tv Key Capitol Hill Hearings CSPAN March 12, 2014 10:00pm-12:01am EDT
if however the first round of the election is inconclusive and we find ourselves watching a prolonged second round of the afghan presidential election with the bsa and the sofa continuing to remain unsung then it will have a much greater impact both in the short-term on our deployments, our posture in helmand and our drawdown and it no longer term on what nato is able to do even assuming esa does eventually get there. >> you have it all mapped out. is there any evidence perhaps, any evidence on their side they have actually got an outline plan of what they require and that they have started planning
so they could execute a quite quickly? >> ess -- bsa? >> it will come under bilateral security agreement. and the status of forces too actually. >> will it come under both of those things and we are still on the elections and i wonder what other prospects in your mind of the elections being free and fair and are they or will they be properly observed by independent observers? >> the afghan electoral commission will certainly be overseeing them. members of the committee will have a few on independent afghan commissions. free and fair, these are relative terms i'm afraid in
elections. i think our perception is that each round of elections in afghanistan is probably better than the previous one. we would hope that the elections this year will be an advance on the previous presidential elections so i think it's heading in the right direction. >> yes, the bilateral security agreement is clearly very important that you don't make any comment on any particular candidate and it would be wholly inappropriate to do so but recently we are watching. has this become a hotly contested issue among candidates or does it seem a fairly good cross sectional view by the candidates that is a good thing? >> that's a question of elections rather than the bilateral security agreement. >> the leading candidates that currently appear to be leading according to local polling have
generally indicated that they would expect some bilateral security agreement. the planning assumption within nato and elsewhere is that the bsa will eventually get some. the question is around the timing of that and the slippage that is implied by a two round election is the critical challenge for us. >> the telegraph carries a report this morning that diplomats are now talking of transparent inclusive and credible elections rather than the strict issue of free and fair. should we be stepping back and expecting free and fair? >> i think inclusive and incredible is a very good starting point.
look, i think we have to be realistic not just in afghanistan but in fact across a swath of the world about what the democratic process can deliver, what the cultural norms in society are. we are talking about a society which is organized in a very different way to our own and i think transparently inclusive is a very good starting point. >> one about the risks to the candidates? even today we know there are daily attempts to assassinate the candidates. are we doing anything to help with this conflict or are we leaving it to their own private security teams? >> the general will correct me if i'm wrong but i think i'm right in saying that this is the afghan police that lead on this issue. we will provide certain levels of enablement to the ansf in
terms of intelligence material that they will lead. it's very important in these elections that the security enablement for the elections and specifically the protection for candidates is seen to be delivered by the afghan forces. it would resent a terrible picture to the afghan electorate i think if the candidates in the election were being protected foreign troops. that is in the signal we would want to send at all. >> probably not a vote winner. >> probably not. >> james gray. >> so far you have been optimistic and hopeful on the question of strategic success. i think we all agree with you that we hope it would have some some --
how do you view the prospects of the long-term sustainable overall peace settlement? is that an optimistic prospect or not? >> there will be significant elements of the taliban insurgency who are willing to make a compromise with the existing government of afghanistan. there will be some elements who are not just as in our own reconciliation process in northern ireland. the process consisted of separating the refuse next from those that would come inside the political process. the presence of foreign troops is a very sensitive issue for those who support the insurgency and once the combat mission the onset of the combat mission is
completed and the afghan elections, the afghan presidential elections are completed i would expect there to be then another opportunity for reconciliation led by afghans and brokered between afghans. >> so you hope to see talks between the government? >> yes, i don't believe there is a long-term sustainable future for afghanistan that doesn't inform some -- include some form of compromise between the taliban and the rest of the afghan society. >> do you think the discussions with the afghan government and the current government are -- [inaudible] what about pakistan? what world do you think pakistan would have in achieving that long-term sustainable peace
element? >> at the very least we need pakistan to passively acquiesce in a long-term reconciliation. clearly because of its control of order areas and areas that harbor those who transit into afghanistan for nefarious purposes. pakistan has the ability to destabilize and undermine reconciliation so at the very least the passive acquiescence of the pakistan authorities and i use the term authorities in the plural. of course a reconciliation with be greatly facilitated by the active engagement of pakistan authorities and the trilateral process that the british prime minister has led has been designed precisely to create the atmosphere in which on both sides of the afghan-pakistan
border there is a recognition that both countries best interest is served by stability in the region and by preventing the passage of the insurgents and terrorists across the border in both directions. [inaudible] how key and that will be the isi and the split organization between those who seek a reasonable -- and who would seek to foment the program? >> i don't claim to be an expert on the isi. they clearly have an important plan in the overall pakistani structure and the isi would see themselves as the guardian of
pakistan's strategic interest. i think the trilateral process is to support pakistani acceptance of the view that pakistan's strategic interest is best served by stability in afghanistan. clearly observed in those instinct two has been the pakistan's strategic instinct is served by instability in pakistan and that can't be helpful. >> there's a key role to play in developing its own security and that of afghanistan in terms of the taliban so how important is it going to be for pakistan to really take seriously conversations with their own taliban but also to refuse to
provide safe havens for the afghan taliban and? >> as you see -- say two separate organizations and of course how the pakistan government chooses to engage with the pakistani and taliban and i think the current approach would probably best be described as a judicious mixture of carrot and stick. it is an issue for them but to the extent that the ttp pakistan taliban -- pakistani taliban are being able to find safe haven on the afghan side of the border i think it must be clear that moves by the pakistani authorities probably coordinated to control the ability of afghan taliban and the economy network
to operate on the pakistani side of the border it would be reasonable to expect those moves to be reciprocated by the afghan authorities to the benefit of both countries and it's precisely that line of logic that we are seeking to persuade the pakistanis of indeed to think that we are making progress and it is clear that important parts of the pakistani security alternatives are now seeing the insurgent terrorist threat to the pakistani state is a bigger strategic threat than the traditional, traditionally viewed a threat from within. >> we visited both pakistan and afghanistan in the end of november last year and some of this discussion came up with the people there. we saw a tax by the pakistanis themselves.
various people negotiated the pakistani taliban and we have seen that unfold. they have an internal discussion and they need their own internal settlement in their own country as well as next-door in afghanistan and then the two together. that is clearly not easy to do. one of the questions that interested me was the discussion seems to be amongst the people in both governments about where both countries are going to be in 2023 and not in 2015. the future of this process is going to see the end of forces and some sort of stabilization but can i ask, i mean in terms of what we can do in terms of facilitating those discussions what is going to happen in terms of the cross-border security to help them to have that stability in the future of? are we going to be able to contribute or not to resolve
what comes after? >> we have already make quite good progress on the ground across the border and communication and the general can talk more about that. i was going to say we will continue with the trilateral process. the prime ministers committed to it. though the afghans and the pakistanis acknowledge that we have a unique position here in our relationships with both countries and we can perform this role. we are very clear that so long as we are in that unique position we have an obligation to try to do it. >> i think it might be useful if you could explain on the record as to what might be the case to help us. >> i think hq i are establishing an opposite role to ensure the pakistani afghan authorities is constructive positive thing can take place in an ordered
fashion. they construct has yet to be decided. they will build on the model that they inherit so there is a good dialogue and is building on a mechanism that is often in cross-border. >> in terms of the cross-border control sector, we have said there's a whole whole thing and how we assist any other enablers so is this one of the areas we would look to see whether or not we have practical involvement as well as having set up the concepts? >> on the border there is no intention have u.k. force elements enabling this process nor actually do we believe the afghan government would want that. the coordination unction bachan cobbled yes we will help enable
certainly up to december the 31st and then we will see what happens after that. >> general we are talking about atu isaf. >> the headquarters. >> hq. i can understand that. can i just ask one question about pakistan? it seems to me that this is one of the most important regions of the world. pakistan has significant links to this country, what happens in pakistan is immediately felt in this country and is there a risk that our withdrawal of troops from afghanistan might reduce the focus in the attention that we pay after 2014 to pakistan, a
country of huge importance to this country and if there is that risk what can we do? >> i don't think there is that risk because i think the importance of pakistan in the eyes of the system here is largely driven by the perceived threat to the u.k. from terrorism emanating from the federally administrative tribal, federally administered tribal areas in northeast pakistan. that is the key self-interest reason we have for our focus on pakistan. we are also of course very clear that the successful development of pakistan as a state and as an economy is important to us because of the huge links that we have through the pakistani diaspora in the u.k. with pakistan. but i don't think there is any
risk of a diminution in focus on pakistan other than to say that of course emerging events with syria slightly dilute the unipolar focus so if you had asked me this question 18 months before i would have been able to say without hesitation that the greatest threat of terrorism to the u.k. emanated from the fata. it is now much more balanced between the threats you see in syria and the threats in the traditional area of the fata. >> looking at it from your national security counsel role now relevance to the point of view of threats maybe there's an opportunity for the united kingdom to play a part in dialogue with pakistan perhaps in relation to its relations with india because we have good friendships and both of those
countries. do you agree with that? >> for clarity the national security council is very much to it engaged in looking at threats an interesting question. could the u.k. play a proactive role in bringing about greater cooperation and reconciliation between india and pakistan and there are some very encouraging signs since the current pakistani government took office. of course the fact that there are elections currently ongoing in india means that process is effectively on hold until after the indian elections. we would always want to do everything we could to sub port and encourage dialogue between two such important nuclear countries but i think we should be cautious about expecting that
we can play a very significant role. these are two countries that will have to work together to make this work and while we have good relationships with both countries, we have a deep-rooted relationship with the security organizations in pakistan. our relationships with the indians are of a different type than they think it would be presumptuous of us to think that we could play a major role in as it were bringing india and pakistan to the table together. >> thank you. >> derek twigg. >> secretary how. >> secretary hadi describes the security situation with the rest of afghanistan? >> well, some of the central
northern helmand districts are among the most connecticut in the country and have been for a long time so what absolute basis helmand is still a dangerous place in the afghan context. but over time the situation has become much more secure, much safer and opinion polling of the population shows that people feel much safer now. that number of enemy initiated incidents is down so the security situation in objective terms is better than it has been for many years but helmand is still a dangerous part of the country compared to the rest of afghanistan. >> the numbers of afghan security forces and personnel have been uprooted in the past 12 months opposed to the previous 12 months. higher or lower?
>> the number of afghan personnel killed between 2012 and 2013 is 49% higher but actually they were in the lead in security where they were not in the lead before it. >> in terms of actual numbers killed, what are they? >> actual numbers killed in 2012 was just under 1300 so 2% of the total attrition rate. >> what about in 2013? >> i have got the rolling dates for 2013 which shows that to date over the last few months the monthly attrition rate is 2.2. >> so despite the security
situation. >> just to put this in context expressed as a percentage of the forces of the total force this is still broadly comparable or even lower than the isaf killed in action. >> can i just continue because we have an exchange on the floor of the house on whether the stories about the afghan security forces controlled jointly with the resurgence taliban. we have no evidence of that. is that still your view? the commanders on the ground actually don't have a handle of what's going on?
>> i think i said in my quarterly statement in january the senior afghan commanders and political leaders do not recognize any arrangements on joints patrols so they have taken steps to make sure nothing could be misinterpreted on a joint -- on the ground. anything that looks like that has occurred they have taken action to stop it. >> that means actually it did happen then? >> well i don't know. >> you said they took action to stop it. >> what i'm saying is that afghan senior commanders there is no senior-level condoning or supporting anything of this kind. junior commanders are being made aware that they must not do anything which might he construed or misrepresented as any kind of collaborative or joint patrolling behavior where
anything at is happening might be construed that way. i'm told action is being taken to ensure that the stops. >> actually there is no definitive answer. actually what you said is they are looking at anything that could be construed and insurgents and afghan security force personnel. >> we are talking about it part of afghanistan where there are no british forces regularly present. >> i'm reporting to you the response of senior afghans to the challenge. it has been reported that something which looks like a joint patrol may have occurred. the answer is we don't condone it. we won't allow it and we have given instructions that it mustn't happened not just the fact that it is anything that might give rise to the impression.
>> where they actually investigated where did happen? where they investigated to check whether it actually did happen in? >> i know they have investigated a reported incident. >> and they found? >> as far as i'm aware there is no evidence that exists but the senior afghan authorities are clear that they are not condoning it and they have given instructions to make sure that nothing could be construed if that happens. >> so you are barely competent? >> look, i'm not there. i'm here. >> these are quite important issues. >> i've seen none of this. >> in terms of the future security one, do you believe or do you have any evidence that the insurgency might want to step up their rations in the
next-door remaining nine months of this year. it looks very much like the british and the americans without their kinetic activity and that might be part of the structure. please reassure me are you fairly confident that can be done in? >> i think in your question you said might want. might they want to. i'm sure they want to and i think the issue is capability and i think they are doing what they can. we have had repeated reports of edicts from qatar telling people to step up the pace and increase the pressure in the evidence is they haven't been able to do that on a sustained basis. i think what we can expect is that the capability that the taliban does have is being
focused towards disrupting up the election process. once the elections are out of the way we can expect the full force of that will be directed back with isaf forces. >> the agreement is in terms of your confidence and what intelligence tells you are you confident that post 2014 we won't see a significant increase in the area and helmand that the taliban insurgency will control? >> i think i have said to this committee and i've certainly said it in the house before that the afghans will have a different set of priorities and a different approach to doing their business then isaf has. their sense of what is strategically important will be different from ours and they may
deploy their resources differently. they may apply pressure in places that we have regarded as not being areas where they want to expand every resource. they may focus less on some areas than we have sought to hold so i can't say it would change. i can be pretty confident that things will be done in a different way post the end of 2014 but i think we look at a range of outcomes obviously but the central expectation is that the ansf will hold the insurgency and do it in a different way that isaf plans to keep the insurgency in check and the pattern on the ground will be broadly with the government controlling the important population centers the important economic infrastructure and the
mainland routes within the country. >> the answer to my question is you don't believe they will put much effort into controlling helmand or certain parts of helmand? is that what you said? >> i think it's a very good one but for the deployed afghan army corps they were investing their resources for the long-haul so regional hospitals are being constructed and infrastructure indicates as far as they're concerned they are staying there holding that territory. post 14 they will be faced with strategic choices and they will have to decide whether they want their forces --. >> it's important to remember that and helmand the complication and helmand is it isn't economically very important area but it's economically important at least in significant part of his of any legal trade which involves huge amounts of money.
so we are not just dealing with an insurgency. we are dealing with a complex criminal afghan and the way the afghans deal with the complex interaction of political insurgency and fast cash generating criminal activity will be different from the way we have dealt with it over the past. >> before we go on to that --. >> you are quite right proving it is really difficult and you are absolutely right when you say you were here and not there but the daily mirror on the 21st of december there's a picture and the caption of the pictures have not yet over afghan insurgents in the taliban controlled the district of the helmand province. now i'm assuming that if you say you have exhausted all the means by which you could prove that didn't happen would you tell us
how you did that? >> first of all i'll wouldn't believe everything you read. >> really? it's a serious story which i think requires a serious response. >> yeah okay and it depends you know what you mean by a joint for trolling? >> the picture here shows some afghan national army soldiers holding some pretty interesting looking equipment looks pretty dangerous to me. >> i'm sorry. how do we know they are taliban? this is an area with all sorts of criminal elements. >> i'm asking you if you are clear that this is something that shouldn't happen in order to remedy that it's important to establish a baseline. if the baseline is it was reported that we have no evidence i would just like one
or two more sentences how you satisfy the negative. if the study did happen and you have to put a stop to it. >> i think the problem is this. this was reported to have happened in an area which we do not control. there is no british presence on the ground. echoes of the reports we received we took this up with the afghan authorities. it was investigated and their conclusion was that they couldn't be sure. it was incomplete. >> so it would have been no improvement but that is not as much as saying it didn't happen. >> we focused instead -- to be honest afghanistan is not britain or scotland. we are talking about a much more confused situation on the ground
at the local level and we have focused on getting the insurance first of all that there is no endorsement of this kind of activity so i remember when this story first broke. this then that was put on it is are the afghans doing deals with the taliban? we need to be reassured that was not the case that there was no endorsement of any kind of local arrangements or anything like that and we got that reinsurance. we got reinsurance that any incidents of the nature here if they were identified were dealt with robustly and that the word would go out that there would be no tolerance of any kind of relaxation at the local level in any way. since that incident i have heard nothing further rip ordered of anything that was interpreted by
anybody as any kind of joint patrolling or local compromises. >> you have juxtaposed two quick photographs and you have run a headline. what is their response to this? >> do we pick up the phone and say to the daily mayor would you please desist from running these stories? >> it is a legitimate question. >> i'm not sure whether we do or not. >> it is a legitimate question. he took the story and you couldn't prove that it didn't happen and you hope that it didn't. >> i have to be clear this is something that is alleged to have happened in a district in which there is no british presents presence for which we have no responsibility. >> the problem is so many of our personnel were killed and wounded in this country.
>> indeed. >> you are saying it's not our responsibility. >> we have taken it up with the afghan authorities as i have made clear. we got the assurances that we wanted from them. trying to go back in history in afghanistan to establish what happened on a certain day in the past you know, you have been there. you know what it's like. this is not a question of going and checking the records of the local police station. who are we going to ask? >> you are confident that it's not happening today? >> i've heard no further reports of anything that is even capable of being presented as possible of anything like this. >> there is definitely no deals like that going on? >> i think we want to move on to the security agreement.
>> just to clear up i think you made the ballot point that there's a great uncertainty and that is a problem. i wonder how that uncertainty will impact on our balkans and future commitments and if you could say a bit more on that? >> at the moment it's not having any direct impact that clearly nobody likes uncertainty. because our expected presence posts 2014 is well-defined is based in the facility of kabul and the impact on us at the moment is limited. where the impact is more significant is on those nations that are proposing to provide troops for the so-called -- of operation resolute support
mission posts 2014 where the scenario of an inconclusive first run and possibly no definitive president emerging until perhaps as late as september that presents them with very real challenges because if the bsa were not signed they would have have a very short period of time to get what would still be significant numbers of troops out of the country before the 31st of the month. >> i think you said you were fairly confident in voting the first time whoever the president will be they will sign the agreement quickly. could you enlighten us. >> because first of all there is a broad degree of consensus in afghanistan around this
bilateral security agreement. it's been endorsed by -- which was called last november and because all the leading presidential candidates have indicated that they think it is in afghanistan's interest to sign it. >> we are talking about afghanistan. >> we are. >> there are clear indications that they were signs. >> the working assumption of all they isaf commissions is that it will be signed but we recognize that is an uncertainty. that is our central planning assumption but of course we are also planning for alternative outcomes. >> the final question wallowing on from that on afghanistan in terms of the lead-up to four or five or six years with the
collapse of the insurgency situation how long do you see as involved in afghanistan past 2017 but how do long to see as involved in the afghanistan -- insurgency? >> the lesson of history it is the withdrawal of funding that prompted. >> i'm talking about resources. >> i think the commitments that have been made by the international community to fund particularly the maintenance of the ansf after 2014 and to continue to provide economic assistance are the crucial ones. so long as those commitments remain in place, so long as there is a willingness by the international community to support the afghan government they will be able to maintain. >> how long do you think?
>> that will depend on what happens. >> months, years? >> if there's continued progress in afghanistan and obviously if there is reconciliation with beginnings of reconciliation i would imagine a strong willingness on the part of the international community to support that. it there is progress in developing the afghan economy, if there's continued progress in developing human rights and in particular if there is no progressive tendency in relation to women's rights after the end of 2014 all of these things make it more likely that the international community will be willing and able to continue its involvement in afghanistan. clearly a failure by the afghans to live up to the commitments that they have made to the international community will make that more difficult. >> those include respecting and honoring the rights of women. >> they do is guaranteed to the
afghan constitution. >> before you move off of the subject does anyone else have any questions about the bilateral security agreement? i have one or two if nobody else does. the bilateral security agreement is bilateral between the united states and the afghan government. am i right in thinking and let's be absolutely clear about this if there is no bilateral security agreement between those two countries then there will be no academy helped by the british forces. is that right? >> there will be no british forces on the ground in afghanistan if there is no bilateral security agreement. >> okay. how soon would you expect decisions to be made about that
as the decisions on the bilateral security agreement go forward to? how soon would you expect there to be a complete pulling up the plug of all british forces on the ground? >> if i may chairman i think the question is probably what is the latest date at which we could -- how long can we wait for bsa before we assume? >> a much better phrase. what are you come and join us? >> this is a moving feast. it's something that the military are very focused on. clearly as we have run into this current challenge that the current president making it look increasingly unlike that he will sign up tsa before the election military planners have gone into overdrive to push back as far as possible the point at which we
have to assume there won't via bsa. if you don't mind chairman i think i would want to not need precise but we are definitely beyond the summit to the point where we think it's the latest realistic time, the worst realistic case for a fixture emerging from the two stage presidential electoral process which is probably sometime in september. >> so we have a bilateral security agreement. let's assume that happens. how soon after that would a status of forces agreement between the afghan government and the remainder of isaf happen? >> i think something between one minute and one week we would expect it to be effectively pretty much simultaneous. >> is the wording of that already agreed between the government of afghanistan and isaf or sis?
>> there are drafts of people have accepted both on the bsa and the sofa. >> would it be right to think if there were any disparities to the bilateral agreement and the status of forces agreement that would be a game-changer? >> no, i think the bilateral security agreement covers territory that the status of forces agreement will not cover. the united states in its bilateral agreement will be seeking permissions to do things that nato forces will not want to do as part of resolute support so the united states will continue to have a u.s. only mission in afghanistan alongside its contribution to resolute support after the 31st of december 2014 and there will be commissions for those activities. >> would the indemnities for british forces the as strong as the indemnities for the united
states forces. >> yes because they think indemnities as a specific seating of jurisdiction over british forces to the nato or british authorities. >> the states agreement will be with isaf. currently we have a situation where -- this is part of my question. originally all of this came out of the u.n. resolutions and all the rest but let's be clear about it. if we would have the bilateral agreement with the u.s. and quite right the two missions from the u.s., that is their issue but if they're bilateral was established then the others will follow and the nato agreement will follow. are we depending in terms of law
on the stability of nato and afghanistan because the isaf coalition is broader than nato. >> it is a and i had this discussion with my australian counterpart yesterday and he confirmed it. australia will expect to be a signatory to the nato status of forces agreement so it will be available to the nato part of the nations as well. >> that is very helpful. there were lots of bilaterals so is there going to be up british bilateral as well? the only agreement we will have will be part of the new status of forces agreement? >> right thing that would we require. >> it's encapsulated in agreement. that is very helpful. thank you. can i just ask you determining what you just described with nato in september a lot of
decisions will have to be made. the countries that are going to. [inaudible] they are going to need -- so the significance for the nato summit is very important, is it not? >> afghanistan will be clearly be an important subject at the nato summit and depending on the outcome of the presidential election and the progress in completing the bsa and the sofa that will of course set the tone for the nato summit. i think there's something else though that i should drop the committee's attention to. president obama when he spoke about a few weeks ago, about the delay in completing the esa also
said very importantly i think the longer it is delayed the smaller the number of u.s. troops available there is likely to be and that in itself will have an impact on it so there is a possible outcome which is not the zero option. the bsa and the sofa concluded so late that the number of troops committed by the united states effectively did take an alternative posture. that would raise some questions for some of the contributing countries who are very focused on providing one of the spokes. >> there's the whole question about future arrangements for pooling and sharing in other activities.
[inaudible] president karzai has not indicated his hands will be apprised of the presidential seal and he intends to stay in the handover capacity possibly until as late as november. do you see this duality if you like of who is going to be running afghanistan going on as late as november as difficulties in actually getting any agreement signed and what is the current view of the legality of that? >> i'm not an expert on the afghan constitution but i'm not aware of a provision for any transitional role for the
ex-president and clearly to answer your question self-evidently if there was -- if there were two people seeking to exercise simultaneously that would only confiscate the situation but i'm not aware of any provision that would make that legal. but i have no doubt president karzai sees himself as having some figurehead role in the nation beyond the presidential election and will expect to continue to be a figure of some considerable if informal influence. [inaudible] >> as you will know the crop figures from helmand are disappointing in the most recent season disappointing for counternarcotics, not
disappointment in the helmand poppy farms. so we have to acknowledge that the poppy. is alive and well in afghanistan >> is it fair to say that this part of the mission was well-intentioned but has actually turned out to be an abject failure? >> i don't think i would describe it as an abject failure. progress has been made but in the last year there was a rouge and of the crop. clearly there have been different demands for the focus of resources and if there is a resolution to the insurgency and some kind of reconciliation in afghanistan it will be easier
then i think to tackle the poppy crop. >> the by saying it's not complete generals everard from a tactical level is there anything you can move towards to say that it could be worse? >> i mean it the good could be worse. there is now an afghan institution capable of dealing with it in their own way. as i said last time there are no -- so trying to combat insurgency in the rural areas and you seek to remove their livelihood you're simply adding to the numbers who will join the insurgency. >> we understand the difficulty of this but it is important. >> i think there's a counternarcotics operation going on and we provide support to the
afghan-led counternarcotics operation. clearly things would be worse if there weren't counternarcotics operations. >> not clearly though. it is not the case that it would clearly be worse. >> let me see what evidence, the only evidence that you could provide is around the results of counternarcotic activity in terms of her, detentions and crop distractions and so on. i'm not sure what the classification of that material is but let me see if there's anything we can provide. i'm not arguing that this is a perfect plan. there is too much poppy being grown and too much poppy has survived but it does seem to me that the level of counternarcotics activity must be making a positive impact from what would be a far worse problem if
have been stopping or prohibiting the. you have admitted that it is being at best disappointing and not yet been able to provide any evidence of any level of success and you have the expert on the ground saying that if this situation continues everything will fail. that is a pretty weak picture. there is a risk. >> that is absolutely true. there is a risk. there are lots of risks and afghanistan one of the things the international community i think will be very clear on is that if it is going to finance the afghan government it will expect the government to pursue a robust counternarcotics strategy.
>> but let me summarize its not doing well at the moment. it's going to get worse and the experts say that could be a disaster and yet you say you are optimistic for the future situation that there will be less narcotics. >> i said the afghans will set their own priorities. i think it's a problem for us to -- priority on things that are important to us including counternarcotics. >> do you think the withdrawal of tens of thousands of isaf troops will make it easier or more difficult for the afghan government to get on top of the narcotic problem? >> is it harder for the taliban? >> the taliban now of course has been fighting western forces. once they have disappeared it's
much more difficult where them to carry on as they have against the government. i hope one of the things we will see as the western forces leave is the drop and taliban forces around the country. >> on the specifics of narcotict and enablement to the special afghanistan units and notwithstanding the evidence of the continued substantial illegal trade that are becoming increasingly effective and we will hope and expect that they will be able to by the time we leave have acquired the skills and experience necessary to carry on that work. >> it was part of our mission to deal with this from the start he had the simple part of the
edge of it >> >> well, i think we acknowledged with the benefit of hindsight, allowing any kind of cover, whether it is set among crops up to the fence, was not good practice, and i believe they were eradicated shortly after that. >> but we did have a eradication? >> quickly as possible. >> but i'm clear that it's now -- it's the governor's -- it's the provenn issue governor's lead, and it's something he takes a great interest in. i discussed it directly with him, produced his own plan for eradication or at least reduction in the prime. >> madam? >> can i see section 6, on a scale of 1 to 10, one being absolutely useless and ten
fantastic. how do you expect to be in sneering security in afghanistan? >> i think they've been pretty good. i think, and they are getting better. i think, if i may, probably asking my opinion, and the best is to look at the polling data of afghan citizens, and particularly those in helmand, and i think 17% of afghan sealings going out in the daytime, 18% -- is that -- you got the stickers? >> what the security forces are doing, and i think from what we expect, they hope to control securities where they are now, have, i think, impressed us all,
and not just with the operations, but also with the military, and you look at the tempo of operations they are running out to shape for the lengses, chief operations came back the other day to say that they had itself up and said this was expect the to be seen, and i think they are doing a good job, and in terms of polling, belongs to the nsa, and now 88% and even the amp is -- 88%, and leadership sloightly lower, but up 5% from last year. they are going in the right direction. >> meeting 75% of all operations, and which is quite significant to achieve. >> can you tell me how you would pay someone on that scale of 1 to 10.
>> applause thrillology -- age place them an a 7 at the moment. >> thank you. what are the challenges they are going to face? >> [inaudible] [laughter] >> that doesn't mean my eyes can't see it. >> two challenges. the ratings are too high, and we've talked about that, and 23 you look at the army, the 170 # ,000, that's over that strength at the moment, but the attrition rate should be 16%, thinking about 32%, and so that 58,000 people a year, that's too high. every western army has a turnover of 10-14%, but that's too high, we talked a bit lookout that. it's not action, but the problem they take when they don't leave, and people are looking at that, and the other area, less a problem than we thought, and the
key areas, for example, in terms of surveillance, target acquisition, medical logistic, but we had expected to maintain this before in southern helmand until we left, and what we learned, and they are operating in afghanistan, they speak the language, and this case is rapid, and there are insurgents picking up, more than ever was, allowed them to do operations in a different way, but stay the same. >> i gave that same scale, 1 to 10, and how confident do you feel they've been able to maintain security after we pull out? on a scale of 1 to 10, how
confident are you maintaining the security situation, where it is now? >> well, as i already said, i think where it is now is a misleading question because they may choose a different profile than the one they are currently operating post the election, and if there are moves to reconciliation, that may change the posture of the profile, and, again, i think in the short term, so looking at 20 # 15, i would feel confident that set on your scale, 7 to 8, that they'll be able to maintain security. clearly, the further out we go, the lower that confidence must come because there are more unponderables than unknowns that will affect it, and so in the
period, the immediate answer, i would expect them to be able to continue to deliver security much more than it is now. >> the capacity -- clearly, i have better insighted into what the situation is like than january 2015 than in january 016, and so my level of confidence must decline about this over time because i can't see into the future, but looking at the near term, there's no sense, and i get this very much from talking to our military colleagues, there is no sense that there's any risk of a cliff edge when we complete our combat mission, there will be a relatively smooth transition. they will do things differently, but to the same broad effect.
>> [inaudible] >> [inaudible] you see the taliban, and can feel nervous about. they have not matched this army, and to the extent that that's a factor. >> [inaudible] pleefs ambassadors to afghanistan -- >> previous ambassadors? >> yes, former ambassadors, who placed the possibility of the civil war, and there would be the percentage there is now? , and i permly would not expect -- i mean, there is
already a robust insurgence, but i don't anything that indicates that the emergency would be able to move that up to civil wars, and they got a lot of recruiting for the troops, which is important for them, and we already throw everything they got in repeated attempts at surges, so they got no reserves that we can see, and their message is more difficult to deliver when they're inviting insurgency against afghan forces out of the democratically elected force, and, no, i don't see that being the outcome. >> you commented about there being improvements in terms of support, in terms of
evacuations, a section, but what's your assessment? if you like the video, government capacity to maintain key enailers lake pay because there was a bit where the afghan police were paid for two months. the money in the country, but they didn't have a bureaucracy to >> when we have the afghan defense minister six months ago, he talked about two priorities, one was attrition rate, and one was a core of leadership, and i wish they talked about the italian brigade and talk about attrition, and the 0*er one was a simple administration and ensuring they got it at the right time, and so that re assures the afghan, and they
recognize they don't get it right, some will continue to soldier on, and that could be in the case, and i'm pretty confident they will, and i mean, i recognize that ambassador, and i think genuine what is true today, and i think the afghan national security forces have been over the course of the last eight months, and today, what many ambassadors would have seen. >> just a pickup. >> in terms of your discussion, went to afghanistan, and also talked to senior army leader there, and issues around in terms of the efficiency rate as well, is the large part of the country which are hit by ieds
ect., and also in terms of the change in sports, the amounts of air strikes to be committed, and you know in terms of what's happening there is quite important because they have the afghan forces. >> again, i think it's come back at you on paper in terms of what we have provided -- what nay provide in terms of what we recall mobile protected, and they are static, worked out of fix bases, work out of what we call technicals, and it is entire ri against their instinct to sit in metal boxes and do what we do, and so i don't get the feeling from them they want the same level of technical protection that we have, and
they'll be able to maintain it, and, b, because i think it negates greater strength which is what is amongst the popular -- but i know afghans have plans for mobility, and they haven't have those here. i have to put that on paper to you. >> the air strikes, and that sort -- >> the force comes in 2016-17, and through that point, the americans will continue to ride an emergency. >> [inaudible] >> like what was just said, i focus on people, two out of three of the large field hospital, and they campaign metals, and just come back, a great job again. see how they had a hospital
there, and met with the general, and at that point, and they just does blood transfusions, and capabilities are going forward, and all of those thing, but the question really that i have is once that is coming forward currently, question is that it's the stability of that process after the election, and i just wonder how the general politics and how they are, but monitoring in terms of their development and elsewhere. what arrangements are we making to train the stainability of this to maintain? >> well, you're quite right that the building, the afghans are building regional military
hospitals, but the key to making them sustainable will be being able to attract competent level surgeons to do a tour of duty and afghans recognize that at a challenge. what we are doing, what we can do, we'll continue to do, is provide advice, mentoring, and support at ministry level, and we expect to incert british advisers into a number of security related ministries to help them address the challenges. >> [inaudible] >> we can't do it for them. >> a lot of that -- our medical stuff is provided, some of that possibility assist in the process because it's a military hospital process. >> the afghans don't have, as
far as i'm aware, a military reserve. >> i mean to run. >> no. no, we have no plans to deploy medical reserves into the regional military hospital. these are afghan facilities, and they are already operating, i think, at the higher level than we expected, and i think we had a week recently where we received no afghan injuries, and in the role of three hospitals because they were being treated in the afghan regional military, and that's the main step forward, and they'll continue to make progress, but we can't do it for them. the process over the last two years of deciding to lifted off in challenging the afghans to do things themselves has been characterized throughout by people saying, are we sure we can do this? are we sure we can leave them? are they up for it? in every case, they demonstrated
they are. sometimes they are prepared to take a bit of a hit in the transition, but they are determined to do fixes themself, and in every case, whatever hickup there might have been at the point of transition, they are now doing certain steps, and i think we can say the same is true of providing medical support to the deployed forces. >> on the support, afghan ied equipment, it's coming up again and again, and -- >> one of the programs is training, and the idea that we have will probably not be sustainable under afghan lead, and they are an alternative. i guess in that program, coming to the conclusion. >> they have conclusions that
they require the factories, -- >> again, i think the operations they did, a poor level operation, clearing a number of village, and over a ten-day period, they cleared 250ieds, and the afghan disposal team using dogs that we had begin them in large part, and then there their own training to diffuse them. >> we watchedded afghans using dogs. >> shows of the level of capability already. you can't leave equipment because -- >> with no support from us at all. >> that would be the principle of the equipment across the
field. we get equipment, confident, sustainable in an afghan environment, equipment sustained for contractors, at great cost is not sustainable for the afghans. >> time for withdraw. >> i have questions about the process, talked before about movement in numbers and volume and so on, which is significant, and with our allies, something about how that is negotiated, and also, if you could talk about the method of withdraw, i mean, by that the fact that some vehicles are taken into the middle east of there and don't necessarily come back to the u.k.. can you give us a shape of how this is happening? >> well, first of all, not sure
all the economic damage will be brought back to the u.k., that's the basis on which we are proceeding, and at the moment, to say, we are withdrawn from theater just over 50% of the total equipment, vehicles and major equipment, and containers of other materials. about two-thirds of that came out by air, about the quarter that's come out by the multimobile route which primarily means being flown into the gulf and brought back by sea. >> right. >> we're not one to leave it? >> that's not our current plan.
>> okay, all right. thank you for that. >> i should probably just elaborate on that. the level of rehabilitation of equipment done in theater is rehabilitation required for back to the u.k., removal of ordnances trapped behind plates and things like that, and to put these vehicles back into storage requires further work when we get there, and if we we were going to deploy them anywhere in the world for any purpose, we wouldment them to be in that condition before we deploy them. >> okay. the question about how this is happening, i mean, there is some certainty of the way out that we had talks about in the past, whether it's through the rest of
it, but the exit strategies are necessary then currently, is that essentially where we are? >> at the present time, one percent of the material out has gone by the north line of communication. that probably answers your question. it was always clear that remember the big driver should secure the northern lines of communication was during a period when the route through pakistan was closed, and, clearly, we want resilience, as many options as possible, both to deal with the congestion in the broader nato lines of communication and deal with the risks of closure or indeed one particular route. >> and i have a question, obviously, the physical drn the
protection of personnel through withdraw process. can you say more about how that is being organized and what insurances you have about either protection or the withdrawal process? >> we'll clearly maintain in theater the forces required in order to provide appropriate protection to the very end of the withdrawal process, and, clearly, i don't want to go into the detail of how to do that, great deal of thought have gone into how to protect the rump, if you like, of the force as it draws down. >> and then there's new -- >> possibly. >> is that right? >> [inaudible]
>> loutly magnificent, superb in what he did, seeing hundreds of -- seeing these hundreds of vehicles brought back to scratch, superb. sorry, off topic. >> [inaudible] >> northern routes, through texas. >> the majority of the 1% has gone that route has been directed that way in order to prove the constant, prove the principle, and we do not believe it was closed, but if it was, no material impact on the speed of our draw down, as i said,
already half the equipment on vehicles and supplies are out, tiny fraction through russia, and if we have to reroute it, we would. >> now, the time set of questions, the -- by no means the least important. you could set the stage as the campaign the lessons are the most important, lessons in history. >> chairman, in your response to the larger force, you assured us you learn lessons with current operations, but what do you have for currents in afghanistan? >> well, first of all, i think we said when we dissed it before, the military constantly seeks to learn lesson, and as has become clear, i think, from the review of the pact to design
to bring conclusions, others designed to deliver medium term solutions and responses, and, clearly, once the campaign is over, it will be appropriate to look at a strategic level of the as a whole to see what is left to those that need to be done, and i suspect we do that. >> good. come back in a sec, if i may short and medium term, and in close, and the question of how we got to the story about weapons of mass destruction sioux the information of the future level, the decision to go
into helmand, and what one did, i mean, we see what we've done, level informed, but the main source of manpower is the people who were there when we areiched. in an earlier report, we commented on this in spite that we went in 2006, modest involvement in a campaign, and we get rid of the mode presence, and the surrounding, suddenly a major war on the ground in a province for which we were not equipped, and are we losing the big picture? >> we have not yet, and for any future review of the campaign, this would be a massive agency
to reference. >> do you think we will be moving out? 2006, and how we got involved in the helmand? >> can i suggest that perhaps the committee might like to make recommendations about what it thinks should be covered in a post campaign review? i'm sure that such recommendations would be very much welcome. >> thank you. that's constructsive. now, coming off -- >> yes? >> why do you think it is inappropriate to learn lessons or to set in place a mechanism for learning lessons as you go along? >> i don't. we have mechanisms for learning lessons, go along short reactive lessons, and hopes the fact that things can be done in a matter of days, and more medium term, lesson learning from the campaign in progress. i thought the question i was being asked whether we have a plan for a more strategic choke
off style, if you like, over the big strategic decisions that took place in the campaign, and my answer to that is that no decision has been made, but i assume we will want to look at those things and the scope of exactly what we will look has hat not yet been defined. >> i think the operation and tactical level are the best in the world to them, and we are consistently working with operational trading, and we are, if not trending the same way, and, you know, the lessons from that and implements. >> come on to the more immediate term, can you just set out for us, we touch the on this civil times in previous hearings, and what you see is the main tool source, and how they connect together for lessons learned, and clearly, everybody from the
individuals capabilities are doing stuff, but what's the main stride we think? >> yes, it's a big -- every battalion appreciates the operation name learning account they go through, and that's not just at the end. they do it at the beginning, and back to headquarters' army and trading, and land warfare center. >> where the two institutions based? >> one based in -- [inaudible] and the other down in mill on the coast. lessons they understand, and then the training put in place, those training to go a a version of coupe by county and comes in addition with very good publications designed to go right down to tell people
literally the exciting details, what they expect, e-learning as well, and it's -- i like to point that the assistant chief, the general, probably, hosting people to understand the lessons learned. >> where do they plug into the joint arrangement? >> into the joint doctrine center. >> which is where? >> based in -- [inaudible] >> right, yeah. so is there a historical element to them or not? further back in terms of -- >> they can. i mean, all sorts of research, and the operational
recordkeeping, it's now the quality that you can go back and go down to a very low level, so, yes, they reach back, and recommendations. >> so i'm trying to get a particular hopeful, a particular point. one criticisms made is the americans is the people write the manuals, yes, the marines unaware of good stuff produced a generation earlier before the second world war. now, do the -- the -- >> the lessons today are absolutely -- >> tied into -- >> -- tied into lessons learned from the past. the lesson from the other day is people talk about the campaign of the ied and north africa what you saw the most was the ieds left, and, perhaps there are
lessons learnedded. >> final question just to follow-up on that, just to translate how it pits into the diagram, who do various institutions report to? who do they report to, and who do the single army organizations? >> well, the army, of course, the chief of the general staff has organizations, down at the level, and the operations, the command of land forces to work through this command to the operations, and they are supported by the agency today. >> in the branches? >> yes. >> and the joint force, a joint force of the general, who -- if you like set the theater entry standards, the sting operations, based on their own knowledge, and heavy role in this as well and what you need to do, and there is not just one diagram. it says about the textbook, and
i can send it to you. >> that would be very helpful. >> sounds confusing, but it's not. >> so the official history of the campaign. yes? >> well, i don't know that position has been taken, but it is customary for the official histories to be written. >> it would be awful pity if they depart from it, do you not agree? >> i'm sure you'll make that point in the report and will be duly noted, but if i can say so, we had exchange from previous sessions, i think there's a slight gap in expectation on the time lag, and the campaign was written 15 years or so after the
campaign was over and appropriate to have historical context before the campaign history is written. >> yes, but by asking you the questions now, we're giving you the opportunity to ensure that the written word is fresh in your mind. >> thank you very much indeed, and that's the evidence over, and the committee will be adjourned for a few minutes.
>> i think what happens to hoover as depression deepens, and, remember, people didn't know it was the great depression from day one, but thought it was a typical cyclical event, and when the pattern did not hold and depression deepened, hoover found himself facing increasing pressure from the left for greater expenditures and intervention in the economy and held the line against that and became very much a fiscal conservative, balance the budget, save the gold standards republican in the last year or two of his lifing and that perceived rigidity on his part is part of the reason he was attacked as supposedly not doing anything. he was an activist for his time and policed policies not all that effective. on the other hand, he was
valiantly struggling against a total status turn such as he saw coming in the new deal. >> editor george nash on the missing link in hoover's memoir, saturday night at ten eastern and sunday at nine on "after words." in a few weeks, military strategist and former assistant defense secretary, bing west takes your calls, comments, e-mails, and tweets on the middle east and wars in iraq and afghanistan, live from noon to three eastern on "inn -- "in-depth" on c-span 2. go to booktv.org to enter the chat room. expwr veterans affairs secretary testified about his department's budget wednesday before the senate veterans affairs committee, and 309 billion dollars in 20 is a.
this is just over two hours. [inaudible conversations] >> okay, let's get to work. i want to thank all the guests from the va today to discuss the budget. let me begin by thanking you, and for tackling some e nor nowsly difficult problems in the enormously difficult period of facing our veterans, and if anything i learned in the year and two months chairman of this committee is that the course of war is much, much greater, i think, than most americans are
perceiving. we are dealing now with hundreds of thousands of men and women who came home from iraq and afghanistan, dealing with traumatic brain injury and ptsd. you know what? that's tough stuff. those are tougher illnesses to deal with, the numbers and magnitude extraordinary, and that's an issue to focus on today, but just the mag magnituf that problem, hundreds of thousands of men and women dealing with ptsd is just a huge issue. we have seen 2300 families, 2300 individuals suffer wounds in war making it impossible to have kids. how do we respond to that? we have seen a situation dm which in the va and throughout
the country there is a feeling that too many patients are over medicated, what kind of alternatives are out this, and va, by the way, is doing cutting-edge work in trying to respond to pain and other problems through compliment ri and alternative medicine. how do we address that? we are dealing with an issue that several years ago we, the united states congress, passed a very, very important piece of legislation making sure that people who served in iraq and afghanistan have the ability to go to college. that's worked, by and large, very, very well. problems remain. how do we address that? going back to the issues of mental health, we are all disstressed and saddened by the number of suicides that we face, very difficult issue inside the military, inside the va, inside the united states of america, our general population, how do we deal with that? dealing with an issue that the va in the last several years
transformed their claims from going from paper to digital, and we think we're making some progress, and we want to continue the progress, and how do we continue that progress so every veteran in the country gets adjudicated in a timely manner. the va has, in my view, over the years, done a good job in terms of reaching out in primary health care through cbox, how do we make sure that the proper number of cbox continue to be built and maintained. so we have a lot of issues facing us. these are tough times for the veterans community coming out of two wars, dealing with older veterans from world war ii, clear to vietnam, we're not going to turn our backs on those verett rap, and i just, again, want to thank the va, very easy
to beat up on the va because they are big, bureaucratic, and they are public. every problem they have, which is many, you run 151 medical centers, i'm sure there's a problem in every one every day, and often they are on the front pages, but sometimes we forget that many millions of veterans are accessing them and proud and happy of the care they are getting. our job is to keep the va moving forward, address the serious problems they have, give them the support they need, and that's what this budget hearing is about.
today, and one area that needs oversight is the care giver program. this program we know about so far include inconsistent decisions regarding eligible, no quality assurance, monitor the quality, and timeliness of the decision and no formal process to appeal the decision. i know many, including chairman sanders, believe the program should be expanded and included to all veterans, and yet we have to ensure proper implementation before expanding the program, and do this for any program and provide oversight necessary to do right. since the beginning, plagued
bying in issues that resulted not only in patient harm, but patient deaths. these issues range from the misuse of the single patient multiuse insulin pen to outbreak of legion and delays in mental health care. you all know what i experienced in the atlanta va in the medical center in atlanta with regard to mental health and suicide. the inspector general released 40 health care inspections during the congress that's roughly three per month. veterans sacrificed so much already and served world class health care and nation's veterans face long delays in the scheduling appointmentings and accessing needed service. another is a backlog in claims, anne i know you are making progress. i know by 2015 we have goals that are terrific, but we have to deal not just with statistics, but actual effect of the lives of the verett raps and families. this work on reducing claims time and waste is critically important. 1.2 # million veterans wait today for a determination. that's a huge number, and it's
way too many. on the issue of suicide, i want to address -- i want to thank robert immensely for three things. one, willingness to come to atlanta in the field hearing conducted in august and took two and a half hours of emotional, and i'm sure painful and to a certain extent information about the tragedy we had in the atlanta va with three suicide deaths and one overdose. the secretary, i want to commend you on replacement of the director, the new director, ms. wiggins doing a great job, and we had another incident two weeks ago. she was on the phone to me first when it happened, took immediate action in terms of that incident, and accepted responsibility where responsibility needed to be accepted. that is a great indication of the emphasis you, the secretary and robert, put on the issue of suicide, which we must get our arms around. it's one area where i think oversight is going to be critical for us to move the paradigm and get best practices in every va medical center in
the country, soft tissue injuries are the toughest to deal with, tbi and ptsd are the legacy of the wars we fight, and suicide is the nasty side effect and not having the right follow-up on the patients. i'm going to permly dedicate my time on our committee to do the same, delve into the issues of suicide, find out where the tragedies take place, and see if we can find common threads to implement best practices in the veterans' administration so woe don't lose so many soldiers by taking their own lives. right now, we lose an average of 22 a day, 88,000 a year, and that's -- 8,000 a year, and that's far too many. it's not just afghanistan and iraq. in atlanta, three of the four victims from from the vietnam war. it's a pervasive issue in the va and united states. we owe it to the veterans and country to see to it we find every best practice possible and implement them. what i'll do, mr. chairman, is
as a one-man band individual vi, have field hearings, do the oversight around the country necessary to bring best practices to light and try to do what report is doing right now, and that's meeting with veterans, getting the answer, and traying to prepare them, which i'm grateful for you at this time. i yield back the balance of my time. >> thank you, senator brun. >> mr. chairman, i appreciate your leadership, and thank you, mr. chairman sex tear, -- secretary, and all of you serving the country so ably and selflessly. i thank you for that. i reiterate the comments on the cost of war. senator isakson's happily pointing out that terrible infliction and senator test or talked about suicide in the military is due to unemployment rates, mental health problems, drug addiction, all of those drug addictions, costs of war we
should think about in the body more than we do. >> they use funds to get retrained, and the community college, community college, he's one of a number of people in cincinnati and all over my state who benefited from the app, a program that works, and we should do all we can to make sure that more people have an tufnt to, and, obviously, you can't come in prompt of us without discussions about the backlog and disability ratings that we need, the unevenness of the ratings from a bum knee, and
in columbus, there's the fixing both the backlog and date ratings together makes sense, and last issue i'd like to mention is our main concern with the department's outsourcing more and more work, and, first, i believe the quality of outsourced work is sub par, and many contractors lack dedication of career civil ser advancements, realizes places how central they have been about hiring veterans, and i know the vva strive for that, and we shouldn't be outsourcing jobs, the civil servants who decide to per sue a career, lead to better services compared to services provideed by those motivated by profit. we see that in example after example after imample, doesn't save taxpayer dollars, may help politicians, but it does not save taxpayer dollars.
we saw this in the places like thedayton va medical center, where it was outsourced, and workers say now clothes come back not as clean as they were. va comets to outsource more and more activity, we'll reach a point where the va is a health insurance provider and not a health care provider. that does not serve va, the taxpayers, or the public. again, i thank you for your service, all of you. >> thank you, senator brown. senator johanns. >> thank you, on the team here on behalf of the veteran's administration, thank you. you stoppedded by a couple weeks ago, and that's appreciated, and i thank you publicly for making that effort. in the past years as we all know, congress has made the va a priority, and i believe appropriately so. budget has been provided,
personnel increases, and in some departments in the federal government that's unheard of. it indicates this committee's commitment to our veterans and commitment to the congress to our veterans. honestly, i doubt this year will be different. i think, again, veterans will be a priority, and we'll make sure that that happens. the good news piece of the equation, there are still challenges that we face. i don't think anybody in this hearing today makes the case that we're doing a great job in terms of the list to get disability ratings and get people an answer, and that's what we try to do is get people information. i hope we can find i hope the
testimony deals with the issue, but the claims' backlog is concerning to all of us. it's not a partisan issue, but a very, very bipartisan concern. the other thing that i'm hoping there's some discussion about is capital improvements. no reflection on you, but we have projects in omaha probably like other places around the united states that is waiting for good news that we're moving up the list, and every time i meet with you, we slip, and so i'm not saying there's a correlation, but i'm saying, gosh, it's frustrating to see, and so i'm hoping to hare thoughts on that, and i think we're going to have to be creative in this area, and i think, you know, you get near the bottom of the list, they are still 1940s, 50s facilities that are outdated, and great ploys,
and they are doing the best they can under the circumstances, but at the end of the day, some of the folks near the bottom will be waiting a long time. i may not live long enough to see this, so i would like to see something creative to try to deal with that backlog. thank you for being here. i know you come here with hearts that are pure, wanting to help like we do, and maybe we can have a good dialogue and how best to do that in the areas. >> mr. chairman, thank you. >> thank you. senator tester? >> thank you, mr. chairman. i want to welcome everybody from verett administration here. they wrote to me to say i don't have, and so you're going to hear what i have to say, okay? look, i think the backlog issue is a big issue. you know, we helped create that in congress doing the right thing a few years back with the
vietnam vets, and i think that the general visited with you several times, a high priority for you, keep working on it, and i think this committee is committed to help you get the backlog down, and staffing, i talked with undersecretary a day or two ago about the issue that's critically important in america. we are deficient. you are on top of it. we have to get thing done in the area. i want to say a special thanks to steve, thank you very much, steve, for your work on cemeteries. it's a very, very important issue across the country, and i think you've done great work. mental health, it may be the biggest issue this country faces within the military, but it's absolutely a critical issue in the military, and we need to figure out how we can handle it. it is very expensive, but we need to do everything we can do whether it's best practices or whether it's just plain old
experts in the field to be able to develop partnerships to be able to make sure that we give our veterans and, as you guys heard from me before, particularly in rural america, veterans need help, they are isolated anyway. it's a big issue, and we need to work together to get that done. construction, i would just say that i understand, and i think that you guys have done a great job on the cbox and vet centers, and those things around the country. i think that there's opportunity for some advancement there, but i think you're dealing with operations and maintenance issues right now, and many of your buildings are getting up to snuff so that potential for things like veterans home and in mops does not hit the list. i appreciate that priorization, but i certainly look forward to working together with you guys and through the appropriations committee to figure out some way by which we can address some of these senior veterans who are serving this country so well in the military and in the private sector that need and deserve a
place to live their later years, and last, i would say, and this is a thank you to the vsos in the room, thank you guys very, very much for input to us to give to the veterans' administration. they are not perfect. there's things to do, but through the leadership of the vsos we're able to add -- advocate on issues you think are important, and the one i'll talk about is advanced appropriations. that's a big win for the va and would not have happenedded without the veterans service organizations all be it on the same page. thank you, mr. chairman. >> you did very well without your staff notes there. >> senator? >> thank you, mr. chairman. i want to add my thanks to that of the members of the committee, all of us very much in support of the priorities, mr. secretary, that you articulated and certainly of the
increasing access to va benefits, cutting back on eliminating the backlog claims, ending homelessness, the mental health issues, the suicide rate, all areas that we have bipartisan support on the committee and hawaii's veterans face the same issues veterans across the country face, and add to that the fact our veterans are -- the distance is water, not just land as they live on all the major islands. i think it's important, and on the issue of veterans' homelessness, i visited the vet house. ..
a lot of the homeless veterans don't have the stability in their lives. just have a column, supportive place for a time to enable them to get on with their lives is what i saw in this that house. this particular house was created by a nonprofit entity in partnership with money from a grant from the veterans affairs department. so there in the community