STATEMENT OF WILLIAM F. TUERK
UNDER SECRETARY FOR MEMORIAL AFFAIRS-DESIGNATE
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS
COMMITTEE ON VETERANS' AFFAIRS
UNITED STATES SENATE
September 29, 2005
Chairman Craig, Ranking Member Akaka, and Members of the Committee: thank you for honoring me with an invitation to appear before the Committee. As you know, I have been nominated by the President to serve as Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs in the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. I am thrilled to be sitting, after all these years of working in this room, on this side of the table. And I am more than a little humbled.
Before I get into the substance of my statement, there are some people – people who are responsible for me being here – that I need to publicly thank, if the Committee will so indulge me First, allow me to express my gratitude to the President of the United States, the Honorable George W. Bush, for nominating me to serve in this high position. Let me also thank VA Secretary Jim Nicholson for recommending my candidacy to the President. In addition, I need to express my gratitude to two senior VA officials, Deputy Secretary Gordon Mansfield and Secretary Nicholson’s Chief of Staff, General Mick Kicklighter; without the support of these two distinguished men, I would not be here this morning. I am also indebted to former VA officials who I count as friends – most particularly, to former Secretary of Veterans Affairs Tony Principi; to former Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs, General Jack Nicholson; and to my boss at VA some years ago, former Assistant General Counsel, Audley Hendricks. And I have been honored with the support of the senior Republican Member of this Committee, Senator Arlen Specter. It is he who bestowed upon me the privilege of serving as Chief Counsel and Staff Director of this Committee during his Chairmanship. And it is he who first urged the President to consider my qualifications for a senior appointment in this Administration.
Finally, Mr. Chairman, I know it is customary for nominees to thank their spouses, children, and other family members at this point in the proceedings. Mr. Chairman, my wife, Vivian, is not able to be here today – but she certainly would be here if she could be here. She has supported my career at every step of the way – but that is a minor reason for my devotion to her. I am most indebted to her for my daughter, Jackie, and my son, Peter. They are here this morning. If I may, Mr. Chairman, I would like to introduce them to the Committee.
Mr. Chairman, I am here this morning to ask that this Committee recommend my confirmation to the Senate as a whole. My qualifications for service in an appointed position at VA stem greatly – but not entirely – from my service to veterans right here in this suite of offices. Here – and also as an attorney in the health care practice group at VA – I learned many substantive issues relating to law and policy that affect veterans and their survivors. But I learned more. I learned how to be a team member – and a team builder. I learned the importance of garnering support across the political spectrum. I learned that one must earn the trust of veterans and their representatives, the veterans service organizations – and also that that trust is earnable – even by those who, at times, have to say “no” – so long as there is common agreement on the fundamental worthiness of veterans to the Nation’s respect and gratitude. In short, I think I learned how to get things done in Washington – and, more importantly, how to identify the things that ought to get done in Washington.