Accountability sought at Army hospital
WASHINGTON – Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Friday that those found to have been responsible for allowing substandard living conditions for soldier outpatients at Walter Reed Army Medical Center will be “held accountable.”However, no one in the Army chain of command has so far offered to resign.Gates spoke to reporters after visiting the medical compound, whose reputation as a premier caregiver for soldiers wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan has taken a hit following a Washington Post series of reports last weekend that documented problems in soldiers’ housing and in the medical bureaucracy at Walter Reed.”A bedrock principle of our military system is that we empower commanders with the responsibility, authority and resources necessary to carry out their mission,” Gates said. “With responsibility comes accountability.”His comment suggested that senior officials in the Army chain of command would not be immune from disciplinary action.Gates announced that two former Army secretaries, Togo West and Jack Marsh, would head an independent panel to review treatment and administrative processes at Walter Reed and the National Naval Medical Center at Bethesda, Md. Gates said the group has been asked to report its findings publicly within 45 days.”After the facts are established, those responsible for having allowed this unacceptable situation to develop will indeed be held accountable,” Gates said, adding that so far no one involved has offered to resign.”We are not going to wait 45 days to begin addressing these problems,” he said. “And so there have been some people who are most directly involved who have been relieved. But we will be looking and evaluating the rest of the chain of command as we get more information.”Asked about Gates’ statement that some have already been relieved of duty, Army officials said they were unsure that any such actions had been taken. One Army official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the Army is conducting its own review of what happened at Walter Reed, said officials are considering personnel changes.