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Obama Names Gen. Shinseki as Veterans Affairs Secretary

Shinseki

President-elect Barack Obama announced that Gen. Eric K. Shinseki is his pick for secretary of veterans affairs.  

"There is no one more distinguished, more determined, or more qualified to build this VA than the leader I am announcing as our next Secretary of Veterans Affairs," Obama said of Shinseki during a news conference in Chicago on Sunday. 

"Throughout his nearly four decades in the U.S. Army, he won the respect and admiration of our men and women in uniform because they have always been his highest priority," he said.

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.-led invasion. He was forced out of his job within months for being "wildly off the mark." But his words proved prophetic after President Bush in early 2007 announced a "surge" of additional troops to Iraq after miscalculating.

Shortly after the announcement was made, Vice Chairman of VoteVets.org Brandon Friedman praised the pick, saying, "This is a wonderful selection by President-Elect Obama. If there are two things everyone knows about General Shinseki, they are that he always thinks ahead to what needs may be down the road, and is not afraid to strongly speak his mind to the President of the United States." 

"Those are two crucial qualities we veterans need in a Veterans Affairs Secretary right now," Friedman said.

Other possible contenders for the position included Tammy Duckworth, director of the Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs, and former Georgia Senator Max Cleeland, had been front runners.

Shinseski is viewed by many -- though not all -- in the veterans community as a courageous figure who sought to protect front-line troops by recommending at least 300,000 forces for the invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq.

After naming his economic team and his national security advisers, Obama is focusing on filling the last half of his Cabinet.

Besides the Veterans Affairs Department, Obama needs to name his picks to lead the Agriculture, Energy, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Labor, Transportation, and Education departments.

FOX News' Major Garrett and the Associated Press contributed to this report.