VA Chief Robert Wilkie is reportedly lobbying to be the next Defense Secretary

Bullet Points
The Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert L. Wilkie on Nov. 11, 2018. (DoD/Lisa Ferdinando)

Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie is reportedly pushing an "internal campaign" to be the next secretary of defense, the Washington Post reported.


  • According to interviews with at least one White House official, and another person familiar with the matter, who spoke to the Washington Post on the condition of anonymity, Wilkie has thrown his hat in the ring to replace James Mattis as the military's top dog.
  • Mattis resigned in December, following a disagreement with President Donald Trump over the decision to abruptly withdraw U.S. troops from Syria.
  • In Mattis' absence, Patrick Shanahan has taken over as acting secretary of defense. A former Boeing executive, Shanahan is likely to face tough questions at an upcoming Senate Armed Services Committee hearing about whether or not he'll hew to Trump's foreign policy decisions, or push back.
  • Wilkie for his part, has spent a lot of time in and around the U.S. military. The son of a war-wounded veteran, Wilkie previously remarked that he "was born in khaki diapers and I think my attitudes toward that and leadership flow from having been in that world my entire life." Additionally, he served as a Navy reservist from 1997 to 2008, and is currently a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force Reserve, as Task & Purpose previously reported.
  • Wilkie served as the undersecretary of defense for personnel readiness at the Pentagon, prior to coming to the VA last year, where he's responsible for leading more than 420,000 full-time employees — an all time high for the department, Curt Cashour, the VA press secretary told Task & Purpose.
  • "Secretary Wilkie remains 100 percent focused on his job as VA secretary," Cashour told Task & Purpose via email. "He is proud to serve the veterans of this country and is honored to be a part of the record pace of reform at the department under President Trump's leadership. Secretary Wilkie continues to work tirelessly to help deliver high quality care and benefits to those who have sacrificed for our country."
  • Should the rumors prove true, and Wilkie is seeking to leave the VA for greener pastures at the Pentagon, it could plunge the department back into uncertainty should he get the job.
  • Continuity of leadership is key for an agency like the VA, which "is a giant, lumbering vessel that requires a lot of time and energy to right its course," Griffin Anderson, a spokesman for the Democrats on the House Veteran Affairs Committee, told Task & Purpose last March. "To say the least, it takes a lot of effort, from a lot of people, to get it moving in the direction you want it to go. And the only way you're going to be able to do that successfully is if you have people who know how to drive it."
  • On the flip side, should Shanahan find himself nominated as secretary of defense, rather than Wilkie, or some other individual no one's heard of yet, it's likely he'd face some pointed questions on whether or not he has the chops, and background, to balance foreign policy concerns with a sprawling bureaucracy charged with handling America's longest war, maintaining the readiness of its various branches, equipping, arming, supporting, and supplying them, and in general, overseeing a massive defense apparatus.

SEE ALSO: He's A Service Member And Child Of A War-Wounded Vet. Can He Succeed As The Next VA Chief?

WATCH NEXT: The GI Bill, Explained

In a scathing letter, a top Navy legal official on Sunday expressed "grave ethical concerns" over revelations that government prosecutors used tracking software in emails to defense lawyers in ongoing cases involving two Navy SEALs in San Diego.

The letter, written by David G. Wilson, Chief of Staff of the Navy's Defense Service Offices, requested a response by Tuesday from the Chief of the Navy's regional law offices detailing exactly what type of software was used and what it could do, who authorized it, and what controls were put in place to limit its spread on government networks.

"As our clients learn about these extraordinary events in the media, we are left unarmed with any facts to answer their understandable concerns about our ability to secure the information they must trust us to maintain. This situation has become untenable," Wilson wrote in the letter, which was obtained by Task & Purpose on Monday.

Read More Show Less
Pfc. Kyle Dinsmore gets his turn to use the system during the SBS fielding at Fort Bragg. Photo: Patrick Ferraris/U.S. Army

Those really sweet, hand-held drones that the Army bought in January were finally put to the test as they were fielded to some lucky soldiers for the first time at the beginning of May.

Read More Show Less
Retired Navy Adm. William H. McRaven. (Flickr/Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff/Sean K. Harp)

For many people, millennials are seen as super-entitled, self-involved, over-sensitive snowflakes who don't have the brains or brawn to, among other noble callings, serve as the next great generation of American warfighters.

Retired Navy Adm. William H. McRaven is here to tell you that you have no idea what you're talking about.

Read More Show Less
Rebekah "Moani" Daniel and her husband Walter Daniel. (Walter Daniel/Luvera Law Firm)

The Supreme Court on Monday denied a petition to hear a wrongful death case involving the controversial Feres Doctrine — a major blow to advocates seeking to undo the 69-year-old legal rule that bars U.S. service members and their families from suing the government for injury or death deemed to have been brought on by military service.

Read More Show Less
Fort Irwin's painted rocks in Nov. 25, 2014 (U.S. Army/ Guy Volb)

Editor's Note: This article by Matthew Cox originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

FORT IRWIN, California -- Anyone who's been here has seen it: the field of brightly painted boulders surrounding a small mountain of rocks that symbolizes unit pride at the Army's National Training Center.

For nearly four decades, combat units have painted their insignias on boulders near the road into this post. It's known as Painted Rocks.

Read More Show Less