Martin Frost writes at FOX News:
Every so often, government does exactly the right thing. The decision to make former Texas Congressman Pete Geren the acting secretary of the Army is just such an example. Geren, the under secretary of the Army since February 2006, was elevated to acting Army secretary on March 9 following the resignation of Francis J. Harvey — who left in the wake of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center scandal.
The Bush administration has a sad history of putting unqualified political cronies in key positions. Geren may be a Texas friend of the president, but he is also eminently qualified to be secretary of the Army at this particular point in history.
In fact, the White House may not be entirely happy with Pete Geren when the dust settles. You see, Geren will not lie for this White House and he will not shade the truth either. He is a straight shooter who has the respect of both Democrats and Republicans in Congress. When called to testify on the Hill, he will answer questions truthfully and, if doesn’t know an answer, he will ask for the time necessary to provide a complete response. And Congress will get an answer.
Jumping right in to things, Geren commented earlier in the week on the Pat Tillman scandal, saying that it "brought discredit on the Army." He also toured Walter Reed Army Medical Center, giving a candid interview to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review along the way. And in his first address as secretary of the Army, he spoke to the staff at Walter Reed. Tricky tasks, every one.
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Secretary of the Army Pete Geren talks with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review while touring the Walter Reed Army Medical Center:
From the Army News Service, Geren's March 13 address:
WASHINGTON - In his first public address as acting secretary of the Army, Pete Geren today addressed personnel of the North Atlantic Regional Medical Command and Walter Reed Army Medical Center at WRAMC. He spoke about the many changes affecting today's Army, including "the sweeping transformation" that includes realignment and closure of bases and the "rebalancing of the force."
What leaders and staff members of the Army's medical community likely most wanted to hear came at the end of Geren's 20-minute speech, when he talked about recent events that have since plagued WRAMC, resulting in the firing of the hospital's commander and the dismissal of the secretary of the Army, among others.
Following his rundown of changes affecting the 1.3-million "Army-Strong" family, which includes active-duty, National Guard and Reserve Soldiers, and civilian employees, Geren said, "Our Army will meet these challenges."
At the top of the list of priorities, he said, would be to provide the best possible care to military personnel who "have fought the battle," because they deserve nothing less. "The American people expect us to fulfill our obligation to those who serve, and our Army leadership is acting decisively to correct [recent shortcomings in medical care]," he added.
He made a point, however, to commend the workers at WRAMC who carry on a 231-year tradition of service and "have provided some of the nation's greatest advances in medicine. "We pledge that we will never leave a fallen comrade. That means on the battlefield and in the hospital," he said. "In a time when much of medicine has become business, you care about people."
Geren based that assessment on the well-documented cases of stellar care already provided by WRAMC professionals to some of the nation's more than 26,000 wounded Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom veterans.