Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

Anthony Principi (2001–2005): Secretary of Veterans' Affairs

In 2000, President-elect George W. Bush selected Anthony Principi as his secretary of veterans affairs, and the nomination was easily confirmed in 2001.

Principi was born in New York City in 1944 and starred in football at his Catholic high school. He chose to follow his father into the Navy and graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1967. He then volunteered to serve in Vietnam, where he received military honors including the Bronze Star.

Upon his return, Principi entered law school at Seton Hall University, from which he graduated in 1975. He used his legal education to work as legal counsel for the Navy, from which position he became familiar with the workings of Congress and issues of veterans' concerns. During the early 1980s, Principi was deputy administrator of congressional, intergovernmental, and public affairs for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Then, from 1984 to 1986, he served as majority chief counsel and staff director to Senator Alan Simpson (R-WY). From 1984 to 1988, he was chief Republican counsel and staff director for the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs.

President George H.W. Bush named him the first deputy secretary of Veterans Affairs, and Principi became acting secretary during the last months of the Bush administration. In 1993, the naval veteran became chief aide to Senator Strom Thurmond, (R-SC), and was minority staff director to the United States Armed Services Committee.

After working with Thurmond, Principi moved to San Diego, where he worked for two law firms: Luce, Forward, Hamilton & Scripps, in San Diego, and Principi & McClain in La Jolla. He became senior vice president of Lockheed Martin Integrated Systems, and then president of QTC Medical Services, Inc. In 1998, Principi directed the Congressional Commission on Service Members and Veterans Transition Assistance. Before entering the cabinet of President George W. Bush, Principi served as the California chair of Veterans for Bush.

Principi announced his resignation as secretary in late 2004. Bush nominated Jim Nicholson to succeed him. Nicholson was confirmed by the Senate on January 26, 2005.

In March 2005 President Bush nominated Principi as Chairman of the Defense Base Closure and Realignmnet Commission.