Pentagon & Congress

Trump nominates VA insider as next department deputy secretary

WASHINGTON — President Trump on Wednesday nominated Marine Corps veteran Thomas Bowman to serve as the No. 2 ranking appointee at the Department of Veterans Affairs, potentially giving the administration another high-ranking official with inside knowledge of the department.

Bowman is currently majority staff director for the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee and previously worked in several top posts at the department, including serving as chief of staff for former secretaries Jim Nicholson and James Peake.

If confirmed, the former colonel will join current VA Secretary David Shulkin in helping run the massive bureaucracy, which oversees more than 350,000 employees and handles benefits for nearly 9 million veterans.

No timetable has been set for when Bowman's nomination may be considered by the Senate. But on Wednesday evening, Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., hinted there would be no problems with the process.

"I applaud President Trump for his wise choice to nominate a veteran of our armed services to this important role," Isakson said in a statement. "Tom is an extraordinary asset to our team, and his experience in the military and past years at the VA has been invaluable. I know he will bring the same passion for serving our veterans to the VA."

Of the department’s 15 top leadership positions, 11 are currently held by officials serving in an acting role. Only four permanent appointees have been named, including Shulkin, the only holdover in Trump’s cabinet from President Barack Obama’s administration. Since February, Scott Blackburn has served as interim deputy secretary

In March, Trump named John Ullyot — who previously served as communications director for the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee — as the VA’s assistant secretary for public affairs.

Bowman has been an influential voice in recent years on issues like the department’s benefits backlog and the need for cultural reforms at the VA.

He’s a graduate of both the University of Texas and Western New England College School of Law and served 30 years in the Marine Corps. He also worked previously as state court administrator for the Rhode Island Judiciary and as chief of staff to the chief justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court.

Leo Shane III covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He can be reached at lshane@militarytimes.com.

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