Executive Order Seeks to Help Vets After Service at Former Soviet Base

Executive Order Seeks to Help Vets After Service at Former Soviet Base Christopher Miller with microphone Christopher Miller, Acting Defense Secretary, on September 24, 2020. (Tom Williams /AFP via Getty Images)

By Sandy Fitzgerald | Wednesday, 16 December 2020 03:26 PM

Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller is drafting an executive order for President Donald Trump to consider that will bring financial relief and medical help to more than 2,000 veterans who suffer illnesses, including rare forms of cancer, after being stationed at a remote base in the former Soviet Republic of Uzbekistan after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

"I'm throwing the kitchen sink at this," Miller told CBS News. "It's very personal. I feel that I have an obligation to help those that went through there and are suffering illnesses."

Miller, who was named as acting secretary after Trump fired former Secretary Mark Esper in November, was one of the first soldiers to go to Afghanistan after the attacks and served there as an Army Special Forces commander.

He said he launched missions from the Karshi-Khanabad, or K-2, located in neighboring Uzbekistan, so the reports of illnesses are personal to him.

The former and current service members have reported illnesses they believe were linked to the base, and Miller said he thinks the government should "err on the side of the veterans" and not allow them to be caught up in "bureaucracy and endless studies like we've done in the past…there's something going on, undoubtedly."

Miller told CBS he wants to provide the help by Inauguration Day on Jan. 20, so Trump can consider the order. He said he feels confident the president will sign it.

According to a CBS News investigation, there is new evidence of the base's toxic conditions, including high levels of radiation and soil saturated with jet fuel.

Former Air Force mechanic Doug Wilson said he can no longer drive or work after suffering a rare form of cancer that caused brain damage, and Miller said seeing the vet's story drove him "to take this on more rapidly.'

"This [executive order] will recognize their service as being involved with the operations in Afghanistan and open up programs and benefits to them that currently, they are not able to access," said Miller.