Two Generals Provide A Contrast in Accountability
Tuesday, March 6, 2007
Kevin Kiley, the three-star general in charge of all Army medical facilities, seemed stumped as he testified yesterday about his responsibility for the Walter Reed scandal.
"I'm trying not to say that I'm not accountable," he told members of the House oversight committee.
But try as he might, he couldn't fix blame on himself.
How could he not have known that wounded soldiers were living in squalid conditions across the street from his own home? "I don't do barracks inspections at Walter Reed," he said.
Why did he assure Congress in 2005 that the Walter Reed bureaucracy was improving, even though many soldiers were languishing in neglect at the facility? "In my role as the MedCom commander," he said, "Walter Reed was not my only command."
What did he do when a government report in 2006 found numerous problems at the now-infamous Building 18? "My staff informed me that the Walter Reed staff was working it."
Lawmakers on the committee, who were visiting Walter Reed Army Medical Center for a field hearing yesterday, quickly tired of the general's I-don't-do-windows routine. Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) accused him of spouting "hogwash." Rep. Chris Shays (R-Conn.) called his position "dishonest."
"I want you to know that I think this is a massive failure of competence in management and command," said Rep. Paul Hodes (D-N.H.), pointing his finger at Kiley.
After Hodes's harangue, Kiley replied, "I command by commanding through my commanders and trusting them to execute the mission."
Sitting shoulder to shoulder with Kiley was one such commander, Gen. George Weightman, who last week was fired as chief of Walter Reed after just six months on the job. Weightman and Kiley, who ran Walter Reed from 2002 to 2004, wore matching Army dress uniforms, but their responses could not have been more divergent. While Kiley deflected blame, Weightman freely admitted failure -- even though the victims of Walter Reed's neglect testified, and the House committee members agreed, that he was not to blame.
"He was, in my perspective, being punished because he caught the tail end of it," testified Annette McLeod, whose ordeal with her wounded soldier-husband, Dell, was one of those chronicled in a Washington Post series on Walter Reed. "Because somebody had to be the fall guy, he was there."
After Annette McLeod's testimony, the couple sat in the first row of the audience, just three feet from Weightman and Kiley as the two generals testified. "The McLeods are right behind you," pointed out Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va). "Do you have anything you want to say to them?"