03 March, 2007

Accountability at Walter Reed

As many milbloggers have said from the beginning, the problems at Walter Reed were fundamentally failures of leadership. They cheered when Weightman was relieved of his position as head of Walter Reed, but were disturbed when Weightman's direct predecessor was given the job. It turns out Secretary of Defense Robert Gates agrees on all counts. In announcing the (reportedly forced) resignation of the Secretary of the Army, he said:

...later today the Army will name a new permanent commander for the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. This flagship institution must have its new leadership in place as quickly as possible.

I am disappointed that some in the Army have not adequately appreciated the seriousness of the situation pertaining to outpatient care at Walter Reed. Some have shown too much defensiveness and have not shown enough focus on digging into and addressing the problems.

Also, I am concerned that some do not properly understand the need to communicate to the wounded and their families that we have no higher priority than their care. And that addressing their concerns about the quality of their outpatient experience is critically important. Our wounded soldiers and their families have sacrificed much and they deserve the best we can offer.

Finally, I want to reaffirm my confidence in the staff at Walter Reed and their professionalism and dedication to providing caring treatment. From what I have learned, the problems at Walter Reed appear to be problems of leadership. The Walter Reed doctors, nurses and other staff are among the best and most caring in the world. They deserve our continued deepest thanks and strongest support.

I didn't know enough about Gates to make a judgment on him when he took over last November, but things like this are definitely tipping me his direction.

Now, as John says, let's make sure there aren't any other scalps out there that get away. Beyond the initial removal of the NCOs responsible for med hold, there has also been reportedly a captain and several other members of senior NCO leadership reassigned. In some quarters the rumor is that the entire administrative chain of command for outpatient care has been removed, though that is not confirmed.