Gates Tells Jon Stewart He 'Failed' on Joint Health Record

Could not overcome turf wars, the former Defense secretary says.

Robert Gates failed to overcome the turf wars have prevented development of an integrated electronic health record to serve both the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments, the former Defense secretary told comedian Jon Stewart.

Gates said he and VA Secretary Eric Shinseki agreed on the need for a joint record, but faced bureaucratic pushback. “At the end of the day, Shinseki and I simply could not get the technical people to abandon their turf consciousness and their insistence on owning their own system and not combining the two,” he said Wednesday on the Daily Show.

Gates told Stewart he wanted to outsource development of the joint health record to the private sector because “when the government tries to build something really big and really complicated, especially in the technical world, it almost always fails.”

The Pentagon now plans to have its next generation health record developed by contractors while VA plans to upgrade its Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology (VistA) health record.

Gates also blasted what he called the “artificially precise” nature of the disability evaluation system which begins payments at 30 percent disability – instead of 28 percent or 32 percent. The system, Gates said, needs to err on the side of the soldier.