The Honorable Robert Wilkie was nominated by President Trump to serve as the tenth Secretary of Veterans Affairs. He was confirmed by the United States Senate on July 23, 2018, and sworn in on July 30, 2018. Mr. Wilkie previously served as the acting Secretary of VA from March 28 to May 29, 2018.
Before confirmation as VA Secretary, Mr. Wilkie served Secretary James Mattis as his Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness—the principal advisor to the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Defense for Total Force Management as it relates to readiness, National Guard and Reserve component affairs, health affairs, training, and personnel requirements and management, including equal opportunity, morale, welfare, recreation, and the quality of life for military families.
The son of an Army artillery commander, Mr. Wilkie spent his youth at Fort Bragg. Today, he is an officer in the United States Air Force Reserve assigned to the Office of the Chief of Staff. Before joining the Air Force, he served in the United States Navy Reserve with the Joint Forces Intelligence Command, Naval Special Warfare Group Two, and the Office of Naval Intelligence.
Mr. Wilkie has more than 20 years of federal service at the national and international levels. During the George W. Bush Administration, Mr. Wilkie served both Robert Gates and Donald Rumsfeld as Assistant Secretary of Defense from 2005–2009, and he was the youngest senior leader in the Department. Mr. Wilkie was Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and a senior director of the National Security Council under Dr. Condoleezza Rice. He also has extensive experience in the United States Congress, including recent service as Senior Advisor to Senator Thom Tillis and service as Counsel and Advisor on International Security Affairs to the Majority Leader of the United States Senate, the Honorable Trent Lott. Mr. Wilkie shepherded the Senate confirmation process for James Mattis, Robert Gates, and Admiral Mike Mullen (CJCS), and he was responsible for the preparation of General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Croker for their multiple appearances before the Congress in defense of the Iraqi Surge.
Mr. Wilkie was Vice President for Strategic Programs for CH2M HILL, one of the world’s largest engineering and program management firms, where for five years he held program management and advisory assignments as diverse as the London 2012 Summer Olympics and the reform and reorganization of the United Kingdom Ministry of Defense Supply and Logistics System (DE&S).
Mr. Wilkie holds an Honors degree from Wake Forest University, a Juris Doctor from Loyola University College of Law in New Orleans, a Master of Laws in International and Comparative Law from Georgetown University, and a Masters in Strategic Studies from the United States Army War College. A graduate of the College of Naval Command and Staff, Air Command and Staff College, the United States Army War College, and the Joint Forces Staff College, Mr. Wilkie has published articles in the Naval War College Review, Parameters, Armed Forces Journal International, Air and Space Power Journal, and Proceedings. He holds personal and unit decorations, as well as the Defense Distinguished Public Service Medal, the highest non-career civilian award of the Department.
Karen L. Brazell
Karen L. Brazell was appointed Principal Executive Director for the Office of
Acquisition, Logistics and Construction (OALC) on August 6, 2018. As the
advisor to the Deputy Secretary on acquisition, logistics, and construction
issues she directs the development of policies, determines priorities, and
establishes organizational goals and objectives for OALC. She also serves
as Chief Acquisition Officer, overseeing acquisition, contract administration
and supply-chain processes for the Department.
Prior to joining the Department of Veterans Affairs, Mrs. Brazell served as
Chief of Staff for the White House Military Office where she oversaw strategic planning, engagement
planning, communication product development, staff coordination and integration, special projects, policy
development, and resource management. Prior to that, she served as Deputy Director of the Acquisition
and Resource Integration, Naval Facilities Command, responsible for enterprise-wide acquisition and
resource integration for the White House Military Office, Policy, Plans and Requirements directorate. Mrs. Brazell is a United States Army Veteran.
The Honorable James Byrne was named the Acting Deputy Secretary of
Veterans Affairs by President Donald Trump on August 28, 2018. As Deputy
Secretary, Mr. Byrne works closely with the Secretary in leading the operations
of the federal government’s second-largest Cabinet department, with some
370,000 employees in VA medical centers, clinics, benefits offices, national
cemeteries, and other facilities throughout the country.
Before his appointment as Deputy Secretary, Mr. Byrne served as VA’s
General Counsel, leading a nationwide team of attorneys, paralegals, and staff
who support the mission and priorities of the Department of Veterans Affairs by
providing sound legal expertise, representation, and as needed, critical
problem-solving skills and risk-management advice to the Secretary and other senior VA leaders.
Before arriving at VA, Mr. Byrne served as Associate General Counsel and Chief Privacy Officer at
Lockheed Martin Corporation where he was also the company’s lead cyber and counterintelligence
attorney. Prior to joining Lockheed Martin, Mr. Byrne served as the career Senior Executive Service
Deputy Special Counsel with the Office of the United States Special Counsel, and both General Counsel
and Assistant Inspector General for Investigations with the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq
Prior to his service with SIGIR and soon after the invasion of Iraq in 2003, Mr. Byrne was recalled to
active duty for 18 months with the U.S. Marine Corps in support of the Global War on Terrorism.
Lieutenant Colonel James Byrne was assigned as the Officer-in-charge of the Marine Liaison Office at the
then National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland, leading teams of Marines in DC-Metro area
military hospitals and Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Maryland, responsible for supporting injured and
deceased Marines, Sailors, and their families.
Mr. Byrne has over 20 years of experience in the public sector, including service as a forward deployed
Marine Infantry Officer and a U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) international narcotics prosecutor. Mr.
Byrne’s professional honors include several DOJ awards and The Drug Enforcement Administration
(DEA) Administrator’s Award for Exceptional Service. He is also a recipient of the Secretary of Defense
Medal for the Global War on Terrorism and several military decorations including the Meritorious Service
Mr. Byrne volunteers in his community, and has extensive experience on several non-profit and advisory
boards. Until August 2017, his most recent professional engagements included service on the U.S.
Department of Homeland Security Data Privacy and Integrity Advisory Board and the International
Association of Privacy Professionals Board of Directors. For ten years, Mr. Byrne volunteered on the
Executive Board of Give an Hour, a non-profit organization that has developed national networks of
volunteer professionals capable of providing complimentary and confidential mental health services in
response to both acute and chronic conditions that arise within our society, beginning with the mental
health needs of post-9/11 veterans, service members and their families.
Mr. Byrne is a Distinguished Graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, where he received an engineering
degree and ultimately held the top leadership position of Brigade Commander. He later earned his J.D.
from Stetson University College of Law, St. Petersburg, Florida and started his legal career as a judicial
law clerk to the Honorable Malcolm J. Howard, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of North Carolina.