- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 7, 2009


Shinseki vows VA problems fix

Retired Gen. Eric K. Shinseki pledged to move quickly to fix gaps in health care if confirmed as Veterans Affairs secretary, saying he will reopen benefits to hundreds of thousands of middle-income veterans denied during the Bush administration.

In a 54-page disclosure obtained Tuesday by the Associated Press, President-elect Barack Obama’s choice to head the government’s second-largest agency also urged Congress to set VA funding a year in advance to minimize political pressures. And the former Army chief of staff said he will step down from the corporate boards of defense contractors to alleviate potential conflicts of interest.

“If confirmed, I would focus on these issues and the development of a credible and adequate 2010 budget request during my first 90 days in office,” Mr. Shinseki wrote to the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, noting that VA funding in the past created “significant management difficulties” that delayed medical care.

The Senate committee is scheduled to hold Mr. Shinseki’s confirmation hearing Jan. 14.


Reporter considered for surgeon general

Television’s most prominent voice on health care issues is under consideration to be the next surgeon general.

Longtime CNN correspondent Sanjay Gupta, a neurosurgeon at Emory University in Atlanta, has been approached by President-elect Barack Obama to take the position, sources said Tuesday.

The surgeon general acts as the “chief health educator by providing Americans the best scientific information available on how to improve their health and reduce the risk of illness and injury,” according to the Web site of current Surgeon General Rear Adm. Steven K. Galson.

CNN released a statement that offered few details on whether Dr. Gupta would be nominated.

“Since first learning that Dr. Gupta was under consideration for the U.S. surgeon general position, CNN has made sure that his on-air reporting has been on health and wellness matters and not on health-care policy or any matters involving the new administration,” the statement said.

Dr. Gupta’s show, “House Call,” is popular, and since he joined the cable network in 2001 he has been recognized for reports from all over the world and for promoting fitness.

In 2003, he was named one of the “Sexiest Men Alive” by People magazine. That same year USA Today named him a “pop culture icon.”

The Obama transition office declined to comment on the rumor, first reported by The Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz, who also has a show on CNN.


Feinstein receives apology on nominee

Sen. Dianne Feinstein said Tuesday that President-elect Barack Obama apologized to her for not notifying her ahead of time that Leon Panetta was his choice for CIA director.

His name leaked to the press before Mr. Obama informed Mrs. Feinstein, a California Democrat and incoming Senate Intelligence Committee chairman, who will oversee Mr. Panetta’s nomination hearing.

“I have been contacted by both President-elect Obama and Vice President-elect Biden, and they have explained to me the reasons why they believe Leon Panetta is the best candidate for CIA director,” she said.

Mrs. Feinstein complained Monday she had not been told about Mr. Panetta and expressed doubts he has the necessary experience.

Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. told reporters at the Capitol that the Obama team made a “mistake” in not consulting with top Senate officials before deciding on Mr. Panetta.


$70 billion more needed for 2 wars

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates estimates the Pentagon will need about $70 billion more to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan this year on top of the $65.9 billion already approved by Congress.

If Congress supports the amount Mr. Gates estimates is needed, total spending on the wars will reach $927.7 billion since 2001.

In a three-page letter dated Dec. 31, Mr. Gates told House defense appropriations subcommittee head John P. Murtha that the military needed $69.7 billion in extra funds in fiscal 2009 to fund operations, replace lost or worn out equipment and replenish supplies.

That would bring the total war spending for fiscal 2009, which began Oct. 1, to about $136 billion, the lowest in two years.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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