August 20, 2014

Senator Johanns reacts to air strikes in Iraq

President Obama authorized air strikes against Islamic militants in Iraq and the U-S bombed artillery that fired on U-S personnel and Kurdish fighters. Nebraska U-S Senator Mike Johanns says that decision came as no surprise.

Senator Johanns says when U-S forces were pulled nearly three years ago the terrorists didn’t go away. He says it was clear to everyone this day would arrive. He says leaving and coming back over and over again will not work for the long term. He says while a massive force isn’t needed a significant force is.

Senator Johanns says this is a very strategic part of the world and it presents ongoing threats to the U-S and other parts of the world and we have an interest in providing stability.

Sen. Fischer calls Afghan shooting a disturbing event (AUDIO)

Sen. Deb Fischer speaks with constituents

Sen. Deb Fischer speaks with constituents

An American general is dead, others wounded, after a person wearing an Afghan National Security Forces uniform opens fire, a disturbing event, according to a Nebraska senator.

The shooting earlier this week at the National Defense University in Kabul, Afghanistan took the life of Major General Harold Greene.

Sen. Deb Fischer, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, says it’s more disturbing, because it was an inside job.

“It always makes you question security then,” Fischer tells Nebraska Radio Network. “It’s just very disturbing when you think you have the trust, when you worked with people, and then you find out for whatever reason that that trust isn’t there.”

Fischer, a Republican, expects the Armed Services Committee will review the incident either by teleconference on upon Congress’ return to Washington, D.C.

Greene had been the deputy commander of the Combined Security Transition Command since January. He was shot and killed during a routine site visit to the Marshal Fahim National Defense University, the training home of the Afghan commissioned and non-commissioned officer academies.

Many others suffered wounds in the shooting. The assailant was shot and killed.

The last officer to die in a foreign attack was Lt. Gen. Timothy Joseph Maude, killed in the September 11, 2001, attack on the Pentagon.

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:40]

VA compromise bill receives Sen. Fischer’s support

A compromise measure to address the crisis at Veterans Administration hospitals has the support of Sen. Deb Fischer.

Senate and House negotiators have agreed on legislation that would provide $5 billion to hire additional doctors, nurses, and other staff members at VA hospitals throughout the country.

The VA has been roiled by questions of its competence to give care to the country’s military veterans as well as allegations that staff members at its hospitals routinely falsified records to hide the fact that some veterans languished on extremely long waiting lists.

Fischer says new legislation also provides additional powers to new Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Robert McDonald, the former CEO of Procter & Gamble.

“And part of this new legislation that’s coming out, a big part of it that came out of conference committee, will give him the ability to fire people if they aren’t doing their job,” Fischer tells Nebraska reporters during a conference call. “That’s really important to me. People need to be accountable. And now, he’s going to be able to do that.”

The legislation also will allow veterans on long waiting lines as well as veterans who live far from a VA hospital to seek treatment outside the VA system, as long as the physicians participate in the Medicare system.

“So this is going to open it up so they will be able to use physicians in their own communities,” Fischer says. “It’s going to help them in their care, but it’s important to realize this is also going to help their families and their care givers as well.”

Fischer says there is a lot of optimism in Congress that McDonald will implement the reforms needed at the VA.

Nebraska soldier dies in IED attack in Afghanistan

A Nebraska soldier has died from wounds suffered in an improvised explosive device (IED) attack on his vehicle in Afghanistan.

The Defense Department reports 30-year-old Staff Sergeant Benjamin Prange of Hickman died Thursday. The IED attack occurred in Mirugol Kalay in Afghanistan’s Kandahar Province, according to Defense Department.

A soldier from California also died in the attack, 19-year-old Pfc. Keith Williams.

Both men were part of the 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division based at Ft. Carson, CO.

Prange is the first Nebraska soldier to die in Afghanistan since June of 2012, when Hunter Hogan of York died. He was 21.

Sen. Deb Fischer, a member of the Senate Armed Serve Committee, released a statement in wake of Prange’s death:

“My thoughts, prayers, and deepest sympathies are with the family and loved ones of Staff Sgt. Prange during this difficult time. His ultimate sacrifice on behalf of his country is a solemn reminder to us all of the high price of freedom. I join all Nebraskans in honoring the memory of this brave American. We are forever indebted to Staff Sgt. Prange for his selfless service.”

Sen. Johanns supports McDonald as next Secretary of Veterans Affairs (AUDIO)

Sen. Mike Johanns supports President Barack Obama’s nomination of former Procter & Gamble CEO Robert McDonald as the next Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

Johanns, a Republican member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, says McDonald has the background needed to shake-up the troubled Department of Veterans Affairs.

“I really believe in this person. I like him a lot. He’s got an unbelievable resume. I mean, he’s run very large, complex private organizations,” Johanns says. “But I will say this, it is different in a large, complex governmental organization and I speak from experience.”

Johanns served as Secretary of Agriculture under President George W. Bush.

Criticism of the Department of Veterans Affairs became widespread after a former VA employee alleged that the Phoenix VA Health Care System falsified records to make it appear that patients had much shorter wait times than they actually faced. A VA inspector general report disclosed several VA hospitals throughout the country followed the same practice.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned over the allegations.

Obama has nominated McDonald to take his place.

During testimony before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, McDonald pledged to work hard during the first 90 days as secretary to address the problems plaguing the VA. McDonald, who is a military veteran, stated the mission was personal for him, siting a number of family members who have served.

Johanns has been harshly critical of the VA for falsifying records and providing poor treatment. Johanns says McDonald will have no time to waste.

“He’s got his work cut out for him, but I’m enthusiastically supportive. I like what he says. I like what he stands for; great background, great experience. We can’t get him confirmed fast enough in my opinion and I just pray that he’ll grab ahold of that department, because they really need leadership.”

Johanns worries problem employees at the VA might just try to run the clock on McDonald, knowing that, at most, he has only the two-and-a-half years left in the Obama Administration to overhaul the VA.

AUDIO:  Sen. Mike Johanns comments on Robert McDonald’s nomination as next Secretary of Veterans Affairs. [1:10]