Under the Dome

Trump names a former aide to Helms and Tillis to lead transition at VA

Robert Wilkie
Robert Wilkie Department of Defense

President Donald Trump fired VA Secretary David Shulkin on Wednesday and chose a former aide to Jesse Helms and Thom Tillis to fill the job in an interim role.

Trump tapped Robert Wilkie to be the interim secretary of Veterans Affairs while nominating his personal physician Ronny L. Jackson for the permanent post.

Shulkin was a holdover from the Obama administration who faced investigations over his travel and leadership of the department.

Wilkie, who is from Fayetteville, served in Trump’s transition office. Trump picked him to be under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness, a position that required confirmation by the Senate. Wilkie was confirmed unanimously.

Wilkie worked as senior adviser to Tillis, a North Carolina Republican, from 2015 until 2017.

“Robert Wilkie – my friend, former senior advisor, and proud North Carolina native – is an outstanding choice by the President to lead the transition at the VA,” Tillis said in a statement. “I can't think of anyone who is as capable, sincere, and passionate about serving and caring for the brave men and women who have worn the uniform.”

Wilkie worked as vice president for strategic initiatives as CH2M Hill, an engineering consulting firm in Washington D.C., from 2010 to 2015. He was the assistant secretary of defense for legislative affairs during President George W. Bush’s second term. Wilkie is a reserve officer in the U.S. Air Force Reserve.

He received the Defense Distinguished Public Service Medal, the highest civilian award in the department.

Wilkie is a Capitol Hill veteran, having worked for then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott from 1997 to 2003. He was executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party before going to work for Lott. Wilkie also served as an aide to Helms, the late North Carolina senator, and former U.S. Rep. David Funderburk. Wilkie unsuccessfully ran for the Republican nomination in the 7th Congressional District in 1996.

Wilkie graduated from Wake Forest University and earned law degrees from Loyola University in New Orleans and Georgetown University. He also holds a master’s degree from the United States Army War College.

Brian Murphy: 202-383-6089, @MurphinDC