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On His Final Daily Show Appearance, Obama Touts Feds, Efficient Government

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President Obama made his seventh and final appearance with Jon Stewart Tuesday night before the comedian steps down from the show in August. Since 2005, the president has visited with The Daily Show to talk politics, tout the Affordable Care Act and talk about plans for his presidency.

In a Web-exclusive video posted Tuesday night, Obama touched on the management of the Veterans Affairs Department and his administration's improvements in veterans' care, while also decrying the budget process in Congress. "When you look at the budget historically, it's been short-changed," Obama explained. "We've been able to systematically add additional resources but you still have this massive structure with millions of people being served and what we're having to do is systematically work through some of the challenges of a big, creaky bureaucracy."

Defending the department under his presidency, Obama touted improvements in the disability claims backlog and level of care.

"We've now been able to cut down on waiting times [and] reduce the backlog for disability claims by about 80 percent," Obama told Stewart.

The president also suggested that VA has its work cut out, budget-wise, thanks to an expansion of coverage to those suffering from symptoms of Agent Orange poisoning and the administration's ending of two wars.

"We've got to do efficiency work on the VA," Obama said. "But we also have [to have] Congress ... get out from the sequester."

Stewart jumped on Obama's comments about efficiency to ask the president about modernization of government and improving the efficiency of the federal bureaucracy. The president did not hesitate to point the finger at outdated regulations around agency technology.

"If you have a government that was built on 1930s models and it's not updated for decades," Obama said, "there's going to be a gap between what it's doing now relative to what some other folks do."

Obama suggested changes in the way purchasing IT services will work, as well as the way technology systems would be implemented. "We're having to completely redesign how the government purchases IT services, how it does digital," Obama explained.

The president also compared digital service regulations for government to his "four guys in t-shirts in a room" tech setup during his campaigns. While his campaign operation was efficient, Obama said government digital services are "slow" and don't "function properly."

"A lot of this stuff does not require Congress, it requires us bearing down and figuring out how it is that we can revamp these systems and we've done it successfully in certain areas."

Obama had a lot to say about federal employees, the size of government and the role of government in the lives of Americans.

"Government works better now than it probably ever has, given what we ask it to do," Obama said. "Across agencies, there have been all kinds of reforms and improvements and people there work hard and they care about this deeply."

In a reference to government-cutting opponents, the president slammed the idea that the federal government doesn't work or should be more like private enterprise.

We ask our government to do things other folks don't want to do because you can't make money at it, because it's not profitable… If we're under-resourcing our government, not staffing it the way it needs to be to do everything that's done, then we shouldn't be surprised that there's going to be gaps.

Even in touting his administration's goals and the role of government, Obama did acknowledged that sometimes problems occur simply because of the huge number of feds working in the "human enterprise" of government.

"Somebody somewhere is screwing up at any time because it's a human system," Obama said in reference to the scandals that have plagued the Internal Revenue Service. "Overall, it works really well to help a lot of people."

Watch the extended clip below.

Prior to joining Government Executive’s staff, Ross Gianfortune worked at The Washington Post, The Gazette Newspapers, WXRT Radio and The Columbia Missourian. He holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from University of Missouri and a master's in communications from the American University.

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