Burr Opening Statement

On the nomination of Dr. James Peake to serve as Secretary of the Veterans Administration

Good morning, Mr. Chairman, my colleagues. I thank you for scheduling this hearing in a very timely manner to consider the nomination of General James Peake to the secretary of veterans affairs.

A number of my colleagues have said on this panel that it's important, especially now, to have a permanent leader at the helm of the Veterans Administration. With that in mind, I hope this committee can schedule a markup as soon as possible after this hearing. I think we can move this nomination to the floor and hopefully quickly have a confirmed leader at the helm of the Veterans Administration.

General Peake, I've examined your application. I've examined carefully the committee papers. I'm convinced that you've really prepared for this job for a lifetime. In fact, I don't think you could have been better prepared for this job if you had actually planned it for a number of years. Your dedication to service to this nation in uniform goes back to 1962, when you entered the military at West Point. After graduating from West Point, you led troops into battle in combat in Vietnam. There you were wounded not once, but twice. Your bravery, your valor have been recognized with military medals and commendations too numerous to mention, but I will highlight just a few: two Distinguished Service Medals, the Silver Star, the Bronze Star for Valor and two Purple Hearts.

Of course, if your attendance at West Point and your dedicated combat service were not enough, you decided not only to stay in uniform, but to go to medical school and to serve an additional 32 years in the military as a physician. Today, you're a board-certified thoracic surgeon, a fellow of both the American College of Surgeons and the American College of Cardiology. Your dedication to duty and medical skills were obviously no secret to your fellow medical colleagues or senior military leaders. In 2000, you were selected to be the Army's 40th surgeon general.

Those experiences alone, in my mind, qualify you for this job. You understand life as a soldier on the ground. You've experienced the challenges of recovery from wounds suffered during war. And you've led the next generation of men and women who follow you into service.

Mr. Chairman, the V.A. is an agency dedicated to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphans. I believe we found a man to lead the V.A. who not only understands combat service, the needs of our injured military personnel and America's veterans, but a man who has spent the better part of his life taking care of those men and women and, more importantly, their families.

Dr. Peake, I fully intent to support your nomination to be the next secretary of veterans affairs. And it is my deep hope today that every one of my colleagues on this panel will, in fact, show their support, and we will act very quickly.

Senator Dole, I welcome you today, and thank you for the introductions.

And I know Senator Inouye will be here.

Mr. Chairman, I thank you for this hearing and for an expeditious consideration of General Peake's nomination.