Army secretary may get nod for top VA post

October 29, 1997|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON -- Army Secretary Togo D. West Jr. has emerged as President Clinton's leading candidate to head the Department of Veterans Affairs, a mammoth Cabinet-level agency that has been dogged by reports of sexual harassment within management ranks, Senate sources said yesterday.

The president focused on West after VA Deputy Secretary Hershel Gober withdrew from consideration for the top job Friday amid allegations that he had made unwanted sexual advances toward two women and the controversy over how the 1993 accusations were handled.

If confirmed by the Senate, West, a former Army officer, would bring to the VA a special expertise on the issue of sexual harassment, having presided over the Army's own sex scandals in recent years.

White House officials and West's office declined to confirm his likely nomination. But key Senate Democrats did, including one who said he was informed of Clinton's intentions by Erskine Bowles, the White House chief of staff.

"He's terrific," the senator said of West. "Everything I hear about him is good."

West got high marks for his handling of the Army's sex scandals, which began with the uncovering of the sexual abuse of female recruits at Aberdeen Proving Ground and include sexual harassment charges against Gene McKinney, who was the Army's top enlisted man.

The VA's top job has been vacant since July 1, when Jesse Brown left for the private sector.

The agency administers 114 national cemeteries, benefits programs and a health care system for more than 26 million veterans.

Pub Date: 10/29/97

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