Hagel supports Shinseki

Defense Secretary Chuck HagelChuck HagelWho will temper Trump after he takes office? Hagel: I’m ‘encouraged’ by Trump’s Russia outreach Want to 'drain the swamp'? Implement regular order MORE defended VA Secretary Eric ShinsekiEric ShinsekiDems, GOP battle over pace of Trump confirmations Report: Trump considering two health CEOs to lead VA Trump considering Navy Adm. Michelle Howard to run VA: report MORE on Friday.

While Hagel said it was important to find out who was accountable for the VA's problems, he backed the embattled secretary in the interview with CBS's "This Morning." 

"I support Secretary Shinseki," Hagel said. "I've known him a long time."

Hagel said the top focus should be on fixing problems at the VA before seeking people to blame.

ADVERTISEMENT
"There's no higher responsibility our country has than to these people who served and sacrificed," he said.

"Why did this happen? How was it allowed to happen? Who's accountable? Someone has to be accountable here, like in any institution," Hagel said.

Hagel also offered sharp criticism for ongoing budget cuts at the Defense Department, describing sequester cuts as the "most irresponsible, mindless actions" he had ever seen in his years in Washington.

Read more from The Hill.