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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Pentagon Faults 'Leadership' at Walter Reed But Doesn't Name Names

Update from the Washington Post:

Top Pentagon officials today blamed a breakdown in leadership for problems with outpatient care at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and vowed to take quick corrective action. In a Pentagon briefing, however, the officials said they did not know about the most serious problems until The Washington Post reported on them in a two-part exposé on Sunday and Monday. An "independent review group" is being formed to look into the problems and report back as soon as possible, the officials said.

Gen. Richard A. Cody, vice chief of staff of the Army, and William Winkenwerder Jr., assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, declined to specify precisely where the leadership breakdown occurred or to identify anyone who was at fault. Instead, they and the commander of Walter Reed, Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman, said they took overall responsibility for the situation. ...

Pressed on where the leadership breakdown occurred, Cody replied, "I'd rather not say. I'll take responsibility. I'm the vice chief of staff of the Army. I'll take responsibility for this, and I'll make sure that it's fixed. But I'm not here today to lay out at what level. We know what level. I've had meetings with those people, and the appropriate actions have been taken."

Click on 'Article Link' below tags for more...

A few more grafs, continuing:

[Cody] said later that no one has been relieved of command or fired but that "we will do the right thing across the board as we continue to assess where the leadership failure and breakdowns were."

"We had people that were put in charge that did not have . . . the right rank and the right experience and the authority to be able to execute some of the missions that was required," Cody said. In some cases, he said, wounded soldiers volunteered to take charge of "quarters duties," which he said was appropriate because it contributed to their rehabilitation and utilized their experience.

"But at certain levels, we should have had higher-level noncommissioned officers, and we should have had higher-level officers overseeing Building 18 and the outpatient care," Cody said. "And that's what we're correcting right now."

Is that a tinge of blaming the low-ranking veterans who were helping out their fellow battle buddies at Walter Reed that I detect in there?

This is interesting, too:

Although he has been in office for six years and has visited Walter Reed regularly, Winkenwerder said, "This news caught me -- as it did many other people -- completely by surprise." He indicated that the independent review group will look into why the problems were not reported up the chain of command. ...

Winkenwerder added: "One of the matters I hope to learn about is why the problems and concerns were not raised up. I think that's an important issue to identify."

Interesting comment in light of the following facts:

In a scathing statement on the issue, Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.), the top Republican on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said the problems at Walter Reed go far beyond building repairs and that the Army has known about underlying personnel, management and record-keeping shortcomings for years. ...

Davis, the Virginia Republican who formerly chaired the House Government Reform Committee, said in a statement today: "It's nice the Army brought out the tape and spackle and is talking about a new HVAC system, but that's just reacting to the problem at the end of their nose. You could put all of the wounded soldiers in the Ritz-Carlton and it wouldn't fix the personnel, management and record-keeping problems that keep them languishing in outpatient limbo out there for months while paperwork from 11 disjointed systems gets shuffled and lost."

A committee hearing attended by Army officials two years ago "recorded gut-wrenching testimony from wounded soldiers trapped in a frustrating thicket of Army commands and regulations," Davis said. "Painting and papering won't fix those problems. The issue is the standard of care, not the building code."

The outrage is commendable.

Now let's make sure they know we're not going to let this thing fall by the wayside. Please contact your elected officials and demand that they put their money where their mouths are, and go about doing the real business of supporting our troops.

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