Walter Reed Chief Relieved of Command
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 1, 2007 Army Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman was relieved of command today as a result of failures in care for outpatient soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Army officials announced.
Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey announced the decision this morning. Weightman was informed “that the senior Army leadership had lost trust and confidence in the commander's leadership abilities to address needed solutions for soldier-outpatient care” at Walter Reed, according to an Army release.
“I endorse the decision by Secretary of the Army Fran Harvey to relieve the Commander of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center,” Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said in a written statement released by the Pentagon. “The care and welfare of our wounded men and women in uniform demand the highest standard of excellence and commitment that we can muster as a government. When this standard is not met, I will insist on swift and direct corrective action and, where appropriate, accountability up the chain of command.”
Gates toured the facility Feb. 23. He said at a news conference following the visit that no wounded servicemembers should have inadequate care.
“They should not have to recuperate in substandard housing, nor should they be expected to tackle mountains of paperwork and bureaucratic processes during this difficult period for themselves and their families,” he said. “They battled our foreign enemies; they should not have to battle American bureaucracy.”
Lt. Gen. Kevin C. Kiley, the Army surgeon general and commander of U.S. Army Medical Command, will assume command until the service names a new commander. Kiley was commander at Walter Reed before assuming his current position.
The failures at Walter Reed – the Army’s flagship hospital – became known following series of stories in the Washington Post beginning Feb. 18. The series spoke of soldiers wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan who are outpatients at the hospital and are living in a substandard housing facility.
Gates appointed an independent review group to look into care at Walter Reed and at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. That group had its first meeting at the Pentagon today. The group will submit its findings within 45 days.
The Army is not waiting to see those results. “We'll fix as we go; we'll fix as we find things wrong,” Harvey said recently. “Soldiers are the heart of our Army, and the quality of their medical care is non-negotiable.”
Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Richard A. Cody developed an Army Action Plan to address shortcomings at Walter Reed and Army-wide. The plan will focus on soldier accountability, health and welfare. It also will focus on infrastructure problems, the medical administrative process and information dissemination.