President names new VA secretary

President Bush today nominated Dr. James Peake, the Army’s former top physician and a decorated veteran, as secretary of the Veterans Affairs Department.

Peake retired from the Army in 2004 after serving as lead commander in several medical posts, including four years as the U.S. Army Surgeon General. He replaces James Nicholson, who left Sept. 30. The Senate must confirm Peake as VA secretary.

He now is chief medical director and chief operating officer at QTC Management, which provides medical examination and electronic medical records services to help government agencies manage medical data. Anthony Principi, a former VA secretary, is chairman of QTC.

Peake has worked in military medicine for 40 years, during which time he helped develop some lifesaving techniques for the battlefield.

President Clinton appointed him surgeon general, a position he held from 2000 to 2004. In that position, Peake commanded 50,000 medical employees and 187 army medical facilities worldwide with an operating budget of $5 billion. He was also commander in several medical posts and is credited with improving the training and techniques of the Army medical force. Additionally, Peake was commanding general of the U.S. Army Medical Department Center and School, the largest medical training facility in the world with more than 30,000 students.

After leaving government in 2004, Peake was chief operating officer at Project HOPE, a nonprofit international health foundation. There, he helped orchestrate the use of civilian volunteers aboard the Navy Hospital Ship Mercy as it responded to the tsunami in Indonesia and aboard the Hospital Ship Comfort as part of the Hurricane Katrina response.

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle praised Peake’s selection. His nomination is the first step in bringing strong leadership to VA, said Rep. Bob Filner (D-Calif.), chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee.

“It is my hope that Dr. Peake’s role as the senior physician in the Army, his experience as a highly decorated and wounded veteran, and his recent work with the medical, disability and health communities in the private sector will equip him to address the unresolved problems plaguing the VA,” Filner said.

Rep. Steve Buyer (R-Ind.), ranking member of the committee, called Peake an outstanding candidate to modernize VA and establish a seamless transition process.

“Peake possesses a wealth of knowledge and experience required to institute these necessary changes,” Buyer said.

Peake graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He was wounded twice in battle and received his acceptance letter to Cornell University Medical College while in the hospital recovering from an injury. He was awarded the Silver Star, a Bronze Star and Purple Heart for his service in Vietnam as a platoon leader with the 101st Airborne Division.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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