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tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  August 26, 2014 6:00pm-8:01pm EDT

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an act of desperation but there are many different interpretations. with one leave you thought about sharia it would be that this really is about power, not about faith. the problem for the faith community in this country is they are being encouraged to believe it is the other way around or the power has nothing to do about it, it is just about faith. it is really in worldthe old line war ii when they came for the socialists, i did nothing. when they came for me, there was nobody left. here, manyommunity of them, has been encouraged to believe that unless they stand up for their muslim counterparts though there will be a repression of freedom of religion more broadly. think, innocently
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many pastors, priests, rabbis, what have you offering unbelievable opportunities for influence operations to imams themre, again, not all of but mostly the ones were working this particular line of the deeply imbuedihad with the sharia agenda. vaticanpened in the back in june or july. one of the first things they do is they go into some prayer incantation in arabic which consecrates the space they are ofto allah and sets a series reclamation's against the infidels. the main thing is this.
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faithain, the people of provide helping to provide what amounts to cover for these onemists it will be just more successful inroads that they are making in keeping us witless about what they are up to and therefore much less capable of defending ourselves against them. thank you for the question. on?s this a basic question. if you were going to prepare for what bookshe grid, would you recommend? what websites would you recommend? what quick tips? i am for being prepared and for people being self-reliant and responsible. don't get me wrong. i'm just here to tell you that
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unless you perhaps live out here and have access to fresh water and means of growing food, it is unlikely you will be able to persist very long without help coming from someplace else. think about this. if the kind of devastation that we saw with katrina or with hurricane sandy had not been localized, they were over fairly wide areas but it was fairly localized in the rest of the country was intact and able to come to the help of the people who were a foot did -- afflicted, a lot more people would have made it. that's my concern about this. if i can leave you with one other thought on this grid issue, take a look at this book.
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it is the vulnerabilities of the grid that the government knows about but refuses to fix. you will be moved to do the single most important thing that toan recommend and that is get ahold of people who can do something about this vulnerability to fix it now. we don't have to talk about what we would do to survive when it's too late. we have a chance, i think, to make changes. i mention some legislation working its way slowly through congress. operators,ic grid many of you are probably investors and companies that if they are not actually electric utilities they are big users of electricity. many are on boards of directors. maybe their neighbors of yours are boards of directors. think of ways in which you can help. there's a lot of information available at
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to give you more information for this but the name of the game to answer your question is let's stop this disaster from happening rather than try to cope with it after. >> this is a very serious threat . one thing frank was not able to get into is where the threat comes from. there is a concern about cyber terrorism. grids andree electric the united states. we know the terrorists have looked at this issue but also nationstates. it's been widely reported that both russia and china have mapped the u.s. electrical grid. a dustup overever territory or war, you would expect they would try to shut off the lights. you can imagine what a distraction that would be to the national command authority and may be involved in sending troops into battle when there are planes in the sky and hospitals don't have electricity, etc.
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this is a very serious national security issue. i wish we could have gotten into huge threat is a whether it is warfare, espionage, or the potential for cyber terrorism that could target the grid, the financial system, etc. we better stop there so you can stay close on schedule. >> thank you very much. [applause] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2014] [captioning performed by national captioning institute] today, president obama spoke at the american legion 96th annual convention in charlotte, north carolina discussing the recent violence in iraq i determined group isis. here's more. -- by the terrorist group isis. >> the blows we have struck against al qaeda leadership did not mean the end of the terror threat.
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they still target our homeland. we have seen that in yemen. other extremists threaten our citizens abroad as we have seen most recently in iraq and syria. , themmander in chief security of the american people is my highest priority and that is why with the brutal terrorist group isil advancing i have authorized strikes to detect our advisors who are there. let me say it again -- [no audio] -- [applause] american combat troops will not be returning to fight in iraq, will not allow the united states to be dragged back into another war is ultimately it is up to the iraqis to bridge their differences and secure themselves. [applause] the limited strikes we are conducting have been necessary to protect our people and have helped iraq he forces begin to
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push back these terrorists. qi forces begin to push back. women, andp men, children trapped on the mountains and show american leadership at our best. we salute those pilots and soldiers making us proud and iraq every single day. [applause] more broadly, the crisis in iraq underscores how we have to meet the terrorist threat. the answer is not to send an large-scale military deployments that overstretch our military and leave us occupying countries for a long time to end up feeding extremists. rather our military action has to be part of a broader strategy to protect our people and support our partners to take the fight to isil. we are strengthening our partners. more military assistance to government and kurdish forces, ations in thea
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syria. we want them to deliver on national unity, strong security forces, good government that will ultimately be the antidote against terrorists. we are urging countries in the allies as building they take the fight to these barbaric terrorists. are with theayers foley family in new hampshire as they continue to grieve the brutal murder of their son and brother, jim. our message to anyone who harms our people is simple. america does not forget. our reach is long. we are patient. justice will be done. timeve proved time and again we will do what is necessary to capture those who harm americans. to go after those who harm americans. [applause]
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take directnue to action where needed to protect our people and defend our homeland. isilng out a cancer like will not be easy or quick. tyrants or murderers before them kind ofecognize that hateful vision ultimately is no match for the strength and hopes of people who stand together for the security, dignity, and freedom that is the birthright of every human being. even as the war in afghanistan comes to an end, we will stay vigilant. we will continue to make sure that our military has what it needs. those were just some of the president's remarks him earlier today at the american legion national convention. you can watch the remarks in their entirety later today at 7:15 p.m. here-- on c-span.
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a look at our prime time schedule on the c-span networks. starting at 8:00 p.m. eastern on c-span, the house ways and means committee holds a meeting on the targeting of conservative groups. on c-span 2, book tv on addressing poverty. and on c-span 3, commemorating 19th amendment and looking at women's suffrage in american politics. >> this month, c-span prevents americaon what it makes great on evolution, genetically modified food. issues spotlight with veterans health care, irs oversight, student loan debt, campus sexual assault. globalspectives on warming, voting rights, infectious diseases, food
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safety. and our history to her showing sights and sounds from america's historic places. places.istoric let us know about the programs you are watching. call us -- comments@ct join the conversation. like us on facebook. follow us on twitter. >> on the next "washington looks at cost of raising a child in america topping out at $245,000. after that, john aristotle phillips how candidates obtain voter information and use it to get voters to the polls. your calls, facebook comments and tweets. "washington journal" live at 7:00 a.m. eastern on c-span. >> next, today's pentagon briefing with a rear admiral
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john kirby discussing possible surveillance strikes in syria and coalition forces who signed forces inort kurdish iraq. this is half an hour. >> secretary haig will be issuing a statement to support kurdish forces in northern iraq. i talked about this before. a few weeks ago, secretary hagel commissioned a task force to accelerate resupply efforts in addition to support from the u.s. and the central government of iraq and baghdad. secretary hagel announced today that seven additional nations -- albania, canada, croatia, the united kingdom -- are providing kurdish forces desperately needed arms and equipment. this will accelerate with more nations expected to contribute.
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this will greatly assist them in repelling the threat they face from isil. as secretary hagel has made counterhe ability to this threat will only grow. the united states looks forward to working with our friends from around the world to assist in that effort. with that, i will take questions. >> can you be more specific about "munitions?" an important point. what's great about this effort is so many of these partner nations have in their stocks more than we do the kinds of equipment that kurdish or says use, which is not necessarily american-made material. range of the full small arms ammunition and other
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personnel-served weaponry. i do not have a complete list for you. reportsou confirm the from egypt and uae? do believe that there are were airstrikes undertaken in recent days by the uae and egypt inside libya. i would refer you to those governments. as for the knowledge of it, i will not get into discussing diplomatic discussions. have the secretary or deputies have any discussions with people in those countries in recent days? >> not that i'm aware of. u.s.miral kirby, if the sends surveillance drones into a country that they are not currently at war with, for
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instance syria, is that an act of war? >> i'm not going to talk about hypotheticals. >> i'm talking about the law. >> am not an expert on international law. what i would tell you, and the president has been clear about this. from a a serious threat serious group of terrorists. we need to stay mindful of doing what we need to do to protect american citizens at home and abroad. before, we stated will not hold ourselves to geographic foundries in order to accomplish that job. without getting into international law, for which i would be ill educated to speak to, i can tell you we will do it we need to do to protect americans. >> you have talked about the
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special operations mission. that was a rescue attempt and we only diebold should because we were forced to because of leaks. it was never any intention to talk about it. it was not an act of war. it was a rescue attempt of americans being held hostage by terrorists. i would also like the pushback on this idea that it failed. verys executed very well, professionally. can you characterize the relationship between the u.s. and qatar? they were very instrumental in securing the release of this hostage yesterday. at the same time, there are so many reports that qatar is reporting other islamist groups in libya and elsewhere. how would you characterize the relationship between the u.s. and qatar? >> we continue to have a solid
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military to military relationship. secretary hagel has spent a lot of time and we were just there a few months ago. and we want to continue to broaden that relationship and that is our focus on the military relationship. putting that aside, obviously, we do not encourage any support by any nation for terrorist groups and extremists, particularly in that part of the world. >> does the president ordered the pentagon to conduct surveillance missions over syria? >> i do not talk about intelligence matters, tony. we are planning and organization here and we have to be prepared for all kinds of options.
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with respect to providing military options, we will be ready to do that. intelligence sources and methods, we are talking about airplanes. you cannot confirm your offer rise to fly aircraft over syria? >> i'm not going to talk about intelligence. the world was talking about weapons.em give up when you're later, is that still the case with syrian air defenses? has been no change in our assessment of syrian air capabilities. anys the u.s. flying missions? i just want to point out how many times they have been flying over iraq next-door.
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>> i'm not going to talk about it, courtney, but i appreciate the warning. no, but let me -- but there's a -- the difference here is that, in iraq, we were specifically asked by the government of iraq to come in and assist them with an isr effort -- it was an overt ask, and so we accommodated that request, and we continue to accommodate it today. that's a -- you know, that's a different situation than the one you're hypothesizing about now. phil? >> admiral, there's been a couple of members of congress yesterday and today who have said they believe the president should go to congress and ask for an authorization if he decides to order military actions in syria. what is secretary hagel's view of that question? and more generally, does he feel the pentagon can operate under the existing authorization of military force? or would congress have to change it some way if the president gave that order? >> well, i'm not going to speak to a question that's better posed to the white house, phil. what i can tell you is, we are operating inside iraq, given the authorities that we've been
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given by the commander-in-chief, and we -- not just -- not just the defense department, but the u.s. government has kept congress informed of what we're doing. the president's filed, i think, four war powers resolution letters in response to -- or because of what we're doing inside iraq. so there's been a concerted effort to keep congress informed. joe? >> admiral kirby, does -- do you know if the pentagon have -- has enough information, a clear picture about isis size, isis capabilities inside syria? >> the way i would put it to you, joe, is we -- we've been watching isil for many months now, and we recognize that their development, their growth, the increase in their capabilities, it hasn't happened overnight, and it has happened regionally, that they -- that they operate pretty much freely between iraq and syria. do we have perfect information about them and their capabilities, whether it's on the syrian side of the border or
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the iraqi side? no, we don't. now, we're gaining better knowledge in iraq because we have been flying more surveillance flights over the country since we were asked by the iraqi government to do so and because we're in better and more frequent contact now with iraqi and kurdish forces. so i think there's a growing sense of knowledge there on the iraqi side, but it's -- but it's mixed. >> how many flights have you contacted over iraq since the beginning of the operation? >> i don't have -- i'd have to get -- point you to centcom... i'd have to point you to centcom, joe. i haven't been tallying each and every flight. as chairman dempsey said to you last week, we're up over about 60 isr flights per day in iraq, but it varies. some days it's more; some days it's less. and i don't have a total for you. yes, sir? >> sir, the head of air combat command recently said that he wouldn't fly a-10s over syria.
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and this would obviously extend to some other platforms, like, say, the predator. you know, how are you possibly conducting these operations without some sort of coordination with the syrian government? >> well, the question presumes that i'm going to talk about, you know, operations being conducted, and i'm not going to do that. i just said, i'm not going to talk about intelligence matters here. and i haven't seen the comments from the acc commander about the a-10, so i wouldn't have any comment on that. jon? >> admiral kirby, back in june when things were really heating up in iraq, you all announced that you had moved the george h.w. bush carrier group into the persian gulf. have any additional forces along those lines been added either to the persian gulf or to the med in recent weeks? and also, did you ever get a response from the chinese about that barrel roll incident? >> i'm not aware of any additional naval assets. that said, jon, you know this, naval forces come and go, routinely swapping out on deployments, so i would point you to the navy for any update on what the naval laydown looks like in the med and the persian gulf. i'm not aware of any major muscle movement changes such as a carrier battle group, if that's what you mean. the bush
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is still the only carrier that we have available in that part of the world. all i saw from -- in terms of a chinese reaction was public -- public comments they made through their media that they -- that they did acknowledge -- at least publicly acknowledged that there was an intercept, but stressed that -- in their view -- that it was done at a completely safe distance and with professional demeanor, and we obviously take deep issue with that characterization of the incident. >> is the secretary meeting with chinese officials in the building here later this week? and do you know if that topic will be discussed? >> i understand that the navy is having some discussions this week with some of their chinese counterparts. i'd point you to the navy for details on that. i would also, from what i gathered this morning, john, this was something that was long-planned, long-scheduled, sort of routine staff talks kind of thing. and the degree to which this incident will come up, i'd --
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again, i'd point you to navy. i already got you, phil. nancy? >> i want to follow up on the uae flights over libya. last week, out of this building, from the joint staff and from osd, you said repeatedly that the u.s. didn't know who was responsible for those flights. what is it that you were able to learn in the last few days to then say that those flights were being flown by the uae? and why couldn't you say so last week? >> i couldn't say so last week because i didn't know. and now we know. and so now i'm able to acknowledge it. i mean, i don't think it's worthwhile going through all the mechanisms through which we -- you know, we learn information. there were more than -- last week, there was -- i think it was the first such strike, and it was unclear as to who conducted it. all i could tell you for sure is that we didn't. we've since gained more information, and in light of this second strike over the weekend, we've been able to ascertain that -- that we know it was conducted by uae and by
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egypt in some fashion. but, again, i'd point you to those countries to talk about that. >> i guess what i'm having a hard time understanding is that the u.s. had discouraged them from conducting those flights. how do you then not know that they had done them? >> i did not say that we discouraged them from -- from conducting these strikes. what i said was we don't talk about our diplomatic discussions. >> and is it the position of this building that you welcome that the uae and egypt are trying to tackle the terrorism problem independently, without u.s. help? >> our position is the same as the united states government's position, which is we want the issues solved in libya to be done peacefully and through good governance and politics and not violence and that we discourage other nations from taking a part in libya's issues through violence. that's our position. yeah, david? >> will these weapons deliveries that you've talked about from the coalition begin? >> they've actually started to
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begin. and, i mean, i can get you a better sense of that later. >> and who's delivering it? >> i know albania and the u.k. have already started to deliver, but, again, i'd have to get you some more fidelity on that. it's just -- this is an effort that's really just starting. and i'd also point to -- and we've said it before, but it's worth reminding -- we, too, have taken part in some of the delivery of equipment and material to kurdish forces, helping the iraqi government conduct that resupply, using some of our aircraft. >> and another question on iraq. where does that request from the state department for additional security personnel stand? >> still reviewing it. still still looking at it. that i would sort of remind you that -- that we get many requests for forces here in the some come from the state department. some come from combatant commanders. there are many options in how you address those kinds of force requirements. we're working through those
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options right now. yeah, phil? >> on uae and egypt on the strikes in libya, why wouldn't that be seen as something that would be helpful, if the united states wants allies to step up in its support against militant threats? why wouldn't it be seen as something helpful? why wouldn't the united states be applauding that? >> what we don't want is more violence on top of violence that's already existing inside libya. it's already a tenuous enough security environment as it is. and we do want to see that resolved. we do want to see a peaceful, stable future for libya and for the libyan people. it's not just good for them; it's good for that part of the world, which has already got issues of security as it does. so -- but adding more violence on to it we don't believe is the answer. yes? >> the parallel seems so obvious to iraq, where we're accepting airstrikes, that's violence on violence as you described.
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could you describe maybe what differentiates the two situations? >> sure, sure, yeah, absolutely. first of all, we're there at the request of the iraqi government. this wasn't some unilateral decision by the united states to -- to strike targets inside iraq. number two, we are there -- we are -- the construct under which we're conducting airstrikes are being done very -- in a very limited, targeted, discrete matter to protect u.s. personnel and facilities, to assist the iraqi security forces as they go after this threat inside their country on behalf of their people. and then, two, to help contribute to any humanitarian missions that might evolve, like we saw happen on mount sinjar a couple of weeks ago. there's a big difference there. but the biggest difference is we're there at the request of the iraqi government. yes? >> along those lines, would the dod consider any role as part of an international force in libya? >> i'm not aware of any such consideration. yes?
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>> two questions. one, as far as these -- this where do they get financing, training, and military equipment or weapons? >> we've talked about this for a long time. they're well resourced. they get -- they get money from donations. they get money from ransoms. frankly, they get money -- i mean, this is a group that tries to develop their own revenue streams. it's why they take over facilities. it's why they wanted to control the dam. i mean, they actually grab ground and try to keep it. they're selling oil on the black market. so they have many revenue streams, and they're well funded. they get a lot of their sourcing and their training and their sustenance from across that border in syria, which is one of the reasons why we've got to take a regional approach here, but we've talked about this before. >> and, second, if i may... >> ok, but this is it. this is your last follow-up. >> thank you. yesterday, there was talk about as far as osama
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bin laden got -- got from pakistan, what i'm asking you, one, are you watching situation right now what's happening in pakistan? and, second, do you still believe they have still training centers or -- for the terrorists, which they used to have before? >> who has training centers? pakistan has training centers for extremists. >> do you believe they still have? >> i've talked about this again, too, before, but it's a complicated relationship, right? and we want to continue to work with pakistan to deal with what we believe is a common challenge and a common threat faced by both our countries and by afghanistan, as well. and that's extremists and the safe haven and the sanctuary that they continue to enjoy in pakistan, but the pakistani military has taken action against some of those extremist threats inside their own country. they've conducted operations not too long ago, just this summer. and it's important to remind everybody that they, too, have taken casualties in that fight, so it's a common threat. we don't always see eye-to-eye on how to address it. that's -- that remains to be the case today.
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but what's different today is that we -- we have better vehicles for dialogue and cooperation with the pakistani military that -- that we continue to enjoy and want to and continue to improve. >> thank you, admiral. regarding the interception that your counterpart spokesperson for the ministry of defense did respond and while the u.s. stressed that the p-8 was in international airspace, that the chinese government, the defense ministry, mentioned that the mission of that flight was to -- was to tracking chinese submarines and other military activities. so in order to build a better military-to-military relations, that the u.s. needs to reduce this kind of number of flights and/or stop even. and also from the pentagon's perspective, i mean, the two leaders of the two countries are calling for a better military-to-military relationship. so from the pentagon's perspective, how realistic it is to build such a relationship with all this going on in south china sea and east china sea? >> it's important that we continue to work at this
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relationship, absolutely that is not made easier by incidents like we saw with the intercept of our p-8 patrol aircraft, which was on a routine mission in international airspace. and under no circumstances and under no rubric of military relations is it acceptable to fly a jet fighter around a reconnaissance airplane the way that was done. that said, that doesn't mean that the relationship isn't still worth pursuing, and we continue to look for avenues to try to increase the dialogue and the cooperation and the understanding and the transparency between our two countries. but, again, that incident did nothing to help that along. i feel like you've got a follow-up. go ahead. >> and the u.s. will still continue to conduct those reconnaissance flights in that specific -- >> we're going to continue to
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fly in international airspace the way we've been, just like we're going to continue to sail our ships in international waters the way we've been. the united states is a pacific power. we have responsibilities, five of seven treaty alliances in the pacific region, we're going to meet those security commitments. we want to do this in an open and transparent way. we want to share as much information with our allies and partners and with china as we can, and we want to do that. but none of that cooperation is aided along by that kind of reckless behavior, by that particular pilot. >> in the strategy that you sort of outlined for iraq in response to kate's question was very -- the strategy against isis was very iraq-focused, but you and others always call this a regional problem. how do you square that? how do you -- how do you address a regional problem with a very country-specific response so far? >> well, kinetically, you're right. it -- most of the action has been inside iraq. but -- but even before we started conducting airstrikes
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inside iraq, we -- we had a regional approach. we took -- we were studying and trying to monitor and gain information about isil from a regional approach. i mean, it's no different than, you know, the way we tried -- and we continue to try to get at the extremist threat in -- on the border between afghanistan and pakistan, to my -- to my previous answer. there's a regional threat there, too. but you can't -- you know, you -- where we are authorized to act from a military perspective, it's inside iraq, and that's what we're doing. but it doesn't mean we're turning a blind eye to the regional threat that they pose. and, quite frankly, we're not turning a blind eye to their global aspirations, as well. you know, much has been made about, you know, the threat they pose and how imminent it is, and you don't need to look any further than the recruitment of foreign fighters and the degree to which not just the united states government, but many western governments are concerned about these foreign
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fighters leaving their shores, going over there, getting radicalized, trained, and then coming back and executing attacks, which is not out of the realm of the possible. so we are taking not just a regional approach, but a -- but even a -- you know, a global approach to how we're trying to look at what they're trying to do. so i don't know if that answered the question or not, but -- >> you mentioned the foreign fighters. nbc reported that one of the american fighting with isis has been killed. do you know anything about that? >> i don't. i mean, i've seen the press reporting just recently, but i don't have anything to add to that right now. barbara? >> what can you tell us about an encounter with u.s. maritime forces and the iranians in the persian gulf? >> i don't have a whole lot on that, barbara. and i can point you to the 5th fleet on that. as i understand it, a coast guard -- a coast guard cutter, the small boat crew off a coast guard cutter in a routine
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maritime security operation approached an iranian dhow. the iranian dhow pointed a machine gun at the -- or a small arms weapon at the boat crew. they fired a shot back. i know whether the shot was just a warning shot or it hit the dhow. in any event, the dhow pulled away and nobody was hurt. and the coast guard cutter retrieved the boat crew. that's all i know. i'd point you to 5th fleet for anything more on that. >> can i just ask you, was it that they planning to board the dhow or seeking to board the dhow? >> i don't have more details than that, barb. i know there was one shot fired. nobody hurt. both the cutter and the dhow parted ways and there wasn't more to it than that. i'd really point you to the u.s. 5th fleet in bahrain for more details on that. i just don't have it. yes, ma'am?
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>> thank you. on north korea, recently, a north korean (inaudible) to united nation had mentions at the news conference in united nation north korea urge it to stop ongoing u.s. and south korea joint military exercises and north korea also warning preemptive strikes to u.s. and south korea. >> i haven't seen those comments. our security to -- our commitments to the security of the peninsula and to our treaty allies in south korea remain steadfast, as they always will. our exercises will continue and we continue to call in the north to meet its international obligations. >> i would just say that our commitment to the security on the peninsula and to our alliance with south korea is ironclad. yes, phil? >> you said a couple of times today that american airplanes are operating over iraq at the invitation of the government
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there. is there anything about that agreement that restricts their ability to, for example, surveil over the border into syria? >> i'm not going to talk about -- i'm just not going to go beyond the mission that we're conducting inside iraq. i mean, that's -- we're there at the invitation of the iraqi government to do a couple of things to help -- to help -- and mainly to help iraqi security forces combat this threat by isil. and we do that through surveillance flights, but also through airstrikes from combat aircraft. and that's really the limit that i can talk about today. >> were there any restrictions? >> i'm not -- i'm not going to get into roe from the podium here, phil. we're authorized to conduct air operations over iraq for two main purposes and i've talked about that and that's as far as i'm going to go. >> the u.s. doesn't recognize assad as a legitimate leader in syria. so by that logic, the u.s. could never fly surveillance missions because you're never going to be -- the government of syria that the u.s. does not recognize would never invite them to fly
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surveillance. right? >> can you rule out coordinating assad? >> we are not coordinating with the assad regime on the operations that we're conducting in iraq or the operations or any efforts to combat isil. >> does the border between iraq and syria still effectively exist from your perspective at the defense department? general dempsey said last week there basically is no border. >> well, i mean, there's a border. if you look on a map, there's a border. what we're saying is that it's porous to the degree where it, in all practical purposes, doesn't exist for isil because they flow freely back and forth. yes? >> but it still exists for the defense department? >> of course it still exists for the defense department. i mean, we recognize there's an international border between syria and iraq. what we're saying is isil treats that part of the world as if there is no border for them. i got time for one more. yes? >> centcom said that it's osd's responsibility to calculate the cost of the iraqi airstrikes.
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do you have a cost yet and will we have to wait for a comptroller's request before we hear -- >> who said it's our responsibility? >> centcom. [laughter] >> look, right now, what i'd tell you is that funding for the operations we're conducting in iraq are being absorbed through current year allocations that central command has. the chairman and the secretary both said that we're ok in 2014. and if operations continue, we might have to take a look at 2015 to see in there is a need to request more. i don't have an estimate for you specifically day by day. but it's being absorbed through current allocations that central command has at their disposal and through -- and the services have at their disposal because, i mean, the services are really the force providers. ok. thanks, everybody.
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ourere's a look at primetime schedule. starting at 8:00 p.m. eastern on c-span, the house ways and means committee holds a hearing on the irs targeting investigation of conservative groups. on c-span 2, "book tv" addressing poverty. on c-span 3, commemorating the anniversary of the 19th amendment the king at how women's suffrage has impacted the role of women in american politics -- looking at how women's suffrage has impacted the role of women in american politics. today, v.a. secretary robert mcdonald spoke at the american legion conference in charlotte. he's listening to all ideas to carry out the mission to care and serve for u.s. veterans. this is half an hour.
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>> good afternoon, everyone. to hearrue privilege president obama's remarks earlier. appreciate his trust and confidence in me, providing the opportunity to serve at the ba -- at the v.a. his steadye here, support of the v.a. in the past six years, and his leadership that he's demonstrated in deriving greater support and opportunity for veterans are all evidence of his strong, unwavering support of veterans. once again, he has taken the lead in calling on the elimination of claims backlog, the ending of veteran homelessness, better and more substantial mental health care and support, encouraging companies to seek veteran employees, increasing educational opportunities, and recruiting medical professionals
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to better serve our nation's veterans. there's no stronger advocate for veterans than president obama. first, let me thank the legion for your staunch support. for almost a full century now of our nation's veterans. your counsel is important to me. i welcome your advice on how to reinforce the time-honored covenant between america and our veterans. the v.a. owes its existence in part to the american legion. you lobbied for the creation of the veterans bureau in 1921. you fought long and hard to see that bureau become first in administration in 1930, and then a cabinet level department in 1989. your compliments on behalf of veterans are legendary. a past national commander wrote
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the first draft of the g.i. bill of rights a year before the congress passed the g.i. bill, and two years before the first wave of world war ii veterans returned home. you lead the effort to pass the post-9/11 g.i. bill. thousands of your volunteers donate millions of hours through the v.a. voluntary service program. your veterans affairs and rehabilitation commission provides assistance to veterans and families to make sure they receive the benefits they deserve. and the myriad of other legion programs well serve this nation's veterans of all generations. your devotion to jet -- to veterans is not lost on me. i want to assure you that your contributions to the v.a. reform discussions have in of great
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help. that sort of ongoing give-and-take will be vital as we take steps to right the wrongs that have occurred. and importantly, to improve the department and reposition it for years to come. there is no question, no question, that this is a critical moment for the v.a. we have a lot of work to do to resolve the challenges we are facing. before my confirmation hearing, ice oak with bso -- i spoke with vso leaders and many members of congress. again, and again, i was asked, why do you want to be the acreage area veterans affairs? here's what i told them and i believe this trolley to the bottom of my heart. there is no higher calling in life -- i believe this strongly to the bottom of my heart. there is no higher calling in life than to serve our nation's
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veterans. i see this as an opportunity to improve the lives of the men and women i care deeply about. it is more than professional. for me, it's very personal. my wife, deeann, and i both come from military families. her father was a tailgunner in a be -- in a b-2 bomber and was shot down over europe and survive the hardships of being a prisoner of war. my father served in the army aircraft world war ii and was in the occupation forces in japan. both of our fathers were educated through the original g.i. bill. deeann's uncle was a member of the 101st airborne division, the screaming eagles, and vietnam. he was exposed to agent orange multiple times and today, received care from the v.a. and right now as i stand here, my nephew, who is a pilot in the air force, is flying missions in the middle east. i graduated from the united states military academy in 1975, along with sloan gibson, the
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v.a. deputy secretary, a great leader and great friend of mine for many years. my education at west point and then my service as an airborne ranger in the 82nd airborne division instilled in me a life song -- lifelong sense of duty to country. for decades later, the words of the west point cadet prayer, which president obama referred to earlier, still guide me. "help me to choose the harder right rather than the easier wrong." subsequently, 33 years of experience at the procter & gamble company taught me about a mission driven corporation, about strong company values, about great management practices, and about goal oriented leadership. i believe i can use those lessons learned to help change and move forward the v.a. unlike png, v.a. might not be concerned by quarterly loss statements or shareholder value,
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but the v.a. does have a bottom line, and that bottom line is care for veterans. [applause] v.a. is in the important business of making positive difference in their lives. and i'm here to promise you to -- v.a. will go beyond its present difficulties and be stronger for it. there are two reasons for that. mission and values. first, v.a. has a great mission. it doesn't matter whether you are a gs one or senior executive, everyone wants to have a clear purpose for coming to work every single day. there are fewer clearer or more inspiring missions than caring for those who are bearing the battle for our nation. even with just a few weeks on the job, there is no doubt in my mind that the vast majority of
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v.a. employees, many of them veterans themselves, come to work every single day with a strong passion and an even stronger sense of purpose. they take great pride in what they do, and importantly, who they do it for. and from what i've seen and from what i've heard, i cannot overstate their enthusiasm for being part of the solution to our current problems. overwhelmingly, their dedication to the veterans is over 100%. second, v.a. has strong institutional values. those mission-critical ideals and attitudes that profoundly influenced our day to day behavior and performance. integrity, commitment, advocacy, respect, and excellence, all taken together to spell the acronym i.c.a.r.e. and that is why i wear this button. on my first day at secretary, i asked all of the employees to
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recommit to these core values. and i have directed the leaders to do the same for the people who work for them. as we tackle v.a. specific problems, our values cultivate a climate where no one understands what the right thing is and then does it. said another way, v.a.'s way of doing business must conform to how we expect employees to treat veterans and how we expect employees to treat one another. those expectations extend to how people behave on the job, and how they behave when no one is looking. it's clear that somewhere along the way, some people's behavior was at odds with v.a.'s mission and core values. the result was seen in the stark difference between receiving care, let's say, one of our
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highest performing locations, like the medical center not far from here in columbia, south carolina, and until recently, phoenix. that said, i don't think we can lose sight of the fact that it was in phoenix and elsewhere that met -- that employees had the moral courage to the right thing, to take a stand, to make sure that their voices were heard about what they saw happening that was going wrong. those employees are an example of icare at its very best. i just mentioned columbia a moment ago. i think it is important to note that last year, the joint commission, which credits and certified health care organizations all over the country named the william jennings bryan dorm and medical center there in columbia, and 31 other v.a. hospitals to its top
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performers list in the annual review of patient care. this recognition goes back to my earlier comment that the vast majority of v.a. employees are 100% committed to veterans and to the highest standards in care. at columbia, and that v.a. facilities across the country, veterans always come first. i don't think we should overlook that fact. at the procter & gamble company, the most important metric for its most -- more than 120,000 employees is customer satisfaction. it's the most important metric for any organization, public or private. for v.a., that means veteran satisfaction. our strategic land says it clearly. v.a. of the customer service organization. we serve veterans. and despite how well we -- and it is how well we serve those
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veterans that ultimately defines the organization. the truth of the matter is, we have to do better, much better. right now, it's up to the department to reaffirm and regain veteran trust. over the past few months, we have been forced to take a hard look at ourselves through the eyes of a veteran, and through their experiences, good, bad, and indifferent. i think one of the lessons i learned is that we have to be truly veteran focused. we need to continuously measure our performance not just when things go wrong, but also when things go right. it is a 24-7, 365-day a year each job and that is what we intend to do. from here on out, we want veterans to know that when they walk through v.a. doors, employees are all in money comes to meeting our mission, living our values, and keeping veterans first and foremost in all that we do.
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with all that -- without that, there can be no trust. right now, we are listening hard to what veterans, employees, congress, vso's, and other stakeholders are telling us. a somewhat i've heard, we are in the process of rapidly developing and instituting an array of changing -- changes aimed at fixing this problem in the areas of initiatives, leadership, and resources. here's what we are doing to address these challenges. first, process initiatives. we have reached out to over 266,000 veterans to get them off of a waitlist and into the clinic sooner. in just the last two months, we have made almost 912,000 referrals for veterans to receive care in the private sector. the number of people waiting for appointment has declined by 57% since may 15 of this year. facilities are adding more clinic hours. we are recruiting to fill vacant
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divisions -- positions. we are deploying medical units that are mobile. and we are staffing to provide care to veterans more quickly. we are updating the appointment scheduling system with a short term enhancement until we replace it entirely with the state-of-the-art commercial off-the-shelf system. we are contracting with outside organizations to conduct a comprehensive, independent audit of the vha scheduling practices. we have directed every center and sector to assess scheduling practices and identify obstacles to timely care. so far, we have conducted over 2300 of these visits. i spoke earlier about the importance of customer satisfaction. right now, we are building a
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more robust system for measuring veteran satisfaction. it will capture real-time, site-specific information on a continuous basis, and it will incorporate social media and online input as well. we will also be reaching out to leading health care systems to see what they are doing to attract patient access experiences. the 14-day access measure has been removed from all individual employee performance plans, to illuminate any motive for inappropriate scheduling practices or behaviors. -- to eliminate any motive for inappropriate scheduling practices or behaviors. we have direct access to facilities who need the most improvement. there is a team on the ground in phoenix where we have taken the action on all of the recommendations made in the ig's may interim report. until we get our systems up to capacity, we are expanding the
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use of private sector care. at the same time, we are better monitoring closely to ensure veterans receive the quality care they deserve, whether in v.a. or outside v.a. [applause] second, leadership challenges. too many leaders fail to take ownership of the problems facing their facilities and employees. they fail to identify shortfalls in resources and take action to obtain the additional resources they have needed. and they fail to set the standards for honesty and integrity and quash the culture of self protection and retaliation. as you would expect, we've made a number of leadership changes in the field and at the central office. to help address our immediate concerns, we brought in former v.a. undersecretary for health, dr. jonathan perlin, for a short tour duty as senior advisor. and we brought in v.a. general counsel lee bradley to help sort through v.a.'s responsibility in
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taking action against those accused of god -- wrongdoing or managerial negligence. since may 1, 2014, we have taken over 30 personnel actions, and investigations are ongoing. two members of the senior executive service have resigned or retired. three members of the senior executive service have been placed on administrative leave pending the results of investigations. over two dozen health care professionals have been removed from their positions. and four more gs 15 or below have been placed on administrative leave. that said, right now, we are at 100 ongoing investigation that v.a. facilities being conducted by the office of special
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counsel, an independent federal agency that investigates whistleblower allegations. and inspections by the inspector general, in some cases jointly investigating with the fbi. in most cases, we cannot begin our own investigations while third-party investigations are still active. but when those investigations are concluded and the findings are provided to us, you can bet we will take appropriate action -- [applause] as those outcomes unfold, we will share information to the degree that we can while abiding by the law. issues of privacy covered by the privacy act of 1974 and appropriate due process. for cases involving senior executives, as president obama said, the veterans access, choice, and accountability act of 2014 that president obama recently signed into law,
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streamlines the removal of senior executives in the appeals process, intended to allow us to terminate ses leaders's employment more quickly than we might have done previously if misconduct is found. [applause] it doesn't change any timelines or -- any timelines related to front-line employees or low-level supervisors. at v.a., we have a noble mission of caring for veterans and their families. and we have strong institutional values and mission critical ideals that must profoundly influence our day-to-day behavior and performance. integrity, commitment, advocacy, respect, and excellence. in performing that mission, and guided by those values, we will judge the success of our efforts against a single metric, veterans outcomes. our strategic plan already states "v.a. is a customer service organization.
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we serve veterans." if we fail at serving veterans, we fail. they are our only reason for being. we are awaiting the outcomes of investigations now ongoing in the osc, the oic, and all other parties. in some cases, we have already announced personnel actions. in cheyenne, wyoming and fort collins, colorado, those are both examples. others will follow. in addition to leadership accountability issues, we are also addressing cultural issues, and we are creating a more open v.a. we have frozen bha's central office and -- vha's central office and visitor center. and we have suspended awards for 2014. the a is now posting regular updates showing progress and improvements in access to health care and making public
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additional quality statistics available for every medical center. communication is key. gibson and i have been making the rounds at medical centers and regional offers -- offices to get on the ground truth. over the past several weeks, i've been to facilities in phoenix, las vegas, memphis, reno, and palo alto. later this week, i will be back here in durham, north carolina. at every location, i've met with very good people who spoke honestly, from the janitorial service to the medical staff directors. caring and compassionate employees who want to do right by veterans. i have listened carefully to veterans at all of these better -- these visits, and to our vso partners like the american legion, and to all our own hard working employees. i want to know when you and other veterans are not being served well. and i also want to know when you are.
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the information, the insight, and the input i hear from employees and from you and from others will shape and determine the way forward for the v.a. it will constitute the kind of accountability we had v.a. always want to ensure that veterans always deserve. last, let me turn to resource issues. in june, acting secretary gibson made a compelling case to congress for the additional funds needed to address our immediate needs. the result is found in the veterans access choice and accountability act of 2014. the act allocates $15 million to the v.a. -- $15 billion to the v.a., $5 billion to hire positions and medical staff and improve infrastructure, and $10 billion to improve infrastructure care while we need to man. it also authorizes the v.a. to
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meet 27 facility leases to treat more patients. and it streamlines the removal of senior executives based on poor performance or misconduct. what v.a. needs to do now is institute the operational efficiencies, the cost savings, the productivity improvements, and the serb -- service innovations. we have to show congress that v.a. can operate with the same level of efficiency, customer service, and financial discipline as the best run companies in america. it is right to change the status quo. for one thing, we need to get back to basics. we need to set the focus on v.a.'s strategic plan. the scripture, so to speak, at the core of all we do. i will be organizing -- reorganizing the department to efficiently use its resources
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and operate cohesively to deliver the wondering, delivering the best care and services to veterans. part of that means streamlining and redesigning. in other words, ferreting out the bottlenecks in operations that slowdown service and frustrate the veterans. a lot of that change will come from our people in the field, in our hospitals and clinics. high-performance companies get their very best ideas for improvements and innovations from those closest to the customer, and v.a. can, too. we need to do a better job of forecasting. it is essential for us to reliably predict future demand for services, so we can make good decisions about budgets, about support system, and about people. inadequate forecasting was partly responsible for the severe shortages of personnel at some locations. and so recruiting right now is job one. i intend to be out front and
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hands-on in an effort. later this week and i will launch our recruiting efforts by speaking to doctors, interns, residents, and students, at duke university's rather -- medical school. recruiting for hr. here's how i look at it. i was on an airplane going to phoenix to visit the v.a. facility there. the gentleman behind me nude that i was with the v.a. he is a 22 year veteran with the air force and is currently a lockheed martin employee. he said, i need to do something about recruiting. his daughter is a lieutenant in the air force and currently going to medical school in washington, d.c. he talked to her about a noble career with the v.a. and she said, dad, haven't you read the newspapers or seen on television what is going on at the v.a.? why would i want to work there? i'm here to tell you i asked for her phone number.
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i called heard three different times. i'm going to speak at her medical school. the v.a. is a great place to work. i also want to tell you a story about nancy. nancy is a neurologist in medical school. we met on a plane when i was coming back from memphis. she said, wow, my dream job is to work at the v.a. and she is in school at george washington university medical school and she wants to be a neurologist. i gave her my card and my address. i gave her my coin and said, contact me. i want you to work for the v.a., too. turning to technology, it is an important enabler for us. we need to make the most of it, particularly by expanding the use of visual technology, which will free up doctors and nurses to provide more direct care for patients. on another front, v.a. and dod synergy is critical. chuck hagel and i both agree on this. we need to create an integrated record system, and you should
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not see a difference or barrier between dod and v.a. like you, i don't want v.a. to be known just for standard care. i want v.a. to be known as the standard for health care in the united states. [applause] to help do that, i'm establishing a board of medical professionals comprised of the foremost medical minds in our nation to advise me on the best industry practices. i know i've just laid down a pretty ambitious agenda, however i'm confident that all of this and more can be done. it can be done with the american legion's help and with the support of all of our veteran services, close dialogue and ongoing priorities. i want that" operation.
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i want to hear from you. together, we can move v.a. forward with the urgency that the current situation demands. and with the balance reforms that will ensure v.a. as the private -- provider of choice from maine to manila. testifying before congress last month, my good friend and our deputy secretary to muslim gibson, portrayed our situation this way when he said -- sloan gibson, portrayed our situation this way when he said, we can address these challenges as a great opportunity in history of v.a. development. i do not deny that we have challenges ahead and they are significant. there's a lot to do, but there is also a lot at stake. in tough times, i've always turned to a favorite saying of mine by winston churchill, "a pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity. an optimist sees the opportunity
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in every difficulty." you should know, i'm an optimist. i'm a realist. i'm a pragmatist. i have no doubt that with the support of president obama, with the support of congress, with the support of the veterans service organizations like the american legion and other stakeholders, we can do what needs to be done to restore confidence in the veterans affairs department. i want to thank you for all that you've been doing for a long time. you've been a great friend of the v.a.. i want to thank you and i want to encourage you to continue to give us feedback, continue to tell us what you like and do not like, and to continue to be there for veterans and their families. and i thank you for giving me this opportunity to speak with you this afternoon. i look forward to working closely with you as we go forward together.
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thank you very much. [applause] >> mr. secretary, i would like to thank you very much for taking time out of your schedule to be with us, and also, thank you very much for the steps you've already taken to make right and put trust back into the stakeholders for our veterans. believe me, sir, we are looking forward to our partnership with you, and you will be hearing from us. >> i know that. thank you very much. >> god bless you. give the secretary a hand, please. [applause] ♪ president obama spoke at the american legion conference,
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announcing 19 new executive orders focusing on veterans, as the v.a. continues to try to fix problems related to scheduling medical treatment. this is 45 minutes. [applause] >> thank so much. please, everybody, have a seat. hello, legionnaires. >> hello! >> i will thank the commander for the introduction, but more importantly, for your service in the army and as you conclude your tenure as commander. thank you for your tireless commitment to america's veterans. i want to thank the entire leadership team for welcoming me here today, including the executive director in washington, all the daughters, spouses -- [cheers]
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sisters of the auxiliary, and the sons of the american legion. let me say that i join you in honoring the memory of a friend to many of you, an army veteran and a great legionnaire from north carolina. [applause] to senators richard burr and kay hagan, mayor, thank you for welcoming us to the great state of north carolina and to charlotte, and for your great support of our troops and our veterans. i do have to mention the presence of boys nation. matthew from alabama, i welcome a method and all the incredible young people, boys and girls nation. i was running a little late so
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they just started singing, filling the white house with patriotic songs, and then they sang "happy birthday" to me, so i was pretty moved, and they are a tribute to the region and to our country. i've brought with me today the new secretary of veterans affairs, bob mcdonald. [applause] and for those of you who are not aware, bob is one of america's most accomplished business leaders. he served as an army airborne ranger. so he has got a reputation for jumping into tough situations. and he has hit the ground running, visiting hospitals and clinics across the country, curing directly from veterans, helping us change the way ea does business. and by the way, washington doesn't agree on much these days, but he got confirmed 97-0.
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[applause] people understand he is the right man for the job and he has my full support. bob, i want to thank you for once again serving your country. it is an honor to be back with the american legion. the story of your service, we see the service of america. when your country needed you most, you stepped forward, raised your right hand, you swore a solemn oath, you earned the uniform on the title you carried to this day. among you are proud veterans of world war ii, of korea, of vietnam, desert storm and the balkans, and our newest veterans
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from iraq and afghanistan. across the generations, you served with honor, you made us proud, you carried the memory of friends who never came home. our fallen, are prisoners of war, those missing in action, heroes that our nation can never forget. when you took off that uniform, you earned another title, the title of the veteran, and you never stop serving. the legionnaires who put on that cap and wore that emblem for god and country and took care of one another, making sure that you receive the benefits you have earned and deserve. just as you help the defend america over there, you have helped build it at home as leaders and role models in your communities, as entrepreneurs,
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as champions for a strong national defense. you helped the united states of america become what we are today, the greatest democratic, economic, and military force for freedom and human dignity that the world has ever known. these are challenging times. i don't have to tell you that. around the world, as well as here at home, you turn on the tv and we are saturated with heartbreaking images of war and senseless violence and terrorism and tragedy. it can be easy to grow cynical or get into the sense that the future we seek is somehow beyond our reach. but as men and women who have been tested like few others, you should know better. you know that cynicism is not the character of a great nation. even as we face, yes, the hard task of our time, we should never lose sight of our progress as a people or the strength of our leadership in the world.
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think about it, six years after the worst financial crisis since the great depression, in some ways the crisis at the potential of being worse than the great depression, thanks to the decisions we made to secure our economy, thanks to the determination of the american people, we are stronger at home. our businesses have added nearly 10 million new jobs, the longest streak of private sector job creation in american history. construction and housing are rebounding. our auto industry and manufacturing are booming. our high school graduation rate is at a record high. more young people are earning college degrees than ever before. millions more americans now have quality affordable health care. we have cut the deficit by more than half. and now we have to sustain this momentum so more people share in the progress and the economy
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works for every working american. just as we are stronger at home, the united states is better positioned to lead in the 21st century than any nation on earth. not even close. we have the most powerful military in history. that is certainly not close. from europe to asia, our alliances are unrivaled, our economy is the most dynamic, we have the best workers and businesses and university and scientists. with the domestic energy revolution, including more renewable energy, we are more energy independent. our technologies connect the world. our freedoms and opportunities attract immigrants who yearn to breathe free. our founding ideals inspire the oppressed across the globe to reach for their own liberty. that is who we are. that is what america is. and moreover, nobody else can do
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what we do. no other nation does more to underwrite the security and prosperity on which the world depends. in times of crisis, no other nation can rally such broad coalitions to stand up for international norms and peace. in times of disaster, no other nation has the capability to deliver so much so quickly. no nation does more to help citizens claim their rights and build their democracies. no nation does more to help people on the far corners of the earth escape poverty and disease and realize their dignity. even countries that criticize us when the chips are down, when they need help, they know who to call. they call us. that is what american leadership looks like. that is why the united states is and will remain the one
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indispensable nation in the world. now, sustaining our leadership, keeping america strong and secure, means we have to use our power wisely. history teaches us of the dangers of overreaching and spreading ourselves too thin, trying to go it alone without international support or rushing into military adventures without thinking through the consequences. nobody knows this better than our veterans and our families -- our veteran families. because you are the ones who bear the wages of war. you are the ones who carry the scars. you know that we should never send our sons and daughters into harm's way unless it is absolutely necessary and we have a plan and are resourcing and plan to see it through. [applause]
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you know the united states has to lead with strength and confidence and wisdom. that is why after incredible sacrifice, by so many of our men and women in uniform, we removed more than 140,000 troops from iraq and welcome to those troops home. it was the right thing to do. it is why we refocus our efforts in afghanistan and went after al qaeda's leadership in the tribal regions, driving the taliban out of its strongholds. in just 4 months, we will complete our combat mission in afghanistan and america's longest war will come to a responsible end. and we honor every american who served to make this progress possible. [applause]
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every single one, especially the more than 2200 american patriots who made the ultimate sacrifice in afghanistan to keep us safe. and now, as afghans continue to work towards the first democratic transfer of power in the history, afghan leaders need to make the hard compromises that are necessary to give the afghan people a future of security and progress. as we go forward, we will continue to partner with afghans so their country can never again be used to launch attacks against the united states. [applause] as i have always made clear, the blows we have struck against al qaeda's leadership don't mean the end to the terrorist threat. al qaeda affiliates still target our homeland. we have seen that in yemen. other extremists threaten our citizens abroad, as we have seen most recently in iraq and syria. as commander-in-chief, the security of the american people is my highest priority, and that
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is why with the brutal terrorist group isil advancing in iraq, i have authorized targeted strikes to protect our diplomats and military advisors who are there. let me say it again -- [applause] american combat troops will not be returning to fight in iraq, will not allow the united states to be dragged back into another ground war in iraq, is ultimately it is up to the iraqis to bridge their differences and secure themselves. [applause] the limited strikes we are conducting have the necessary to protect our people, and that helped iraqi forces pushed back these terrorists. we have also been able to rescue thousands of men and women and children who are trapped on the mountain. our airdrops of food and water and medicine show american leadership at our best, and we salute the brave pilot and crews who are making us proud in the
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skies of iraq every single day. [applause] more broadly, the crisis in iraq underscores how we have to meet today's evolving terrorist threat, and the answer is not to send in large-scale military deployments that overstretch our military and lead to us occupying countries for a long period of time and end up feeding extremism. rather, our military action in iraq has to be out of a broader strategy to protect our people and support our partners to take the fight to isil. we are strengthening our partners -- more military assistance to government and kurdish forces in iraq and moderate opposition in syria. we are urging iraqis to forge the kind of inclusive government that can ultimately be the antidote against terrorists. we are urging countries in the region and building an international coalition,
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including our closest allies, to support iraqis as they take the fight to these barbaric terrorists. today our prayers are with the foley family in new hampshire as they continue to grieve the brutal murder of their son and brother jim. our message to anyone who harms the american people is simple -- america does not forget, our reach is long, we are patient, justice will be done, we have proved time and time again that we will do what is necessary to capture those who harm americans, to go after those who harm americans. [applause] and we will continue to take direct action where needed to protect our people and to defend our homeland. rooting out a cancer like isil won't be easy and it will be quick, but tyrants and murderers before them should recognize that kind of hateful vision
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ultimately is no match for the strength and hopes of people to stand together for the security and dignity and freedom that is the birthright of every human being. so even as our war in afghanistan comes to an end, we will stay vigilant. we will continue to make sure that our military has what it needs. as today's generation of service members keeps us safe, and as they come home, we have to meet our response abilities to them as they meet their response ability to america. [applause] so when i was here at the legion the three years ago, i said that the bond between our forces and our citizens has to be a sacred trust, and that for me, my administration, upholding our trust with our veterans is not
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just a matter of policy, it is a moral obligation. working together, we have made real progress. think about it -- working with the legion and other veteran service organizations, we have been able to accomplish historic increases to veterans funding. we have protected her and self-care from washington politics with advanced appropriations. we have been able to make v.a. benefits available to more than 2 million veterans who did not have them before, including more vietnam vets who were exposed to agent orange. [applause] we have dedicated major new resources for mental health care. we have helped more than one million veterans and their families pursue their education under the post-9/11 g.i. bill. and moreover, as the legion and
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other veterans groups have said, once veterans get in the door, the care you receive from the v.a. is often very good. the specialized care is among the best in the world. and many of the hard-working folks at the v.a. are veterans themselves, veterans serving veterans. and we can never thank them enough for their good work. but what we have come to learn is that the misconduct we have seen at too many facilities, with long wait times, folks cooking the books, is outrageous and inexcusable. [applause] as soon as it was disclosed, i got before the american people and i said we would not tolerate it, and we will not.
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i know the legion has been on the front lines across the country helping veterans who have been affected. i know bob is going to give you an update on the actions that we are taking. but what i want you to know directly from me is that we are focused on this at the highest levels. we are going to get to the bottom of these problems, we are going to fix what is wrong, we are going to do right by you, we are going to do right by your families. that is a solemn pledge and commitment i'm making to you here. [applause] already we are making sure that those responsible for manipulating or falsifying records are held accountable. we are reaching out to veterans to get them into clinics. we are moving with reforms at the veterans health administration and to help get that done, you supported and congress passed and i signed into law the veterans access choice and accountability act,
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it means more resources to help the v.a. hire more doctors and nurses and staff. it means that if you live more than 40 miles from the v.a. facility and your doctors cannot see you close enough, we will help you go to a doctor outside the v.a. we are instituting a new culture of accountability. bob doesn't play. bob likes to recall a cadet prayer from west point, which should be an ethos for all of us. choose the harder right over the easier wrong. if you engage in unethical practices or cover up a serious problem, you should be and will be fired. [applause]
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and by the way, if you blow the whistle on higher ups, because you have identified a legitimate problem, you should not be punished. you should be protected. [applause] so my bottom line is this -- despite all the good work that the v.a. does every day, despite all the progress that we have made over the last several years, we are very clear eyed about the problems that are still there. those problems require us to regain the trust of our veterans and live up to our vision of a v.a. that is more effective and more efficient and that truly puts our veterans first, and i will not be satisfied until that happened. [applause] we are in the midst of a new wave of veterans.
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more than one million service members returning to civilian life. we have to uphold that not just this year and next year but for decades to come. we are going to have to stay focused on the five priorities i outlined last year and i want to reiterate them, so you know what it is we are committing to. number one, we need to make sure our veterans have the resources you deserve, and the new funding we just passed with the help of senators burr and hagan, that helps. but as you know, it is not enough. even these tough fiscal times, i propose another increase in veterans funding for next year, and i will continue to resist any effort to exploit the problems of the v.a. to turn health care into a voucher system. you don't need vouchers, you need health care you can depend on.
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[applause] we need to make sure that veterans are getting the health care you need when you need it. reforming the vha, with more doctors and staff, is a good step. but with this new wave of veterans, we need the care that our newest veterans need the most, with care that fits women veterans with respect and dignity. it means doing more to help -- [applause] it means doing even more to help veterans from all wars who are struggling with traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress. we have to end this tragedy of suicide among our troops and veterans. as a country -- [applause] we can't -- we can't stand idly by on such tragedy.
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so we are doing even more. more than ever, more awareness, more outreach, more access to mental health care. so long as any service member or veteran is suffering, or feels like they have nowhere to turn, or doesn't get the support that they need, that means we haven't done enough. we all know we need to do more. veterans called for it, we heard you, which is why today i am announcing 19 new executive actions to help improve mental health care for those american heroes and their families. [applause] so just one example -- we are expanding suicide prevention training across the military and the v.a., so colleagues and clinicians can spot warning signs and encourage veterans to seek help.
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we will improve access to care, with more peer support, veterans counseling veterans. we are calling on congress to make sure our troops get coverage with mental health care that is on par with other medical conditions. we will make it easier for service members being treated for mental health conditions to continue their care as they transition to the v.a., connecting them with the support they need and making sure they don't lose access to any medications they take. maybe most of all, we are going to keep saying about include anyone out there who is hurt, is not a sign of weakness to ask for help, it is a sign of strength. talk to a friend, pick up the phone, you're not alone, we are here for you and every american needs to know that if you see someone in uniform or a veteran who is struggling, reach out and help them to get help.
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they were there for america, we now need to be there for them. [applause] our third priority, we have to keep attacking the disability claims backlog. the good news is that since its peak last year we have worked with you to slash the backlog by more than 50%. partially because of an influx of new veterans, partially because we open it up to people with ptsd, folks with agent orange symptoms, we had to work at backlog back down. the trendlines are good. but we don't just want those claims processed fast. we need to make sure they get processed right. we are going to keep at this until we end this backlog once and for all, and as we do, we will keep working to liberate you from the mountain of paper. we have got to move towards a paperless system, electronic
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health records that our troops and veterans can keep for life and that can cut down on some of the bureaucratic red tape so you get the benefits you have earned a little bit faster. [applause] number four, we need to honor the dignity and rights of every veteran, and that includes ending the tragedy of homelessness among veterans. [applause] again, we have got good news to report. today, i can announce that working together over the past few years we have been able to reduce the number of homeless veterans by one third, and that means -- [applause] on any given night there are 25,000 fewer veterans on the streets or in shelters. but we are not going to stop until every veteran who has defended america has hope in america. that is a basic commitment that we have to uphold.
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we need to make sure our veterans have every opportunity to pursue the american dream, and that includes a home of their own. under the law, our service members are entitled to reduce mortgage rates. but the burden is on them to ask for it and prove they are eligible, which means a lot of folks don't get the low rates they deserve. today we are turning that around and announcing a new partnership in which america's biggest banks and institutions will simplify the process, proactively notify service members who qualify for lower rates, and in other words, we are going to help more of our troops and military families own their own home without questioning them. [applause] we are also going to keep helping our troops transition to civilian life. because of the work we have done
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together, if you have a military truck drivers license, every state has the skills test so it is easy for you to get a commercial drivers license. [applause] we will keep pushing more states to recognize the incredible skills and training of our veterans. if you can do a job in a war zone, if you are a medic in a war zone, you shouldn't have to go take nursing 101 to work in a hospital in the united states. [applause] if you can handle million-dollar pieces of equipment in a war zone, that should count for something in getting certified back here at home. if you can do some of the jobs you have done in a most extreme circumstances, i'm confident you can do that here at home. [applause] to help our troops and veterans pursue education, we have worked with loan servicers to automatically cap interest rates on student loans to our service
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members at 6%. for veterans going back to school under the post-9/11 g.i. bill, we will keep standing up against dishonest recruiting and predatory practices that target and prey on you and your families. 600 colleges and universities have pledged to do right by our veterans. more than 1000 colleges and universities have adopted our eight keys to make sure that they are truly welcoming veterans and helping them succeed on campus. every school in america should join them. you should be proud if you are educating a veteran and you should be doing right by them. [applause] and we are going to keep helping our veterans find those jobs worthy of your incredible talents. our new employment center is a new one-stop shop connecting veterans and spouses to more than 1.5 million jobs that are open right now.
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we are joining with states and local leaders to identify nearly two dozen cities and regions with the most opportunities for veterans. and with michelle and dr. jill biden meeting the call, businesses are leading efforts to train veterans and spouses. veterans unemployment is going down, and now it is lower than the national average. it was hired to begin with, and we have been driving it down, but we have more to go, especially for our post-9/11 veterans. we will keep saying to every business in america, if you want somebody who knows how to get the job done no matter what the mission, hire a veteran. hire a vet. [applause] so fixing what is broken at the da, ensuring the resources you deserve, delivering the health care you have earned, eliminating the backlog, standing up for your rights and dignity, helping you realize the
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american dream that you so honorably defended, these are our commitments to you. this is what we focused on. this is what we can do together. especially as our war in afghanistan comes to an end and we welcome home our newest veterans, there are a lot of them here tonight. we salute captain scott miller of indiana, a proud hoosier and a proud marine. in afghanistan he went out on dangerous patrols traveling to remote villages, meeting with tribal elders, building trust, forging partnerships to push back insurgents, and here at the legion he continues to serve by encouraging businesses across america to get back to the veterans who defended our way of life and make our prosperity possible, so thank you, scott.
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where is scott here today? we are proud of him. there he is. [applause] we salute master sergeant carol barker of greensboro, north carolina, the first sergeant on a medevac unit, she was responsible for more than 100 troops, helped save the lives of our wounded warriors in those critical first hours when life so often hung in the balance. here at the legion, she continues to serve helping homeless veterans, off the streets and begin their lives anew with a roof over their heads. thank you, carol. where is carol? [applause] we salute sergeant joe grassy, who grew up just outside new york city, after his home town was attacked on 9/11, he left
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the civilian job and joined the army. a squad leader in afghanistan, he spent most of his time in the 120-degree heat supplying our helicopter crews, and here at the legion he continues to serve helping veterans complete disability claims, raising a voice in washington for a strong national defense, because he says that some things are worth fighting for, america is worth fighting for. thank you, joe. we are proud of you. thank you, sir. [applause] scott, carol, joe, they are among the patriots here today who served in afghanistan and iraq. i would ask all of our post-9/11 generation veterans to stand if you are able and accept the thanks of a grateful nation. the american people have to know that even as our war in afghanistan comes to an end, our obligation to this generation of veterans has only just begun and this cannot just be the work of
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government and veterans groups alone. i want every american to take this commitment seriously. please stand, post-9/11 generation, all of you who have served in afghanistan and iraq. we are grateful for you. [applause] this is not just a job of government. it is not just a job for the veterans organization. every american is to join us in taking care of those who take care of us. only 1% of americans may be fighting our wars, but 100% of americans benefit from that 1%. 100% need to be supporting our troops. 100% need to be supporting our veterans. 100% need to be supporting our
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military families. [applause] and everybody can do something. every american, every business, every profession, every school, every community, every state, all of us as one american team, that is how we will truly honor our veterans, that is how we will truly say thank you and that is how we will uphold the sacred trust with all who served in our name. god bless you, god bless our veterans, god bless the united states of america. thank you very much. [applause] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2014] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute] ♪ ♪
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>> conservative groups alleged the irs was targeting them over their tax exempt status and called on congress to investigate. lois committees brought in lerner to testify. a special look at the irs targeting investigation. spotlight programming concludes the floor debate. we began with representatives from conservative groups who were targeted over there tax exempt status. then lois lerner takes the fifth. followed by floor debate.


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