Lack of Interagency Communication Impedes Veterans’ Care

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WASHINGTON, DC—If the federal government wants to tackle the full range of after-effects of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, including providing fully for the nation’s veterans, it will need a substantial upheaval in communication between federal departments, according to Maj Gen John Batiste (Ret). Testifying before the House Veterans Affairs Committee, Batiste said that, currently, there is no nationwide strategy for dealing with veterans’ needs, but rather separate department-specific strategies that do not necessarily relate to each other.

“It is a failure of both the Bush administration and the Obama Administration that there is no process to develop [a national strategy],” he declared. “There’s no unity of effort, no teamwork, no base document that lays out the specified task to all 18 departments and agencies. Nobody’s in charge. And there’s no way to process the ends, ways, and means.”

Batiste was chosen in 2002 by now-Secretary of VA Gen Eric Shinseki to be commander of the First Infantry Division of the US Army and served in this capacity until 2004, but he garnered national attention in 2006 when he openly criticized the Bush Administration’s war strategy before the Senate.

According to Batiste, there needs to be an interagency coordinating group that unites the federal departments, allowing them to plan a coordinated strategy on how to best serve veterans. “We need the equivalent of a Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986,” he stated.

The Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act reworked the command structure of the United States military, increasing the powers of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and making the most dramatic changes to DoD since the end of World War II.

“It took a dysfunctional DoD—Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force—all these organizations working at odds in a stovepipe organization, and did so much to bring that team together,” Batiste explained. “The interagency process [across the federal government] needs this severely.”

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