- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 7, 2008

From combined dispatches

Democratic officials say President-elect Barack Obama has selected retired Gen. Eric K. Shinseki as his choice to head the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The officials spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity to avoid pre-empting the official announcement, set for a Chicago news conference at 2 p.m. Sunday, the anniversary of the 1941 Pearl Harbor attacks.

Mr. Obama pledged during his presidential campaign to improve services for retired U.S. service members if he won the White House. The news conference will be his latest in a string of announcements of appointments to his Cabinet and other top administration posts.

Gen. Shinseki is the former Army chief of staff who upset his civilian bosses in 2003 when he testified to Congress that it might take several hundred thousand U.S. troops to control Iraq after the U.S. invasion.

He was forced out of his job within months for being “wildly off the mark,” though a smaller troop increase and a change in tactics in President Bush’s 2007 “surge” have been credited with calming sectarian bloodletting in Iraq.

Mr. Obama will make the announcement Sunday, following the airing of an interview on “Meet the Press,” which he taped Saturday. Also Saturday, he used his weekly radio and Web address to elaborate on sweeping plans to invest in the country’s infrastructure in amounts unprecedented since the 1950s as part of his economic recovery plan.

The effort, which he said will “save or create” 2.5 million new jobs, includes plans to make public buildings more energy-efficient, build new roads and bridges, and boost broadband Internet connections nationwide, particularly in rural areas, Mr. Obama explained.

“We need action — and action now,” said the president-elect, after official figures showed a stunning loss of 533,000 jobs from U.S. payrolls in November, sending the unemployment rate soaring to a 15-year high.

“We will create millions of jobs by making the single-largest new investment in our national infrastructure since the creation of the federal highway system in the 1950s,” he said, vowing to make sure that the money doesn’t simply become a limitless barrel of pork by setting “a simple rule — use it or lose it.”

“If a state doesn’t act quickly to invest in roads and bridges in their communities, they’ll lose the money,” he said, without specifying how much the plan would cost to implement.

Mr. Obama said he would announce other details of the economic plan in the coming weeks and work with Congress to pass it when he becomes president in six weeks. But he did say that his administration “won’t do it the old Washington way.”

“We won’t just throw money at the problem. We’ll measure progress by the reforms we make and the results we achieve - by the jobs we create, by the energy we save, by whether America is more competitive in the world,” he said.

• Christina Bellantoni and Tom LoBianco of The Washington Times contributed to this report.

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