tv U.S. Senate CSPAN November 11, 2015 4:00pm-6:01pm EST
war and experience in the marines. as a practical matter i was recruited out of a project in texas after business school when i received a call from a new nonprofit trying to recruit veterans to run. they called and said you ought to take on the incumbent in massachusetts who is having trouble and i said no but they were obviously persistent and i eventually decided really two things. one this was a place i could make a difference. i could find that sense of purpose that i had in the marines and frankly missed since getting out. second it was a race i could win. i ended up being the only, the only democrat incumbent in the entire house of representatives last year so it turned out to be a very difficult race. fundamentally i think being able to get new leadership in washington is the kind of change we need.
>> host: off that it felt like a bolt out of the view when you got that call. >> guest: i was not someone who grew up eyeing this congressional seat but i did find that i miss public service. i didn't expect that. when i went to the marines i thought i would do my four years and check that box and anyone who questioned whether i serve my country for the rest of my life i would say i served in the marines. i got out and i found that i missed it. this is the first time since leaving the marine corps that i have felt a sense of purpose in my job for every single day we can help other people and that's that's --. >> host: you said you were working for high-speed rail company. what interested you about that job? >> guest: actually think transportation is the foundation of economic development. the kind of transportation we have influenced the development we have in this country and the kind of communities that result from that. we have fallen terribly behind
the rest of the world in investing in transportation. not only can we not maintain the existing roads and bridges that we have, most countries are ahead of us in the next-generation transportation systems like high-speed rail. i have to fly home to boston at the end of every week. it's a 3.5 hour trip. it's 30 minutes where i'm allowed to use my laptop to any other country in the world i would be able to drive five minutes to union station and get on a high-speed train indian boston and make use of the entire time. morocco is building a high-speed rail and yet we don't have it here in america. it's not because it's good for the environment or its faster nicer convenient. it's because fundamentally it's a better investment of our transportation dollars and that's why you see high-speed rail.
an example of where we not only to invest more in transportation but we have got to be smarter. >> host: how are you trying to advocate as a congressman, advocate for? >> guest: i would like to be on the transportation and infrastructure committee. i'm not there now that i'm involved in the conversation as much as i can. i try to be a thoughtful person and a representative on these issues. i'm working on the transportation issues back home. at the end of the day i'm not just an advocate for rail. i'm an advocate for investing dollars intelligently and making business decisions on how we spend our precious taxpayer dollars. there is no one in the united states who really says here's a dollar to solve the transportation problem, let's figure out how to best use it. we have a highway policy and an airway policy where we invest in subsidies to the airlines. we don't have a rail policy at all. that's a look at transportation
policy but the boston and new york quarters are so congested and say how can we best invest in this realm and by the way for example of the study show the answer is high-speed rail. but because of the momentum and inertia and existing funding in the lobbies behind it are airway center highways where not putting much money into high-speed rail. >> is the peak you were working on in texas ever get built? >> guest: doesn't bend that yet but it's moving forward. you don't see much private sector investment in our highway system despite all that federal subsidies and yet most railways in america are run despite any subsidies by the private sector which points to the efficiency and rail but in case of high-speed rail texas is a privately backed project. a central railway and japan is investing in it and i think it's sad that you have to have the japanese invest in our transportation but of course
it's not a bad thing if it gets built. right now it takes five or six hours to drive between dallas and houston and three hours to fly and you will be able to go downtown to downtown in 90 minutes. if we do next generation high-speed rail it will be dashed. >> host: is a year or so since her election in november 2014. what's different about washington than you expected? >> guest: one of the things that has surprised me is the degree to which the partisanship is -- there's not as much animosity between the members as i perhaps expected but a lot of folks don't even know people on the other side of the out. that's why i've made an effort to get to know my republican colleagues, to get to know them on a personal level to hopefully find ways to incorporate professionally. with veterans and other connections we find taking republicans on runs.
a light to go on runs in the morning. i've been going out to lunch, going out to dinner, having republicans over to my office to grab a quick bite and i think establishing those personal relationships is the real foundation that you need to be able to work together professionally. there are an awful lot of places in the world where we can find common ground to work together. ..
much about the revitalization of downtown is strong tourist industry, so unique character to each city and town and district, but economic developing, getting good jobs, good businesses in the district is my number one priority. >> host: as you wrap up your first year, what are your future aspirations? >> guest: i guess every politician answers this question by saying i don't know where i'm going next. truly, i did not go up with when he did have a political career. i'm here to serve and as long as i can keep serving i will do this job and i'm always looking for opportunities to make a difference. it's a true honor to serve the country. it was an honor to serve in the marines and it was the best decision i ever made and it's an honor to serve again here in the
house of representatives. >> host: conger's been a massachusetts, thank you for being with us. >> guest: thank you. >> c-span has the best access to congress. watch live coverage of the house on c-span and the senate on c-span 2. watches online or on your phone at c-span.org. listen live any time on c-span radio app. get best access from behind the scenes by following c-span on our capitol hill reporter on twitter. stay with c-span, c-span radio and c-span.org for your best access to congress. see that coming up at 5:30 p.m. eastern, look at what is next for turkey after the results of the recent elections live on c-span 2. >> former senator bob dole announced today that he is endorsing jeb bush war president.
another c-span interview now is a member of congress who is a veteran, army ranger steve russell, a republican representing oklahoma's fifth district was part of the unit involved in the hunt for saddam hussein. >> host: congressman steve russell from oklahoma's fifth congressional district as a freshman representative a few months of the job. is a what you expected? >> guest: i think the legislative pieces are. i served a term in the state senate in oklahoma, so i kind of got to see how the sausage is made and whether you are playing junior varsity or pro, the rules in the stadium are about the stain, just one is bigger. in terms of the dynamics, i think the surprising thing has been a lot of the deficient and gridlock that we often get accused of is surprising that it's not necessarily lamented by us, it's outside groups that seem to prophet from the division.
dusted up to raise money. >> host: how do you fix the? >> guest: i think you fix it by -- the american public, they have such a low opinion of congress and yet most people like their particular congressman congresswoman. i think just trusting us a little bit that the things that we are trying to communicate back, if they are in contradiction to the i love america or i hate america pac, whichever it might be maybe take the information that we have and realize that there is truth behind it. >> host: walk us through your routine. oklahoma's top easiest place to get to from washington dc. how often are you in washington? what is your daily routine in dc and then when you go back to district? >> guest: oklahoma city, it is in the middle of the country and
it does take time to get here. i will typically be here, not every weekend do i go home. some weekends there is just things to do. if there is a particular large bill that's going to be in committee and maybe six, 700 pages long, that takes time to read, so i try to do the diligence and that's what i was elected to do. other times, i was a national speaker for eight years with premiere speakers bureau and traveled all of the country and i still do some of that. although, the rules have changed. but, i still get around. i was in missouri, this past weekend speaking and so i won't to get home every weekend, but i try to get home about two weekends a month and then i will be here the remainder of the time or in and out from here. >> host: let's talk about you. why did you decide to run for
congress and when did you first think the public office? >> guest: politics has been a surprising path. i retired from the united states army and if the tree in 2006. i had been deployed three out of five years, so it was pretty hard on my family. my oldest daughter at the time was a senior in high school, so i wanted to settle all of our kids the last chance that we had and so i took it. did a lot of veteran advocacy work, travel around the country, try to take my personal story to convince people to back our troops while they were fighting rather than bickering about it. in the course of that, that gathered the attention of politicos and others and party officials and before i knew it i was approached to run for state senate in oklahoma. ran in 2008. i did a term their, left in 2012, under my own volition and did my business.
i have a rifle manufacturing business and i wanted to pursue that and in my book and speaking. so, coming to congress really was not even on the horizon. it was a result of when doctor tom colburn decided to retire early, james langford successfully ran for his see, but in doing so it vacated the oklahoma's fifth district, so i looked at it. i could see a path to get there and i thought i don't want to look back on my life thinking that maybe i could have helped my country and didn't try, so i thought win or lose i will try. the people of oklahoma sent me here, so it's been a real honor. >> host: you come from a long military tradition, the army in particular. talk a bit about that and also why you decided to begin your career in the military. >> guest: well, my ancestors go
back all the way to the revolution, serving in uniform. my six and seventh great-grandfather's work show that reynolds board in 17, by the british and were imprisoned in detroit and tell the treaty of paris and they were eventually released and then nearly every major war since that time on one side of the family or the other. i always wanted to be a soldier. most of my family were not career soldiers, but they did serve. my brother served eight years in the navy, my dad served in 53. it was just something that in our family, it was always an interest, always a topic of discussion with relatives. so, anyone that knew me as a child would not be surprised that i became a soldier. >> host: where did you grow up? how mean your family and where did you go to college? >> guest: i grew up in dell city, oklahoma.
as far as we can ascertain, i'm the only federally elected congressmen never to come from dell city. it's a small suburb of oklahoma city. i have an older sister and then an older brother. he is in the middle of the three of us and i had a four-year army scholarship, rotc scholarship, got some good marks in high school and that allowed me to be able to report to go to college. when to watch was told that his university, got a degree in public speaking and debate. never thinking i would use it for a living. i just thought if they will give you a degree poor talking, sign me up. i was trying to get a commission in the united states army and it was something i enjoyed, so it turned out to be a good decision on many levels. i met my wife there. we have been married, it will be 30 years this year. embarked on a military career.
>> host: what is the key to being a successful public speaker and what is your approach? >> guest: i think a lot of times the most effective speakers are those that can relate stories. we see that through so many examples. christ, sermon on the mount, in parables and would tell stories and it would connect with people. you would also see many in history, they don't do it on the fly. abraham lincoln, gettysburg address, prepared remarks. winston churchill, might have looked like it wasn't, but he had prepared remarks. martin luther king, prepared remarks. often times if you go to the podium meandering, it comes across as well, meandering. so, i think the diligence behind it, the study and event to make it appear natural and connect
with stories, people can relate to that. >> host: how influential were your parents in your life growing up and as you procedure career? >> guest: very influential. i nearly died several times from birth, almost died at that time. i had the opposite blood type of my mother and the rh factor was different. she had had a couple of miscarriages prior to me and i nearly died at birth. so, she has always told me that i was her little fighter and that does something to a child. you are not going to quit. you're going to persevere and stay with something until you get it done. then, survived a bout of appendicitis. my appendix actually ruptured and it was about six or seven hours before i had any medical attention to deal with that.
didn't know it was, it felt better after ruptured and then peritonitis said in an was in intensive care for weeks and had two major surgery; at that time that they were going to lose me. >> host: you didn't know it had ruptured? >> guest: no, didn't. i had a stomachache, thinks her and suddenly it felt better in the pressure was relieved and then i went outside and played. so, by that night i was doubled over in pain. i remember asking my mother during that time, i asked her, i said am i going to die and she was honest with me and she says, we don't know. she said, but we are praying and we believe you will make it and i appreciated that and so it made me want to fight that much harder. on the hills-- actually, right prior to that, oklahoma note stranger to tornadoes, i was in eighth devastating tornado with my grandparents and killed the
neighborhood girl next door to them and it just leveled the entire area. we crawled out from under mattresses in a small tin building and because the alternative was to be in trailers and that's not a good idea. so, i have always felt-- we are pretty much immortal until god is done with us. then, at that point it's time. so, i have brought-- not really given it a whole lot of thought and i approached it that way in combat he read i think those childhood experiences conveyed that if there is some plan that i meant to fulfill and i'm diligent, then perhaps it can be done. if not, then all of my efforts will not matter. i certainly had that kind of faith when i was in combat. >> host: so, you're not afraid of death? >> guest: well, i'm really not. the act of it is not too thrilling, but as far as what would happen afterwards, i'm
really not. i know christ as my lord and savior and i take that faith seriously as most of our framers and founders of this great country have. it should be no surprise to the liens of americans who hold similar faith and i take great comfort in that that we as-- were something to happen, i believe i will be at early security because he promised that if i would believe in him, but i would have eternal life. >> host: with any experiences in your life, has your faith and tested? >> guest: it absolutely have. in battle. i think your faith plays a tremendous role. i have had to do terrible things. processing that has been a long journey. as an infantry man you're not dealing with some electronics are on some computer or working
with some machine, you are on the front lines carrying a rifle, bayonet, hand grenades, ammunition, the basic implements and with those organizations, they are the ones that are designed to go find that enemy, not just react to the enemy, but go find them. in my excursions we certainly found a lot of different enemies and i have had to watch friends get hit. loss of my soldiers is tough to deal with. i have had to take human life and fight my way out of ambushes. those experiences are-- they stay with you your entire life. but, they are not insurmountable and i try to relate to people that if you were in a horrible car wreck or if you were in some devastating storm or you were in something dramatic, it would impact your life and largely
shape it, but it does not mean that you don't function. it just means you take those experiences and make shapes you for your future experiences and that is the way my faith has helped me to process by battle experiences. >> host: one of those enemies, saddam hussein, the book behind you and now in paperback, we got him. what happened? >> guest: well, i had the privilege to command passports one to two infantry in iraq, a thousand soldier task force. we were there in 03 to 04 and we got involved largely due to geography. it was not something that where we thought specifically that we would go find saddam. we were an infantry battalion and passports that was occupying his hometown and it became readily apparent very quickly that saddam was probably being harbored there and we got incredible information, incredible intelligence that we can to work that.
we worked that with the number of other teams, two special operation forces teams over a six-month timeframe and we developed from the ground up a lot of our own intelligence. my commander, colonel jim hickey, who works on the senate staff now, he was a marvelous warrior. he was our commander in the fourth infantry division, so those are my two immediate commanders and they gave me great latitude in a very grateful for not only their bravery, but also their trust. we worked together as a team. my units was not the old one involved, but it was one of about a half a dozen and it was very humbling to participate in that time to lead the parade's. nearly captured saddam in the summer of 2003. didn't get him, but we got
personal effects and papers, $10 million in cash, $2 million in jewelry. turns out he was captured six months after that read across the river. you could see the two places from one another and you could see his home where i had soldiers using it as an outpost from all three could mutually see one another. so, it was really interesting. i counted a great privilege to have dissipated in that and i give great credit to all of the units involved. my book, it has been noted for its vivid detail and a lot of the experiences that we went through and that was very important to me coming home. was to tell our portion of it. it wasn't to make sure that it did get told, so it would not be erased from history. >> host: yet, during all of this you and your wife, raising five children c2 yes. >> host: three adopted from hungry.
explain how that came about. >> guest: well, we had two children at the time and we wanted more. she was concerned about some flareups of it childhood arthritis with each pregnancy there was a chance it could recur, so we began to look at adoption. we were stationed in europe at the time and i went to a men's conference in germany and there was an army doctor there and he had adopted two boys from hungry. worked in an orphanage there. one thing led to another and we began to explore how he did that process and then we used a facilitator, a marvelous late-- lady. she lives in san diego. she and her husband, oswalt, with their two very small children and in the hungarian revolt of 56, they fled and
mated over the mountains into austria. vice president nixon on a goodwill tour to a refugee camp picked five families to become instant us citizens and they were one of the families. she worked for the department of defense for years after that and when she retired she began to work to place orphaned children in hungry. she placed them with soldiers because she had such love for the military having worked around it and one thing led to another and we adopted a set of orphaned siblings that were five, six and eight and that was in the year 2000. >> host: were-- where are they all now? >> guest: they are all in oklahoma city metro area to read my oldest daughter, she has graduated from college. runs a business and my oldest son works for a touchy. are all doing pretty good and trying to find a way. i got them all to 18 without incident or crime, so i'm thankful for that and now it's
on them to make a good life for their own. and very proud of them. >> host: what about your life here in washington as a member of congress to read what you want to achieve? which were objective? >> guest: i think the main thing is that we need to get back to the basics of life, liberty and property. the government has a federal role. abraham lincoln put it really well when he said, those things that we can do ourselves, the government ought not to interfere, but those things collectively that we cannot accomplish, the government may have a role and i think we ought to keep it in that perspective. its 10q for the government to want to take over every aspect of our lives, but that is not something that we need to do. the american people are resilient and they largely want to be left alone. ..
john jay and james madison, alexander hamilton and many others, they debated, they studied and they look at past democracies and wondered why they failed, determined that we needed a republic, a representative republic of checks and balances so that one side could not usurp the other. and even divided further among the branches so when we hear complaints that you can't get anything done in washington it was designed that way. it was literally designed so that they would be competing interests and i think when you come to overlap your circles of need, that's where you can find the things that most americans can get behind and you can do and already beginning to do that , some of it. my dad was a democrat and my mom
a republican. i grew up in a house divided. think it's important to listen to both sides. no person is the font of all knowledge. i learned something from everybody i talk to and i think it's important that we keep that perspective. at a minimum we would be more solidified in defending their beliefs that they were correct but an alternative we may gain new information that persuades us to a better future and you can't do that if you don't build relationships and you don't reach across and talk to one another. that is a problem. we have to work on that more. >> two final questions. any thought on how long you intend to serve? have you thought about that? >> guest: i really haven't. i just find it amazing that i'm here and i'm very humbled and honored. i think as long as the people of oklahoma feel that i can represent them well, i am enjoying the work.
i wouldn't say i like the work and that's a strong word but enjoying it. i do enjoy the work that i feel equipped for it. i have life experiences as a businessman and as a soldier, as an author, speaker. i bring a lot to the table. i have worked with teams my entire life, building and leading them, solving tremendous problems. and so i feel equipped to be here and i hope to be useful to the country for as long as that is practical. >> host: a question not on the policy side but on the personal side, the biggest challenge in being a member of congress? >> guest: your time is completely consumed by others. i think having time for my faith and four my family, i am fortunate that cindy and i and
our kids, we travel back and forth together. there's a cost cost associated with that but there's a cost if you don't and we are still rather fond of each other after all these years and so we have determined that we want to do that and she has been a great support to me. i think the building those types of margins in your life so that you can take a step back, a fresh look and then as a warrior i have tried to keep fit my whole life. it allows me to have a clear head and good energy so trying to find the time for that has been a challenge but it's doable. >> host: congressman steve mcdonald of oklahoma, thank you for your time. >> thank you.
between the steel industry had, had. the korean war was a hot war and they need to steal from your missions. the things you did in the second world war that was going to be a real problem for things that are basic. >> to avoid a disruption of the production crucial to the military resident harry truman seized control of the mills and as a result the pending strike was called off and steel production continued. however the companies led by the company in ohio disagree with the action and took the lawsuit all the way to the supreme court. we will examine how the court ruled in the case of youngstown versus sawyer and the impact on the presidential powers. joining the discussion, a
professor at the university of north carolina law school and the author of power of president and the forgotten presidents by william howell, political science professor at the university of chicago and author of the wartime president power without persuasion and co-author of loyal dangers gather, congressional congressional checks on presidential war powers that's coming up on the next landmark cases live monday at 9 p.m. eastern on c-span, and c-span radio. order your copy of the companion book is available for 895 plus shipping. on the growing ranks of the former troops who served in iraq and afghanistan and are now
searching for new ways to serve their country at home. the veterans faced a higher unemployment rate in their civilian peers and increase in suicides. veterans affairs secretary bob mcdonald was at the ceremony today. up next, the secretary speaks at the national press club about improvements his department has made. stars and stripes writes the speech the secretary pushed back against increasing criticism from law makers putting the onus on congress to pass legislation to aid in revamping of the agency >> welcome to the national press club. my name is john hughes. i'm an editor for the bloomberg breaking news desk here at washington and im president of the national press club. robert mcdonald is the eighth u.s. secretary of veterans
affairs will update us on the status of the federal programs. this table includes national press club members and guests of the speaker. from the right, john fails, sergeant shaft is a retired u.s. army marine corps of the wounded to be among veterans and veterans affairs correspondent. the vietnam veteran and commander of the national press club's of american legion post and christine, veteran's post of the next word on channel 16. paul, past national president of
the protective order of the united states of america. john donnelly a senior defense writer at cq will call in to the chairman of the national press club's press freedom committee. patty andrews, a military veteran and deputy director of the va or insult administration office of client relations. the bureau chief of the buffalo news and the chairman of the national press club speakers committee and the national press club president. the captain of the u.s. navy retired and thus speakers committee member that arranged today's luncheon. the senior vice president and chief government affairs officer
at ymca of the usa. an army veteran and publisher of stars and stripes. angel, president of dc media connections and. and the former publisher of the washington examiner. [applause] in addition to the audience here in the packed room of the national press club i want to welcome our c-span audience as well as our audience listening on public radio.
you can follow the action on twitter use the hash tag npc live. robert mcdonald was confirmed as the secretary of veterans affairs in july of last year. but he didn't have time to ease into the job. at the department with 312,000 employees. the agency at the time was facing criminal investigations, congressional outrage and construction cost overruns. you can remember the media reports from that time as well as an internal va audit. it was discovered more than 120,000 veterans were always waiting for care and have not received or never received it.
schedulers have to use the unofficial list or to engage in other practices. he made it his mission to restore trust with the nation's nearly 9 million veterans and their families had drew upon his past is past experience to try to set things right. as the ceo of procter & gamble he was no stranger to overseeing large complex operations. he also had an understanding of military service and served five years in the u.s. army in the 82nd airborne division. he finished in the top 2% of his class. it's been 15 months since he took the job so how are things going at the va.
congress provided $16 billion in additional funding in the va. and to increase the number of the va staff. lawmakers also gave the secretary more latitude to fire managers. mcdonald seized much to be positive about not department committee was quoted telling a house committee recently. please join me in getting a national giving a national press club open to the veterans affairs secretary robert mcdonald. [applause]
since the civil war into ymca scholarships were the forerunner of the g.i. bill. so today i'm pleased to announce that the va and the lie had agreed to continue the legacy by further expanding the partnership and this enhanced agreement makes it easier for the local va facilities and ymca to collaborate on helping transitioning service members and veterans connect to the resources and opportunities that they need. thank you, thanks to you and the entire organization for your enduring devotion of veterans and the benevolent collective orders have been friends for a long time, too. the reconstruction hospitals they build in boston in 1918 and gave it to the government was a
forerunner of today's va medical centers. last month, they committed $4 million over a four-year period to help and veterans homelessness. further, they are deploying 800,000 members across the country to help and veterans homelessness in their own communities. [applause] the y., these are the types of strategic partnerships that are establishing this part of the va transformation, which are making profound differences in the lives of veterans and their families. but we also welcome a greater veteran and va employee, patty andrews. patty is representing more than 106,000 va employees who are
veterans themselves. ask patty why she works at the va and here's what she will tell you. that are insulting veterans is nothing short of a dream job. thanks for your example and your continued service to the nation and to the va. [applause] i would like to welcome the veterans here today and wish you all an early happy veterans day. thanks to you offer your services and all for your services and sacrifices and those of your family as well. several days ago i was in kansas city and i had lunch with a vietnam veteran named larry parrish. larry agreed to let me share his va experiences with you. larry is a very active man but over the last two years deteriorated over a hip problem. he said, and i quote, i was 278 pounds walking with a cane
and i was only 613 i was suicidal because of the pain and nobody seemed to care. on the advice of a trusted friend. here's what he said about the therapy. they gave me my life back and they turned it around in 24 hours. those are the most comfy and safe and efficient and most cordial of any therapist i worked with public or private. when the va dr. recommended a hip replacement, larry chose the va for two reasons. first, his private health insurance to back that was about $5,000, more than he could afford but more important was this. i wanted to go to the same place because they were so good. every time someone saw me they would hug me or patty on the back and say thank you for your
service, welcome home. that's the va doing it exactly right, the world-class experience better and earned and deserved. it's employees values of integrity, commitment, advocacy, respect and excellence. those stories are out there in abundance. they are rarely reported. i want to begin by telling them how they are you how they are improving the veterans access to healthcare and meeting the increasing demand with expanded capacity, how we doubled the capacity required to meet last year's demand by focusing on the four pillars. first pillar staffing, space, productivity and va community care. we have more people serving veterans, the veterans health administration the status of over 15,000.
we increased the number of primary care exam rooms in fiscal year 2014 for providers can care for my veterans every single day. we added 2.2 million more square feet in fiscal year 2015. in the wake of the crisis, we aggressively increased access to care. in the 12 months following the crisis in the by june of 2014 to june of 2015, we completed 7 million more appointments than during the same period. 2.5 million of these were in the va. 4.5 million of these were in the community. we completed 61.5 million appointments. 3.1 million more than the last fiscal year. more than 2 million more at the va facilities. a million more in the community. altogether this year, 2.6 million veterans were authorized care in the community.
that is a 9% increase over the authorizations that year before. right now 97% of appointment are within 30 days. 92% are within 14 days, 87% are within seven days, and 23% are the same day. specialty care average wait time is six days. primary care is four days. mental health care is three days. those averages are excellent for most. but if you are the one in the tale of the curve like a veteran living in a city seeing a dramatic population growth, they are not acceptable. to have a one-day access stand down to make sure every veteran gets appropriately scheduled care. we've made significant progress addressing veteran homelessness. since 2010, over 230,000
veterans and family members have been permanently housed or prevented from falling into homelessness. altogether across the country there has been a 33% decline in the homeless veterans. backlog of claims are down 88% to 76,000 from a historic peak of 611,000 in march of 2013. we completed 1.4 million claims in the fiscal year 2015. today's veterans wait about 93 days for the claims decisions. about six months fewer than in march of 2013 and the lowest in this century. veterans are noticing. i miss the veteran last week at the washington, d.c. medical
center. his father served in the islam with the first infantry division and the 101st airborne division and his grandfather fought in world war ii. keith brought up a good point i want to share with you. he said my personal experience has been 95% positive. some people experienced the same quality of the work that i got. keith advised what we need to work on his consistency across the board. he pinpointed the reason that my transformation is shaping the seamless unified high-quality veteran customer experience across the entire enterprise across the entire country. my va the transformation that we are within now will modernize the culture and capabilities to put the expectation that the
beneficiary's first. third, we have to achieve service support excellence. we need to establish the culture of continuous improvement and fifth, we need to enhance strategic partnerships. two of them are great examples here. i suggested as john pointed out to the chairmen and ranking members of the senate and house veterans affairs committee that we hold a hearing on the transformation rather than continuing the hearings that we had on things that occurred two years ago. in the meantime. we are realizing them to facilitate the internal coordination and collaboration among the business lines from the nine disjointed organizational boundaries and organizational structures to a
single framework. this means downsizing from 21 service networks to 18 that are aligned in five districts that are defined by state boundaries with the exception of california for the local level integration and it promotes the consistently effective customer service they describe. veterans from syracuse into seattle will see one va. the veterans experience office is fielding a va staff of customer service experts that will help us keep the division. the north atlantic office opened up at the end of this year. we are following up with the southeast office in february the midwest office in april and
working details around the continental and pacific offices. this is about making it easier for veterans and their families to be va customers. we have launched the community model across the country. this model brings together local veteran service providers advocates and others to improve outcomes for veterans and their families in the community. by communities are run by the va. they are community driven networks chaired by local leaders. i was in connecticut when we established the first veterans community board in august. others opted to my va model. we kicked off the veterans economic community initiative like my va communities the economic communities promotes local collaboration and partnership among the organizations serving the positioning service members, veterans and their families.
they are doubling down the economic communities early next chaired. we are investing in va employees into the last federal employee veteran viewpoint survey showed that employee experiences are improving trending slightly higher than last year. the organizations in the world not surprisingly are ultimately the best places to work. so we are training leaders and human centered design thinking. greatest customer service companies use human centered design to understand what customers want and need and then design customer experiences to meet those needs. we started train them last month by december of 2016 we intend to have 10% of the leaders trained.
we trained contra leaders and employees we started in october and we are looking to train 5,000 employees over the next year. improving the employer experience is inextricably linked to improving veterans experience is not a good customer in the world that has untrained employees. we kicked off the leaders developing leaders cascaded training model for 300 senior field leaders last month. i was told that if the first time the top leaders of the va had ever gotten together on that scale. we are equipping the leaders through the delivery of care services to veterans and create a better work environment for the employees. this month we will complete initial training for all senior leaders. so employees are better informed than the broad spectrum of benefits and services so the understand all of the va not just their little piece.
we are giving them training. 6,000 employees over 60 sites have received the training so far. we have 170,000 trained by next december. it also helps employees better appreciate the value they bring to the va. so notable progress on health care delivery, the claims backlog, veteran homelessness and the transformation of a. you may have read the assessment of the health care delivery systems. you forgot about the stark differences in the veterans experience is from the facility to facility. about the bureaucratic leadership and staffing challenges and failures and
access and quality, about cultural challenges employees and leaders experience. as i testified to the house committee on better integers in october, the assessment has given us some new ideas and a great deal of information on some known problems. it also confirms our own and offices and indicates we are headed in the right direction for some time now. but as long as one veteran doesn't have the experience we have work to do. but me address the challenges before we open up things for questions. access to care is approved. but here's the inevitability. improved access means more demand. remember we completed seven more more appointments in the year following the crisis then we did the year before. that should have satisfied pent-up demand twice over. still, the number of appointments not completed in 30 days has grown for nearly
500,000. because more veterans come to us for care and the more veterans that come to us for care the harder it is to balance supply and demand without additional resources. that kind of imbalance that its failure in any business, public or private. the healthcare industry is no different. the example, the 2014 access crisis that was predominantly a matter of a significant mismatch of supply and demand. the crisis was exacerbated by greater numbers of veterans receiving services. you see more veterans like larry parrish choose the va and for good reasons. right now to the polity and cost. the average medicare & for the replacement is $25,000 with a co-pay of 20%. the va saves saves veterans
$5,000 per need replacement. veterans don't pay for hearing aids and they cover all hearing loss not just service-connected. the va serves something in the neighborhood of $4,000 for their hearing aids. veterans noticed this and they will persist for the foreseeable future. private-sector health-care turnover is about 30%. the turnover rate is about 9%. in a 4,000 physicians and 10,000 more nurses and we need to fill 41 senior-level vacancies in the field. the growing shortage of qualified candidates of the problem. for our own part we are working closely with the dean of medical schools to increase throughput. we are working with congress and asking for more residencies and we are asking for scholarships and loan reimbursements from congress and universities and state governments to create even new medical schools.
one of the most pressing challenges is the appeals process. at delivering timely delivering timely decisions in the manner that veterans deserve. the process is too complex come it's too confusing for veterans and it's too lengthy. in 2015 board of appeals served board of appeals served over 55,700 veterans. more than we have in recent memory and they held over 12,700 hearings. that's a lot. but it's not enough. simply put, our capacities to serve the veterans with timely appeals decisions and by some antiquated laws they are evil since world war i, and they do not well served veterans today with a modern system. we work with veteran service organizations to reengineer the process and now we are working with congress to pass pass the law necessary to bring the process into the 21st century. we still have challenges in the veterans experiences and benefits delivery.
last month i reserved an urgent e-mail from the vietnam veteran mike hughes. he submitted a correct and fully developed compensation claim benefits that were incorrectly benefited. calls to the office were unproductive and understandably frustrating. the call center at the office couldn't access the information necessary to answer mike's questions and to correct the problem. it's not the kind of the customer service but we aim to provide. we (-open-paren more. we are employees who serve the veterans more. they deserve the tools and training to empower them to give every veteran a world-class experience. for the benefit call centers, we are strengthening the customer service models so it's more veterans on track. we are empowering the call center agents to process certain claims at the point of the call
and as of this september we are processing the dependency claims at the point of the call so agents can for instance add a minor child or spouse to a claim the call center regions will begin taking more and more actions while the veterans are actually on the phone. other issues i described like that lean six sigma, peter training and others will over time help us achieve our customer service goals for veterans. we own these challenges. we are working hard to do our part tackling issues within our control. in the relatively short perco for an enterprise of this size and complexity, we've demonstrated the a capacity for the meaningful change. the independent independent assessments reported that the va has the opportunity to achieve a place among the highest performing healthcare systems in the world and we will.
we know we can't accomplish albany to do for veterans without the help of congress. veterans services organizations and many other stakeholders. they are just two members of a growing team of more than hundreds of thousands of partners working with the va from philanthropic organizations to nonprofits to businesses to other federal agencies. but let me be clear why office partnerships are important, the most essential partnership is with congress. congress holds the keys to many of the these stores. congress legislature to benefit we provide the veterans and it's congress that has defined the benefits that legislate. so we literally can't do it alone.
i don't mind reciting them again first. we need congress to fully fund the president wiki 16 budget request. second we need congress to give the flexibility to align their resources with veterans demand for care. third we need congress to act on the proposal we submitted me first to end the uncertainty about aspects of purchasing care that are outside of the veterans choice programs in the participation in the va care in the community programs. fourth we need congress to address the statutory issues burdening them with red tape and bureaucracy. we need congress to streamline and consolidate all care in the community programs in one program.
the independent assessments reader rated this requirement for veterans. for years a variety of different authorities and programs that provided care in the community to veterans is all very difficult to understand. veterans don't get it, our employees don't get it, medical providers to get it, so we said our sent our plan to veterans trace program to the hill last friday. it's the long-term vision for the delivering timely and high-quality community care. veteran need to see congress act on it quickly. we have the senate and house committees and there's tremendous unanimity to pass to work together to transform the va and to provide more consistent delightful experiences for veterans. a member mike hughes veteran who couldn't get answers about his claim. a week after he wrote me he wrote to me again.
one day after i e-mail q. i received a call from the regional office assuring me that my complaint has been heard and that my claim was one that would be handled promptly. that's the response that he should have gotten to begin with. we will get there. we are well on our way. i look forward to your questions. thank you. [applause] thank you mr. secretary. you mentioned progress that you've made. however, looking back to the problems of two years ago, have you now held everyone accountable at the department who needs to be held accountable and if not, do you need any additional authorities so that you can hold them accountable? >> let's talk about accountability. my good friend jim collins wrote the book and talks about the
need to get the right people on the bus and get them in the right seats on the bus. my direct reports, my leadership team for ten of the 16 direct reports or news since i was confirmed. ten of 16. also, over 90% of our medical centers have either new directors or new leadership teams. in calendar year 2014, 1100 people were terminated from the va. in calendar year 2015, 1500 people were terminated from the va. since july 29 when i was confirmed in the last year of 2,280 people have been terminated from the va. of the worst of those you may have already seen an individual in augusta georgia was indicted and faces 50 charges of schedule manipulation.
those 50 charges bring with them a 250,000-dollar fine and the potential for five years in jail. we are working with the ig and the office of special counsel. we are working with the fbi on other investigations that are ongoing. over the last year, we had a total of 62 criminal convictions that have been discovered by our inspector general. now, i have to say that accountability is a lot more than firing people. it's also about giving people the responsibility and giving them the training and then working with them and training them to perform at a high level. one of the things we've done that the last years we've built into people's performance review plan all of the things i talked about improving customer service, but my va transformation, improving the call centers. this is all now being built into people's performance plans.
so we made progress if we had a lot more to do. there's lots of investigations currently underway and as time goes on you will see the results of these investigations. >> about cost control, but mechanisms have both mechanisms have you put in place to control costs and how are you enjoying payments are proper and in line with fair market value is? that cost control is really important. one of the things i believed in that procter and gamble co. as there were two is there were two things that would drive the company. one was innovation and i'm proud to see the va is a great innovator in the country. it's a common measurement in the
medical industry and a measure of productivity and the productivity is up 8% over the last year versus a budget increase of 2.8%. we are as i'm asking for ways to improve the productivity every day there is no question the demand is increasing for the services. i don't feel capable of going to congress asking doing to congress asking for more money unless i can show to we are trying to save money so if you look you've got my testimony over the last year what you see in the budget testimony as i told congress we have 10 million square feet of space. unfortunately it's all in these congressional districts. if we could close that space, that would save the va and the american taxpayer $25,000 a year. please look at my testimony. 10 million square feet, $25 million a year, 25 million. so we are eager to work with
members of congress to close that space and we are going to have more space because they we have digitized the claim process and by digitizing the process, we eliminated 5,000 tons of paper, 5,000 tons of paper. how were the policies nationally for the veteran would have the same access to care about or what va they attend and the example they give are the various implementations and qualifying criteria for caregivers of post-9/11 veterans to receive a stipend. >> great question i think i addressed it in my remarks but let me just add to it or new undersecretary for health, one of the new leaders in the va this is his number one job is how do i identify the current best practice in our industry and in the va.
the address changes and you have to change our address and at your address and at least nine different locations in a different way. there's not one data backbone with every customer listed. we got together a group of people involved in this and we are going to go to one data backbone. that is just one example but that's going to cost money and it's going to take time but now is the time to do it. we have a new assistant secretary for the office of information technology whose name is laverne counsel and i recruited her and she was the it leader of johnson and johnson and she knows how to do this.
so now is the time to get it done. >> how have the changes that you initiated how perfect the cultural change at the department and improve the morale. i think i addressed that. it's slightly better but it's not where we need to be and the all employee survey was taken this year before we get our readers developing leaders program. i think the leaders developing leaders program has been a breakthrough. we were working with bowl for a number of years and he was a mentor at ge and was also the founder and creator of the training university. his daughter works for the va and he's helped us design a training program which has been outstanding. interestingly, the leaders to the training, i do the training, slow dips sloan gibson and my
west point classmate and friend of 40 years to training and speakers to the training. they don't hire consultants. we train them ourselves. but he helps us facilitate and understand the best practices. we've done 300, those 300 are going to go back and train our own organizations. we put together a packet and they are going to go train their support because subordinates. some of the leaders will attend the training. i attended one in kansas kansas city and i was thrilled with what we were come pushing. i need every single employee to talk about how their vision to their organization cascades from my vision or cascades from the organizational vision. the test of any high-performance organization is can you walk into a medical center and ask the person asking how what they are doing that they contribute back to the vision for the
larger organization. that's what we are shooting for. >> it's like if you ask the person sweeping the floor at kennedy center what they are working on and they answered i'm putting a man on the moon. >> hillary clinton got some attention recently when she said the va scandal hasn't been as widespread as it has been made out to be. do you agree with her? >> i told you we made progress if we have more work to do. [laughter] the long wait continues for many of the patients seeking medical services in august more than 8,000 requests for care at late times longer than 90 days of the phoenix va. why do these delays continue and what can be done to cut down on the wait times? >> i think i addressed that, too. 78% of the veterans have a
choice that they have the choice even before the choice act. 78% of the veterans have been a care, medicaid. their own private health insurance. so 78% of the veterans have a choice. they exercise that choice. today on average, the average veteran, and of course there is no average veteran but the average veteran uses va for 34% of the medical care. only 34%. now that 34% might be the hearing aids i talked about to save $4,000 worth of 34% might even be replaced by talk about it saves $5,000. only 34%. as we have improved or care as we have improved our culture and as people have learned about the great things that the va does as we have opened up more facilities.
if it becomes 35% and one percentage point increase. it's $1.4 billion for single percentage point. and as many of you know, the budget problems we got into last year because of a miracle hepatitis c drug that was invented in 2014, that budget was talked about two years before that. so, we are going to have to do something with our committees to create the kind that exist in business for how you have budget flexibility and agility to meet customer demand. otherwise what what's going to happen as more people come into the system if we don't get that budget flexibility, then the appointments might not be within 30 days. it may be the average mental health claimant cannot mental-health, that would be a bad example but maybe the average primary care appointment has to go from four days to five
days or six days because the budget was given to us by congress and the benefits are defined only are trained. the question about the complex in los angeles the admiral is investigating issues and some reports suggest decades of mismanagement according to the questioner. how extensive are these problems and will people be held accountable parks >> he's a dear friend and he's here on my behalf so i don't quite understand the question but no, we have problems in west la. when i became secretary, i discovered that there was a lawsuit in los angeles. there were ten veteran plaintiffs suing the previous secretary command commanded the lawsuit has been going on for four years. i discovered that the lawsuit was getting in the way of solving problems in los angeles. i went to los angeles and we have changed the leadership in
los angeles. we've hired more providers have strengthened our relationships with our medical school affiliates like ucla and with new partners like usc and we've created a community partnership and a master plan for the west la facility which is now on the internet. you're welcome to comment. we have about 390 acres in los angeles, and we need to use that land properly for the care of the veterans rather than having used as a car lot and other things that were done in the past. so, we are moving in the right direction in los angeles and again, we have a lot of work to do, progress but a lot of work to do. but at least we've got the lawsuit which i think was able to settle with the plaintiffs. we are moving in the right direction. >> and mike is being very
helpful. >> it was reported last summer that 30 da health centers. directors suffer as a result? spinnaker obviously i said to job number one is to get the right people on the bus. one of the things you want to make sure you don't do is pick the wrong leader put the wrong leader in the wrong place. so, the process does take some time. as i said, 90% of our medical centers have either new leaders or new leadership teams but i can personally vouch for each person we are putting in place and if it takes a little bit longer to do that, i'm okay with that. i just want to get the best team in place and we do our best to take care of veterans you >> there's no substitute for leadership and leadership does matter. >> question about legislation that's been introduced to help world war ii veterans exposed to mustard gas and help them secure
compensation for their injuries if the va doesn't help them to rehabilitate legislation for the va to compensate these veterans and their families or is there something the va can do now? >> i'm trying to do is get the name of the individuals that suffered that and we have been collecting things and we have a shortlist and. isn't she here from the npr? she's the one that wrote the article and what i'm trying to do is get her list so i can area that are listed to find out there is a discrepancy because that's job number one we have defined the veterans have suffered through this and i'm not sure if legislation will be required will do everything we can without. i with out. i have a lot of other legislation that i need. speaking of the new plan presented to congress to consolidate community care for veterans states explicitly that it requires congressional support and funding how can we
see the plan realized? the reason there are so many different ways of getting care in the community is that over the years, congress passed so many laws that we are on top of each other. each one had a different reimbursement rate. each one has different selection criteria, and as a result of that you have the seven programs that were very difficult for veterans to understand and very difficult for our employees to understand. similarly, you had dysfunctional and skewed incentives.
the reason he loved that plan is the reimbursement rate and montana are the highest so we've got to do is get to one level of the rate they get to one plan. we've got to get to make it easy for veterans to understand. i mean we are in the customer service business. these have been cleared on over the years. we are going to get these done and get them done quickly. >> the mental health of the veterans suffering from posttraumatic stress and traumatic brain injury is one of the most challenging issues to be a basis with the shortfall in mental health professionals, what alternative methods are being used to help veterans, music, art and medication aren't useful alternatives. >> that's a great question. i'm going to expand the question of what it. when i was going through the confirmation process, there were a small number of senators, maybe one or two that said to me why don't we blow up the va and get out vouchers? so i thought it was important
for me to study the particularly the business side so i came in and looked into what i discovered was the va is not only settle for veterans but the central for american medicine because we are on the cutting edge of so many treatments, and therefore essential for the american public. we spend $1.8 million on research. we were the ones who did the first liver transplant and is the first implanted cardiac pacemaker. it was a va nurse came up with the idea of using a barcode to connect patient records. first electronic medical record, the electronic medical record, va doctors invented the shingles vaccine last year. the va was the one i came up with the idea of taking an aspirin a day to do away with -- when you have the largest integrated medical system, you can be on the cutting edge. right now, we are leading the government effort and petition medicine. we have 1,000 -- is a project called the million that project we have for hundred 15,000 blood
samples of veterans connected with 40 years of medical records and we are doing the genome mapping of all of those blood samples. so imagine the research that can be done. by the medical professionals to be able to go back to the genome to understand the causality of the genome and the form of cancer. we are running seven pieces of research to figure that out and more work will be coming. so without the va, who is going to do that? the va trained 78% of doctors in the country. without the va was going to train them? its primary source of residencies for medical schools. so when i asked the medical school deans we need more doctors and montana, we need more doctors in wyoming, we need more medical schools we are working to create a medical school in nevada las vegas. they say that's part of the problem but the bigger part a bigger part is we need to residencies. they've given more with the choice act and with the hunting act that we need even more. the va is the largest employer
and trainer of nurses and then of course the third leg of the school is clinical stool is clinical care studio with mental health, because we are who we are, and because we are on the cutting edge of mental health metric brain injury compressed traffic stress, we will try any technique and treatment that may work. we found that acupuncture is effective with some people. we are the largest user of acupuncture in the country. we found equine therapy is effective for some suite of equine centers around the country to be able to use them with veterans. i could go on and on. there are many different techniques that are defective effective that a for-profit system will never figure out. so it's up to us to figure it out, write reports, write the research guide to the literature and creates new standards of care that one of the things we are going to do that's coming up this spring is we are going to hold a toehold summit here in dc. we are inviting everybody who's an expert.
we've already done one of these. this will be the second. we are going to invite to the nhl, nfl, people suffering similar brain injuries so that we can spread of knowledge and make sure we are all working synergistically to figure these things out rather than the cross purposes and redundant way. >> this questioner says women veterans are often invisible to the va. they are also the fastest growing population of homeless. what is your plan of outreach to the women veterans nationwide informing them of the va benefits? >> the question is correct. women veterans often don't identify themselves as veterans. all veterans feel inadequate because they feel like there's someone who's done more than they have. we find some better and think that the word veteran needs of the few served in combat. we find that some veterans think that the word means of e-mail. so, we are out of reach into female veterans all over the country. we are hiring more providers for
female veterans. more obstetricians and gynecologists. we are also setting up women's clinics in most of our major facilities. if whoever asked that question is here in washington, d.c. if you can go to the washington, d.c. medical center and ask for brian hawkins can ease the medical center director and take a look at the new women's clinic. i'm quite proud of it and i think that some really good work is going on there for women. same thing atlanta georgia we've got some space from the department of defense at fort mcpherson and we have women's clinics going in all over the country. the questioner was right. women are about 11% of the veterans today not-too-distant future 20%. >> we are almost out of time but before i get to the last question or two, i have some housekeeping. a national press club is the world's leading professional organization for journalists come and we fight for a free press worldwide. to learn more about the club, go
to our website, press.org. to donate to the nonprofit institute for the visit press.org/institute. i would like to remind you about upcoming speakers. american humorist p.j. rourke will discuss his book thrown under the omnibus. this coming tuesday at 6:30 p.m.. at the club will hold its 38th annual book fair in authors night in partnership with politics and prose on november november 17 at 5:30 p.m.. we have more than 100 authors who will be here in the club, and there are so many that are noteworthy i won't even begin mentioning. and deborah james the 23rd secretary at the u.s. air force will speak at a club luncheon on december 2. i would now like to present the guest with the traditional national press club mug.
the greatest keepsake of the national press club. [applause] you were here a year ago so you've now got your collection started and we hope you come back in one year for your third because he really have to get a larger sense to get the full experience of the press club mug. so, mr. secretary, you have been at the va for more than a year now. compare the challenges of running such a large government agency with those of running such a major corporation as procter and gamble as we did how are they they alike and how are they different and how did the challenges that were? >> i think the thing that is alike is what you could call the burden of big numbers. we have 9 million veterans in our health care system regularly. if you make a mistake half a percent of the time, that's still a very big number.
just like i talked about the 7 million more completed appointments they also talked about tail. if you live in a place like phoenix or hampton virginia where the veteran population is growing rapidly -- >> you can watch the rest of this at c-span.org and we leave now to take you live to a discussion on turkey's political future for the recent parliamentary elections. this event hosted by the bipartisan policy center. live coverage. joint project of central asia institute and bipartisan policy center. on the origins and evolution of the authoritarians and islamization on the party. bbc by the policy center published its report shortly before the november 1 election and the report is available at bipartisan policy.org.
studies are available online. there are also copies outside. i also wanted to mention that the institute has been publishing -- the previously biweekly and now it's available also at turkey.org. one organization statement that we have next for the central asia institute on november 18 that is dedicated to environmental issues that affect the country of georgia. i will start with a very brief introduction by saying that there's no need for probably two talk much about turkey for the very important critical regions stretched between central asia to middle east. turkey is imported from
security, military, political, economic, and other perspectives so it is important as a strategic country and what is happening is important for turkey itself obviously but also for its neighbors, the united states interest in the area as well. that explains public interest in the important elections in turkey held every november. we all know that the results of the election the turkish president and his party and parliamentary authority and actually the results outperformed the pole and surprised me and analysts. the national will manifest itself november 1 in favor of the ability that was a statement
after the elections. today is focused on meeting of the election for turkey short-term and long-term perspective and let me also for other actors around the world. we have a very distinguished panel. speakers include the first speaker the ambassador who is suited for tonight's task because he holds positions in both bipartisan policy center's. the ambassador was a phd from yale and serves as the ambassador to turkey in 2000 and 2005 as well as the secretary of the international policy and 2005 and 2009. he will be followed by the two authors of the study. one is the director from the central asia caucasus institute
who's an expert in the turkish second world and then the ba degree from the degree. the other is from the floor and by -- bipartisan policy center. they are not directly involved in the report are members of the bipartisan task force at the center for american progress and longtime observer that served in the departments research from 93 to 94 and founded the research in the middle east adviser. finally. he is a long career in government.
let me see at the outset i have to leave a little bit after six because i have another commitment. but i would feel worse about it that if it were not for the fact that we are sitting on the panel with whom i've worked on this and other subjects for many years and i know that the audience will be well served and probably better served in my absence. what we start with a couple of comments about the report and why we decided that the task to task force the current chair with the ambassador policy center report and then make a few comments about what it might
say about the prospects post election. it looked at the ideological origins of the turkish foreign policy and this was in the context of the foreign policy that had begun under then pastor or four imprint mr. in the motto of the turkish foreign policy with neighbors and that policy had over time morphed into a policy in which turkey seemed to have many problems with all of its neighbors and in particular, seemed to have developed a foreign policy that was marked more by the sectarian of egypt has been a neighboring region than it was by the initial injunction to avoid problems with neighbors. and then in the course of
preparing the report, i think that it occurred several of us that it might also be useful to look into the ideological origins of blood appeared to be driving the greater trend towards authoritarian behavior because it seemed to us that so much of the turkish foreign policy behavior could not really be explained without reference to what was going on domestically in the turkish society and the turkish policy. so we undertook to write this report which i think i committed it to everybody i think it's quite illuminating. i think we were able to have a panel to week or so ago before the election in turkey with some
very distinguished commentators to professor michael reynolds of princeton and the former economist correspondent in turkey who i think both agreed that this paper has a lot to tell people including people who know a lot about turkey about some of what we see in the current political circumstances to change changes we see going on in the media and changes we see going the changes we see going on in the education policy etc.. the paper i think serves as a useful backdrop to the election, and as was mentioned a minute ago i don't think many observers saw the election results coming in effect between the june election into the november election they gained about 5 million votes. it went from about 40% of the
chair of the vote to about 49.4%. turkey has a tradition of free and fair elections and it's hard to imagine although there were some buddhist dealings -- vote ceilings more significant than usual it's hard to imagine a 5 million votes were stolen in this election but that being said it would be very hard to characterize this as a fair election. it's hard to characterize it both because of the atmosphere of violence and intimidation under which the campaign took place. i have in mind the over 200 offices of the kurdish party in turkey. i have in mind the
demonstrations by the elements of the supporting party against the mainstream media outlets and of course just days before the election the takeover of the media offices into that use of tear gas and the rest of journalists are hardly the kind of environment in which it can take place. and that's not to mention the high level of violence to the southeast almost as high as what we used to see back in the 1980s that makes it very difficult a fair election being held in the southeast. where a very large number of the country's kurdish voters decide. so in light of that, what do we find ourselves facing?
there must've been must have been about 30 or 40 polls taken between june and november 1. not one predicted this outcome. i think the highest i saw in any poll was something like 47%. and that was very much an outlier among the polls. what it tells you is even in this very large victory, the paymaster and the president have received 49% of the vote, and that indicates i think that turkey remains a very deeply divided society. and what that requires in my view to move turkey forward to be the kind of society that we would like to see it be, the kind of democratic pluralistic partner for the united states that we needed to be in the middle east that the government would approach the task of
governing in a spirit of reconciliation of political differences and an emphasis on peaceful reconciliation of differences and a concern for pluralism and tolerance in turkish society rather than some of the overheated rhetoric that we've seen from the president over the last couple of years. indeed i think that's what the prime minister perhaps would like to see given some comments that he's made since the election but i'm careful that's not the result that we are likely to see. one of i think the findings of the two papers of which i've referred is the president unfortunately has an extremely majoritarian view of democracy. his view is that having won an election that he won and his opponents lost and now he gets to govern in whatever way he sees fit. and i think that is likely to
carry turkey further in the direction of greater polarization, increased violence and perhaps worse unless the trend is arrested. >> i hope i'm wrong. i would be delighted to be proven i'm wrong. but i'm afraid that giving what we've seen over the last few years it's hard to imagine him approaching this in any other way. i think that makes it incumbent on the united states to make clear its interactions with privately and publicly. the importance we attach to the freedom of expression, to the rule of law, to a fair regard for other opinions in turkish society come in for a spirit of tolerance to be a guiding force
in the turkish government policies rather than the efforts to dominate criticism, crackdown on the media, paint opponents as broadbrush supporters and that's what i hope we will see from the u.s. government also i'm not very sanguine about that either when i stop there. >> doctor cornell. >> thank you. and thank you, ambassador for your comments. i take the starting point if you will invest retrospective of where turkey is today compared to the promise that the akp stood for and represented the 15 years about 15 years ago when they came onto the political scene. of course they have broken from the islamist movement of which it had been a part, increased membership in the eu or the idea
of membership in the eu, embraced democracy, and promised to break the semi-authoritarian that existed in turkey and introducing true liberal democracy. and especially in the both the 9/11 period when there was a quest for a moderate work but could be better than what the akp promised to be. of course what we see today is that the turkey that they have developed in which they call it a new turkey project is very far from what they were saying then input the turkish liberals believe when they provide significant support and endorsement. ambassador went through some of the details at the event that we saw just before entering this election period and i would add crackdown on the media that went 100 people or more are killed by suicide bombers had in a an opposition limitation of the capital city, we see that the
police are responding by shooting tear gas and canons of injured people and hindering in practice the first responders from coming to the scene. this is something very different from what we expected. so what we are seeing with this if you will, the new turkey project of the prime minister is we go into detail in the report is the two processes if you will chronologically first the process of deepening the authoritarianism and coupled with that the process of accelerated islamization. i think that my colleague will speak more about the authoritarian elements of this system. but i would say that very often noted while turkey existed before and it wasn't ideal, but wasn't a semi-authoritarian system as well and i think that is a fair point. on that note, however, it's not the level of authoritarianism but the nature of authoritarianism.
the older system that existed was built not on an individual person but on institutions. it was rather predictable. it was a structure to the system that existed and to a considerable degree and was built on loss. you can disagree with those laws and i think most people in the west did disagree with some but it was in trying in the to the constitution with the national security council records come antiterrorist walls and everything. we are seeing now is a very different type of authoritarian system that is centered around one individual. the minister is not in a position to achieve a system that he actually said is already in existence in turkey and the one we should change the constitution to reflect. he's governing in a way that is completely different than what the constitutional system of turkey is mandating and i think that this institutionalization
of power may be the most dangerous of what's going on in turkey today. in this study we also go into some detail about for a long time as a dog with the dog that didn't bark in turkey namely the islamization of many secularists were crying wolf about or so it seemed ten or 15 years ago that didn't seem to happen. especially after the 2,011th elections we see a change in an acceleration of the processes. two issues we have particularly discussed one is the education reform. there's been a massive reversal of the secularized reforms in the education system in the late 1990s after the military intervention of 1997 with a great insertion of religious content into the regular system in turkey but in parallel with that the rebuilding of a religious school system run very much under the supervision of
the foundation that is run by the family. in this process, we see for example the transformation of regular schools against the wishes of the people that actually have kids in those schools. we see an education system that actually tries to push people into the amount from the regular school systems. the second element of this is the role of the so-called state directorate for religious affairs which is an institution that existed from the early republic to control and what's happened is that it was built for controlling. purpose 60 to 65% but not the rest of the population. in a secular state now you actually have a directorate of
religious affairs that only promote one form of religion and islam that has grown tremendously in size but also in its public profile. it issues a lot for example there is a 1800 line if you can call and ask if any of the things you are planning to do is in accordance with islamic principles and law. whether the lotteries are illegal and separating the new year and other twin is picked us up to speak is conformity with islam. issues that the internet has weighed in on in this fashion and that doesn't carry any legal weight in the current debate could turkish sense that it has a strong form of authority in a society and i think that is very noteworthy. editors also been a massive expansion of the courses under the akp and also where there used to be available only for children over the age of 12 any kind of limitations of age purpose of for the facilities in which they can be helped with
the training of teachers in the courses that have been more or less dismantled which haven't changed very much in the situation. and finally, i think regarding its use to have the chairman of the natural non- political person whereas now we very clearly see how the leadership is very much supportive of the policies of the government. the results are in increasing staffing of the organization by people belonging to the religious orders particularly the action of the in order. there are very many other facets. the attitude to the role of women in public life is one example. there's also the increasing role of crony capitalism that is seeking to move ownership of the economy and of of course as the ambassador noted the sectarian nature of the foreign-policy especially with regards to see see the apostle in places like libya were turkey has been found to be in support of the groups.
now, in trying to understand why this is happening behind the blame is being put on the western alienation of turkey into the eu, germans and french were the u.s. to the war in iraq alternatively we see a very much focused on the role of the person. but it's a sexy or in a more unstable and if only personally running a turkey that somebody else in the akp. for a while even people like the pre- minister and senior people in the party committed by somebody else from the movement we wouldn't have this problem. in other words, all of these explanations if you will assume that the project is not that our fundamental analysis was wrong but that something went wrong along the way.
now i think what our study does is basically says that this is fundamentally wrong. that's all these explanations if you go underestimate and ignore the ideological which is very consistent with what you're seeing played out presently and that is the movement from which the akp came in as much for radical then it's a generally accepted. it is true and it's an important point that the tradition in turkey which is part of this and has refrained from being violent. it's always had a respect for the state and attitude not to take up arms again. but what we see that the ideas that are propagated by the movement are profoundly radical. very quickly, the three -- the three routes to this movement one of these is the order which
especially from the early 19th century and onward about inspirations were orthodox than the traditional turkish islam into the turkish mainstream and we shouldn't look at much of the order in the traditional inward looking spiritual order. this is a very orthodox urbina that is extremely political in nature. so, that's the first rule if you will, ideologically and intellectually of the akp. ..
and it is deeply anti-western diatribe not yet available in english although i think it should be available. we might think of making it available in english, which i think the most important part is that it shows that the anti-semitic conservative thinking is not a marginal issue at the friends of the system that is at the core of the system. the 30 pages front and center of the book is called those the robe world. it talks a great deal about how control the