President-elect Donald Trump's transition team is currently considering four-star Navy Adm. Michelle Howard to head the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). As an African-American woman, Howard has had a career of historic firsts in the U.S. navy.
On Dec. 15, journalist Maggie Haberman ofThe New York Times tweeted that the Trump White House transition team was considering Howard to head the VA, which is currently headed by Secretary Bob McDonald, The Hill reports.
56-year-old Howard, who is currently the commander of the U.S. Naval Forces in Europe, has had a distinguished career of breaking both gender and racial precedent in the Navy.
The first African-American woman to command a U.S. ship and to became a four-star admiral, Howard is also the first woman to graduate from Annapolis, reach the rank of flag officer and the first to attain three stars in any branch of the armed services, according to The Atlantic.
In April 2009, Howard was appointed to head the U.S. Navy task force to deal with piracy in the Indian Ocean. A mere three days after assuming her role, she managed the team that rescued Captain Richard Phillips, who had been taken hostage by pirates along Somalia.
"There certainly wasn't anyone I could turn to and say, 'How do you rescue someone from a life raft?'" Howard recalled of the famous operation. "How do you do negotiations with pirates at sea? It had never been done before."
Howard is also a vocal advocate for diversity, citing that teams comprised of different backgrounds, genders and experiences result in the most comprehensive solutions to problems.
"As you expand that group and bring them together and have a multitude of perspectives, you'll find some commonality," Howard told NPR in 2014.
"I don't believe mentors have to look like you to be good mentors or your protege must look like you. The folks who work for me and work with me my whole career have not looked like me, and as a leader I'm obligated to help them be successful," the Navy admiral added.
On Dec. 14, 20 veterans organizations penned a letter to President-elect Trump imploring him not to replace VA Secretary Bob McDonald, who had been appointed to reform the department in 2014 after it endured scandals over egregious wait times.
"While you continue your deliberations over who you will select to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, we ask you to strongly consider the proven track record of the current VA Secretary, Bob McDonald, who is leading the largest transformation in the department's history," the latter stated.