Pentagon, President Trump, DAN discussed on POLITICO's Pulse Check
It feel to have both trump and Biden tweet about you and your reporting with the added bonus that you are neither pandemic nor the Postal Service? I was pretty much in shock I, the tweet, and then the trump tweet, which was even more shocking I. Think there's a difference between trump talking about your story versus talking about you the reporter and and I only wonder what nickname he would have come up with for Laura and I I, cover healthcare. I've worked on some big stories I don't think it's the first time that Democratic candidates or the president have shared those stories on social media, but I was bracing for the president to call the story fake news. This was the first time the president confirmed are reporting and I honestly didn't know what to do after that. It's kind of funny because. The Pentagon press office initially called our story fake news they said it was inaccurate. which was false. So then to have the president turnaround and confirm the story. Was needless to say unusual Laura do you think we should have given the president a byline? So the story we're talking about. That you both broke together on how the Defense Department was considering slashing military healthcare by more than two billion dollars which some officials told you would effectively got the Pentagon's health care system, and this is in the middle of a global pandemic. How did you two break this story? So back in the spring, I was hearing rumblings from some of the people that I talked to about changes over the defense world specifically plans under the trump administration to cut the military health budget I do not normally cover the Pentagon the military these were just casual conversations nothing imminent. But one of the officials I was told WHO's involved in this effort a guy named John Whitley who's heading up some strategy and analysis work at the Pentagon. He was up for a confirmation hearing just a few weeks ago Midi will. Come to order. The committee meets to consider the nominations and Dr John Lee to be director. Cost Assessment and program evaluation. The president tapped him to be the full time director of this key strategy office Dr Whitley at the beginning of this administration that Senate confirmed you to be this secretary of the army for Peninsula and management controller. You have a long line of accomplishments in that field and when he went in to testify, that's when I started getting pushback from what are the people that had reached out to me to say, this is a guy who really. Is Determined to cut back some of the health spending in the military is to Whitley. Let me move over to you real quick I'd like to discuss base your perspectives on the ongoing transformation of the military health system, which is an issue I know you've testified to. Congress in a few hearings, already, the trump administration was exploring the possibility of pretty serious cuts. I do not cover the Defense Department and a lot of this was outside of the Rome of of what? I usually track in DC. So that's when I reached out to Laura who is embedded in the Pentagon who is covering this kind of issue day in and day out. So after Dan reached out to me I reached out to a my own sources who I've been talking to for several months, not specifically about military healthcare cuts. But about this process of the Pentagon looking for savings and looking to cut costs and actually I had a source that had long been talking. To me about how this Organization Cape Within Dod, which provides budget nalysts had been taking an axe to many different programs and how the process was very goal oriented and driven by getting to a specific number of cuts in not necessarily taking care to look you know agency by agency, what line item was being cut. So some of my sources were concerned about this to end. So I was able to confirm Dan's tip when Dan reaches out to you with something like this. Is, it surprising to see that the Pentagon is considering slashing this funding healthcare. I think that as Dan said, there has been an effort dating back to the spring, but even before that to cut military healthcare and it actually didn't initially originate with the Pentagon Congress a couple of years ago mandated and overhaul of the military health system. In order to find some cost savings may be some efficiencies better ways to do things within the military health care because it is a very complex system. But I think that the fact that the trump administration in particular is trying to now cut military healthcare in ways that me really imperil the combat medical readiness of our forests. I think is not surprising as as the administration has shown that it is willing to cut corners in order to play voters an order to get some of these cost savings that. They think they can put toward different priorities such as modernizing the force to fight Russia and China, which has been one of their priorities. So I know this isn't this is not surprising to me. So you to break this story after Dan gives you his tip, you confirm it, I get an alert on my phone I'm sure tons of other people do. What happens next? What happened next is I got some very angry calls from the Pentagon. That was not fun after that the number of responses that flooded in from lawmakers to veterans, advocacy groups to the former vice president, just decrying the potential gutting of the military healthcare system, and that was our day all day on Sunday and then president trump himself and up weighing in on your story, right? That's right..