President Barack Obama signed the VA Reform bill into law on Thursday. “If you engage in an unethical practice, if you cover up a serious problem, you should be fired, period,” said Obama at the signing of the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act at Ft. Belvoir, Va. “If you blow the whistle on an unethical practice or bring a problem to the attention of higher-ups, you should be thanked. You should be protected for doing the right thing. You shouldn’t be ignored, and you certainly shouldn’t be punished.” Deputy Veterans Affairs Secretary Sloan Gibson said on Wednesday that wait time problems and personnel glitches at the Veterans Affairs Department can be fixed in as few as two years. “I really believe that in as little as two years the conversation can completely change,” said Sloan at the Denver, Colo., VA hospital. The process is already underway, he added. In Wyoming and Colorado, two supervisors are being let go after an Inspector General investigation showed they falsified data, and four others face disciplinary action. VA Secretary Bob McDonald last week addressed challenges the department has faced and laid out plans to move the department towards accountability and transparency. “I will not tolerate those who stifle initiative, seek to punish people who raise legitimate concerns or report problems, or lack integrity in word or deed,” McDonald said in a statement.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.