Exclusive - Robert Gates Extended Interview Pt. 3

  • Aired:  01/15/14
  •  | Views: 26,941

In this exclusive, unedited interview, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates describes the bureaucratic hurdles faced by returning soldiers. (6:30)

>> Jon: HEY WE'RE BACK. AREWE BACK?

YEAH, WE'RE BACK, WHY NOT?

THAT WAS A CASE OF SO, YOU KNOW,DOD USES THIS SYSTEM I GUESS

VISTA OR ALTA?

WHICH IS THE ONE THAT --[LAUGHTER]

THEY USE VISTA.

AND V.A. USES ALTA.

AND THAT'S THE RECORD KEEPINGFOR BOTH GROUPS. SO THEY HAVE

THIS COMPUTER SYSTEM THAT KEEPSTRACK OF VETERANS AT THE

V.A. AND ACOMPUTER SYSTEM THAT KEEPS TR

OF VETERANS AT THE DOD.

THOSE SYSTEMS CAN NOTCOMMUNICATE TO EACH OTHER.

SO THEY SPENT I DON'T KNOW ABILLION DOLLARS AND THEY TRIED

TO CONNECT THE TWO AND THEYCOULDN'T.

WHAT?

[LAUGHTER]HOW IS THAT --

[LAUGHTER]WE HAVE AN ADMINISTRATION THAT

IS THE MOST TECHNOLOGICALLYSOPHISTICATED WITH THEIR OWN

REELECTION.

CAN'T THEY GO TO THOSE GUYS ANDSAY, HEY, HOW DID YOU SEND

E-MAILS TO PEOPLE WHILE THEYSLEEP?

CAN WE REALLY JUST SHRUG OURSHOULDERS AND SAY, WELL THE

CULTURE IS VERY ENTRENCHED.

>> I WILL TELL YOU A BIG PART OFTHE PROBLEM IS TURF.

SECRETARY SHINSEKI AND I GOTTOGETHER A NUMBER OF TIMES.

WE THOUGHT WE HAD A PATH TOCONNECT THOSE TWO AND WE WERE

ACTUALLY GOING TO DO SOMETHINGPRETTY SMART WHICH WAS OUTSOURCE

THE WHOLE THING TO PEOPLE IN THEPRIVATE SECTOR WHO KNEW HOW TO

DO THIS STUFF.

>> Jon: OOH, PEOPLE WHO KNEWHOW TO DO IT, INTERESTING.

[ LAUGHTER ]>> ONE OF THE THINGS I

DISCOVERED IS WHEN THEGOVERNMENT TRIES TO BUILD

SOMETHING REALLY BIG AND REALLYCOMPLICATED ESPECIALLY IN THE

TECHNICAL WORLD IT ALMOST ALWAYSFAILS.

IT'S NOT NEW.

>> Jon: BUT WE ARE ABLE TO ASA GOVERNMENT FIGHT 12-YEAR WARS

OVERSEAS.

WE'RE ABLE AS A GOVERNMENT --WE'RE STILL ABLE TO DO GREAT

THINGS.

>> THE PROBLEM IS -->> Jon: WE HAVE TO HAVE

SOMEBODY WHO WILL, AS YOU SAID,HOLD PEOPLE ACCOUNTABLE TO GET

TO THAT POINT.

>> AND AT THE END OF THE DAY,SHINSEKI AND I SIMPLY COULD NOT

GET THE TECHNICAL PEOPLE -->> Jon: RIGHT.

>> -- TO ABANDON THEIR TURFCONSCIOUSNESS AND THEIR

INSISTENCE ON OWNING THEIR OWNSYSTEM AND NOT COMBINING THE

TWO.

I THINK THERE HAVE BEEN SOMEFIXES MADE TO TRY AND IMPROVE

THE SHARING OF ELECTRONICRECORDS.

AND MY APPROACH WAS WHEN ASOLDIER GOES FROM BEING ON

ACTIVE DUTY TO VETERAN STATUS,THE VETERAN OUGHT NOT SEE ANY

PROBLEM AT ALL.

WE HAVE TO LOOK AT THIS FROM THESTANDPOINT OF THE SOLDIER NOT

THE GOVERNMENT.

HOW DO WE PUT THESE THINGSTOGETHER SO THAT THERE'S ONLY

ONE DISABILITY EVALUATION.

THIS WAS ONE OF THE PILOTPROJECTS WE DID.

UP UNTIL RECENTLY YOU HAD TOHAVE A DISABILITY EVALUATION IN

THE DEFENSE DEPARTMENT ANDANOTHER ONE IN THE VETERANS

AFFAIRS DEPARTMENT.

WE TRIED TOCONSOLIDATE

THOSE.

THERE ARE THINGS WE TRIED TO DOBUT IT'S TAKEN AN UNCONSCIONABLY

LONG TIME.

I'M OPEN WITHCRITICISM ABOUT MYSELF.

>> Jon: YOU RIP YOURSELF TOPIECES.

I'VE SEEN SOME VERY TOUGH STUFFIN HERE.

>> ONE OF THE THINGS THAT IACKNOWLEDGED THAT I FAILED IS IN

GETTING THE MEDICALBUREAUCRACIES TO WORK MORE

CLOSELY TOGETHER.

>> Jon: RIGHT.

DO YOU HAVE HOPE FOR THAT?

I ALMOST VIEWED IT AS, WHEN YOUTHINK ABOUT THE SURGE IN IRAQ

AND THE RESOURCES WE PUT TOWARDSTHAT, PETREUS DOING SOME SORT

OF OUT OF THE BOX THINKING ANDCREATING A MORE AGILE

ORGANIZATION THAT COULD DEALWITH THE THINGS ON THE GROUND

THAT WERE CHANGING.

I THOUGHT SO MANY OF THESE GUYSARE SO SMART, SO ENTHUSIASTIC

AND SO COMMITTED AND THEY COULDGO -- FORGET EVEN THE

CONNECTIVITY AND CHANGE THEPAPERWORKS INTO ELECTRONIC

RECORDS IN A MONTH.

THEY COULD GO THERE WITHSCANNERS AND HAVE THAT DONE AND

WHAT ABOUT THAT AS A SERVICEPROJECT FOR RETURNING VETERANS?

WE'VE GOT A PROBLEM WITH VETERANUNEMPLOYMENT AND WE'VE GOT A

PROBLEM WITH VETERANS SERVICESBEING BOGGED DOWN.

LOOKS TO ME LIKE YOU PUT THOSETWO TOGETHER AND YOU SOLVE TWO

VERY CRUCIAL PROBLEMS.

>> ONE OF THE AREAS WHERETHEY'VE ACTUALLY MADE PROGRESS

IS CONVERTING THE PAPER RECORDSTO ELECTRONIC RECORDS.

I THINK ONE OF THE BIGGESTPROBLEMS NOW IS THE SHARING OF

ELECTRONIC RECORDS.

SO BEING ABLE TO SEND ASOLDIER'S RECORD ELECTRONICALLY

FROM DOD TO A VETERANS HOSPITALIN OMAHA OR SOME PLACE.

>> Jon: WHY NOT USE THE SAMESYSTEM?

IF ONLY THE ARMY HAD A COMMANDERIN CHIEF, LIKE A GUY THAT WAS IN

CHARGE OF THE WHOLE THING THATCOULD SAY TO DOD, USE THEIR

COMPUTER?

IS THAT NOT POSSIBLE?

>> WHAT YOU GET IS WHAT I GOTWHICH WAS IT WON'T WORK AND WE'D

HAVE TO SPEND THIS AMOUNT OFMONEY.

FRANKLY THE ARGUMENTS WERE NOTCOMPELLING.

BUT AS I ACKNOWLEDGED IN THEBOOK, I JUST COULD NOT GET EVEN

THE DOD BUREAUCRACY THAT HANDLESTHESE KINDS OF AFFAIRS TO THINK

FRESHLY.

I SAY, YOU KNOW, THIS IS APROBLEM THAT SOMEBODY IS GOING

TO HAVE TO FIGURE OUT A WAY TOTACKLE.

AND THE PEOPLE WHO ARE SUFFERINGARE THE VETERANS SITTING OUT

THERE WAITING TWO, THREE, FOURYEARS TO GET A DISABILITY.

THE OTHER PROBLEM THAT I HAD WASTHAT I FELT PARTICULARLY FOR

SOLDIERS FOR SERVICE PEOPLE WHOHAVE BEEN WOUNDED IN COMBAT THAT

THE DISABILITY EVALUATION ITSELFWAS ARTIFICIALLY PRECISE.

>> Jon: YOU TRY, 30%.

>> YOU DON'T GET A BENEFITUNLESS YOU ARE 30% DISABLED.

SO WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCEBETWEEN 28% DISABLED OR 32%

DISABLED?

I SAID THIS IS BALONEY.

IF IT'S A WOUNDED WARRIOR, LET'SERR ON THE SIDE OF THE SOLDIER.

WE'LL COME BACK AND RE-EVALUATEIN FIVE YEARS AND IF THAT RATING

ISN'T JUSTIFIED WE CAN CHANGE ITBUT LET'S ERR ON THE SIDE OF THE

SOLDIER AND BOTH PRESIDENTBUSH AND PRESIDENT OBAMA

SUPPORTED THAT.

BUT, AGAIN, IT REQUIRED A CHANGEIN THE LAW AND WE DIDN'T GET IT

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