(CN) – President Donald Trump on Friday tapped current acting Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie to be the next permanent head of the department.
Despite currently holding the position on an interim basis, Wilkie must be confirmed by the Senate before becoming the VA’s permanent leader.
Trump made the announcement, evidently completely off-the-cuff, during a White House session on prison reform.
Introducing Wilkie, who was among the other dignataries in attendance, Trump suddenly said, “I’ll be informing him in a little while – he doesn’t know this yet – that we’re going to be putting his name up for nomination to be Secretary of the Veterans Administration.”
Wilkie rose from his seat on the front row, stepped forward and shook the president’s hand, looking very much surprised. As Wilkie stepped back, a smiling Ryan Zinke stood, shook his hand and patted his shoulder.
Meanwhile, the other attendees rose to their feet and applauded.
“I’m sorry that I ruined the surprise,” the president said. “I’ll see you anyway. We’re very close to getting choice approved and we had just approved VA accountability which for almost 40 years they could not get approved. And now as you know the House just passed choice and it’s the finer level of choice. We had different levels of choice: good, bad, OK and really good, and I think this falls into the really good category. It’s going to be a little more expensive but that’s OK. So important.”