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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."
"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."
"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."
Behind the door of Army Spec. Jeremy Duncan's room, part of the wall is torn and hangs in the air, weighted down with black mold. When the wounded combat engineer stands in his shower and looks up, he can see the bathtub on the floor above through a rotted hole. The entire building, constructed between the world wars, often smells like greasy carry-out. Signs of neglect are everywhere: mouse droppings, belly-up cockroaches, stained carpets, cheap mattresses.
This is the world of Building 18, not the kind of place where Duncan expected to recover when he was evacuated to Walter Reed Army Medical Center from Iraq last February with a broken neck and a shredded left ear, nearly dead from blood loss. But the old lodge, just outside the gates of the hospital and five miles up the road from the White House, has housed hundreds of maimed soldiers recuperating from injuries suffered in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
WASHINGTON (Feb. 23, 2007) — The Army surgeon general's staff is putting a "full-court press" on fixing the backed-up repairs needed at Walter Reed Army Medical Center's outpatient Building 18, the service's top medical officer said here February 22.
Flanked by a host of staff officers and facing a small army of media, Army Lt. Gen. (Dr.) Kevin C. Kiley said most of the reported maintenance issues that brought the center into the national spotlight will be fixed by the end of this week.