Embattled Walter Reed commander submits retirement request
Ron Brynaert
Published: Monday March 12, 2007
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The "embattled" former commander of the US Army's Walter Reed Medical Center, which has come under fire for giving "substandard" outpatient care to veterans, has submitted his resignation request. But one cable news channel is reporting that Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley was "actually fired."

Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley, the Army's surgeon general and commander of the US Army Medical Command, headed Walter Reed from 2002 to 2004, and was recently appointed interim head there for a spell after Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman, who commanded the hospital the past six months, was fired.

"On March 11, Lt. Gen. Kevin C. Kiley, Army Surgeon General and Commanding General of Army Medical Command, submitted his request to retire from the U.S. Army to Acting Secretary of the Army Pete Geren," notes a US Army news release. "Maj. Gen. Gale Pollock, current Deputy Surgeon General, immediately assumed the Surgeon General's duties."

"I submitted my retirement because I think it is in the best interest of the Army," Kiley said yesterday. "I want to allow Acting Secretary Geren, General Schoomaker, and the leaders of the Army Medical Command to focus completely on the way ahead and the Army Action Plan to improve all aspects of Soldier care. We are an Army Medical Department at war, supporting an Army at war - it shouldn't be and it isn't about one doctor."

However, CNN reported on air this afternoon that, according to a senior Pentagon official, "Kiley was actually fired from his position."

"Fallout from the scandal involving conditions at Walter Reed Medical Center continued Monday, with what one senior Pentagon official said was the firing of Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley from his position as surgeon general of the Army," CNN reports. "Acting Army Secretary Pete Geren asked for Kiley's resignation, and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates approved the action, the official said. In its official announcement, the army said Kiley had retired."

CNN adds, "Kiley had been made temporary head of the army's premiere medical institution after Army Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman was ousted in the wake of a series in the Washington Post that found soldiers living in deplorable conditions. However, he was very quickly replaced by Gen. Eric Schoomaker amid criticism that Kiley, who was head of Walter Reed before Weightman, had been aware of the problems at the facility."

The blog Think Progress notes some of Kiley's recent "highlights" during his tenure, which include "allow[ing] a wounded soldier to sleep in his own urine even though he was begged to do something about it by a congressman’s wife; blam[ing] the Walter Reed conditions on 'a failure of leadership at the junior level in that building;' [and] ripp[ing] the Washington Post’s revelation of the squalor at Walter Reed as 'yellow journalism.'"

Privatization behind Walter Reed woes?

As RAW STORY recently reported, some Democrats have charged that the Bush Administration's ideological push for privatization may have harmed Walter Reed, and a five-year, $120 million contract awarded to a firm run by a former executive from Halliburton – a multi-national corporation where Vice President Dick Cheney once served as CEO – was probed at a Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs hearing last Monday.

"We have learned that in January 2006, Walter Reed awarded a five-year $120 million contract to a company called IAP Worldwide Services for base operations support services, including facilities management," Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, wrote in a letter to Major General George W. Weightman, the former commander at Walter Reed. "IAP is one of the companies that experienced problems delivering ice during the response to Hurricane Katrina."

Waxman noted that IAP "is led by Al Neffgen, a former senior Halliburton official who testified before our Committee in July 2004 in defense of Halliburton's exorbitant charges for fuel delivery and troop support in Iraq."

Before the contract, over 300 federal employees provided facilities management services at Walter Reed, according to the memorandum, but that number dropped to less than 60 the day before IAP took over.

"Yet instead of hiring additional personnel, IAP apparently replaced the remaining 60 federal employees with only 50 IAP personnel," Waxman wrote.

Waxman added that "the conditions that have been described are disgraceful," and that the Oversight Committee will "investigate what led to the breakdown in services."

"It would be reprehensible if the deplorable conditions were caused or aggravated by an ideological committment to privatized government services regardless of the costs to taxpayers and the consequences for wounded soldier," Waxman wrote, alluding to the Bush Administration's push for privatization.

"In testimony before the subcommittee, Army officials conceded that, in combination with the planned closure of Walter Reed, the competition disrupted operations at the medical facility," the Federal Times recently reported.

"We probably could have done better," Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley told the subcommittee. “Maybe we shouldn’t have done it at all."

Excerpts from US Army news release:

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Kiley was appointed the 41st Surgeon General of the Army and Commander, U.S. Army Medical Command, Fort Sam Houston, Texas, on Sept. 30, 2004. He started his military career July 1, 1976, appointed as an Army captain serving a surgical internship and then an obstetrics and gynecology residency at William Beaumont Army Medical Center in El Paso, Texas. He received his medical degree from Georgetown University School of Medicine, Washington D.C. He is a board-certified OB/GYN and a fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. He is also a graduate of the U.S. Army War College, Carlisle Barracks, Penn.

"It has been my honor and my privilege to serve this Nation and her Soldiers for over thirty years," Kiley said. "I have the greatest respect for former Secretary Harvey, Acting Secretary Geren, and the senior Army leadership under General Schoomaker and General Cody. And I could not be prouder of the incredible Americans in the Army Medical Command who care for the warriors who have volunteered and sacrificed so much to defend our country and our way of life. I was blessed to have walked among them."

"We thank Lt. Gen Kiley for his dedication to duty and long years of service," said Acting Secretary Geren March 12.

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