Army Secretary Resigns in Wake of Walter Reed Outpatient-Care Shortfalls
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 2, 2007 Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates announced this afternoon that he has accepted the resignation of Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey in light of allegations of shortfalls in care of outpatients at Walter Reed Army Medical Center here.
Published reports in February shed light on shortcomings in outpatient care for troops wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. Army officials announced yesterday that the hospital commander, Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman, had been relieved of duty.
In announcing that Harvey had resigned, Gates expressed disappointment that Army leaders were not taking the situation seriously enough.
“I am disappointed that some in the Army have not adequately appreciated the seriousness of the situation pertaining to outpatient care at Walter Reed,” he said in a brief statement at the Pentagon. “Some have shown too much defensiveness and have not shown enough focus on digging into and addressing the problems.”
He also said he is concerned that some Army leaders hadn’t communicated well enough that caring for wounded troops is their top priority.
“Addressing (troops’ and their families’) concerns about the quality of their outpatient experience is critically important,” Gates said. “Our wounded soldiers and their families have sacrificed much, and they deserve the best we can offer.”
In contrast to his criticism of Army leaders, Gates praised the medical staff at Walter Reed for “their professionalism and dedication to providing caring treatment.”
“From what I have learned, the problems at Walter Reed appear to be problems of leadership,” he said “The Walter Reed doctors, nurses and other staff are among the best and the most caring in the world. They deserve our continued deepest thanks and strongest support.”
Harvey had been secretary of the Army since Nov. 19, 2004. Gates announced that Undersecretary of the Army Pete Geren will serve as acting secretary until a new secretary is in place. Geren served as acting secretary of the Air Force from July to November 2005.
Army officials announced after Gates' news conference that Maj. Gen. Eric R. Schoomaker will be the new commander of Walter Reed Army Medical Center and North Atlantic Regional Medical Command. Schoomaker currently is the commanding general of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command at Fort Detrick, Md.