Donald Trump has publicly sparred with Lockheed Martin in the past few weeks, arguing that the defense contractor – and Fort Worth’s biggest employer – wastes billions in tax dollars building F-35 fighter jets that are behind schedule and over-budget.
But on Tuesday, the president-elect met with one of Lockheed’s executives who has White House experience as a deputy secretary of veterans affairs. The secretary of veterans affairs is one of the last remaining Cabinet positions Trump has not nominated anyone for.
Leo MacKay Jr., a senior vice president for Lockheed Martin, met with Trump for about 20 minutes in New York. MacKay spoke to the press assembled in Trump Tower after the meeting and confirmed he was there to discuss veterans issues, not the F-35.
“We had a good discussion. The president-elect is up on the issues and very concerned about the department and veterans issues,” MacKay said. “He’s a first-class veterans advocate and we had a good conversation.”
MacKay said “things are progressing” when asked if he is interested in the VA secretary position. The biggest veterans issue for MacKay is “first-class health care” but that there is “no lack of things to improve.”
MacKay served as a deputy secretary of veterans affairs under then-President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2003. The San Antonio native worked for Bell Helicopters and as a Navy fighter pilot before working in the White House. Since leaving the Bush administration, MacKay has worked for Lockheed Martin in a variety of corporate roles.
The secretary of veterans affairs oversees a budget of nearly $90 billion and employs nearly 350,000 people at various medical facilities and benefits offices. In 2014, former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned amid lengthy wait timesthat preceded the deaths of nearly four dozen veterans in Phoenix.
In recent weeks, Trump has met with a variety of Texans, including former agriculture secretary Susan Combs, sitting agriculture secretary Sid Miller, former U.S. Rep. Henry Bonilla and former Texas A&M president Elsa Murano.