Defense Secretary Chuck HagelChuck HagelLobbying World Ex-Dem leader: Clinton should include GOP in Cabinet Even Steven: How would a 50-50 Senate operate? MORE defended VA Secretary Eric ShinsekiEric ShinsekiVeterans group blasts VA secretary, despite words of regret Cruz: VA secretary 'should resign' VA secretary refuses to apologize for Disney comments 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.
"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.