA than the leader I am announcing as our next Secretary of Veterans Affairs - General Eric Shinseki. No one will ever doubt that this former Army Chief of Staff has the courage to stand up for our troops and our veterans. No one will ever question whether he will fight hard enough to make sure they have the support they need.

A graduate of West Point, General Shinseki served two combat tours in Vietnam, where he lost part of his foot, and was awarded two Purple Hearts and three Bronze Stars. Throughout his nearly four decades in the U.S. Army, he won the respect and admiration of our men and women in uniform because they have always been his highest priority. He has always stood on principle - because he has always stood with our troops. And he will bring that same sense of duty and commitment to ensuring that we treat our veterans with the care and dignity they deserve.

A decorated soldier who has served at every level in the Army, General Shinseki understands the changing needs of our troops and their families. And he will be a VA Secretary who finally modernizes our VA to meet the challenges of our time.

Nearly seventy years ago today, "a date which will live in infamy," our harbor was bombed in Hawaii, and our troops went off to war. And after that war was over, after we reclaimed a continent from a madman and beat back danger in the Pacific, those troops came home to a grateful nation - a nation that welcomed them with a GI Bill and a chance to live out in peace the dreams they had fought for, and so many died for, on the battlefield. We owe it to all our veterans to honor them as we honored our Greatest Generation - not just with words, but with deeds.

And with the national security team I announced this week and the extraordinary and courageous Secretary of Veterans Affairs I am announcing today, I am confident that we will never hesitate to defend our security, that we will send our troops into battle only when we must, and that, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, we will truly care for all "who shall have borne the battle."

Now, I'd like to turn it over to our next VA Secretary, General Eric Shinseki.