We should all be pleased that Army Secretary Francis Harvey has been forced out, and that General Kevin Kiley is no longer the temporary commander at Walter Reed, replacing General George Weightman. Kiley was in charge of Walter Reed before Weightman, and had been told repeatedly of the disgraceful conditions in the outpatient care facilities. Defense Secretary Gates had a productive week. But it's only a start.
A key issue to be resolved is how much Rumsfeld's obsession with privatizing the military contributed to the Walter Reed scandal. Fortunately both the House and Senate are conducting hearings, beginning Monday at Walter Reed.
General Weightman is scheduled to testify before Rep. Henry Waxman's Oversight committee. It took the threat of a subpoena to make it happen, since the Army initially tried to block him from appearing, but now he will show up.
The Army Times reports the committee wants to question Weightman about the impact of the Army's decision to award a five year, 120 million dollar contract to IAP World Services, which is run by Al Neffgen, former COO of Halliburton's KBR, and David Swindle (that's really his name), also formerly of KBR. The decision to bring in private contractors at Walter Reed led to a virtual mass exodus of experienced career staffers.
Waxman's committee released a memo from Garrison commander Peter Garibaldi to Weightman which:
"describes how the Army's decision to privatize support services at Walter Reed Army Medical Center was causing an exodus of 'highly skilled and experienced personnel.' ... According to multiple sources, the decision to privatize support services at Walter Reed led to a precipitous drop in support personnel at Walter Reed."
IAP was awarded the contract under questionable circumstances in the first place, involving the Army intervening on their behalf during the bidding process. The Bush war machine, led by Rumsfeld, was determined to replace skilled government employees with less experienced, but cheaper, private workers.
Maybe, just maybe, it's time to weigh the true costs of outsourcing government responsibilities.
Rumsfeld is gone but his impact lives on.
"Finest defense secretary ever", as Darth Cheney would say, yessiree. And Bush, of course, will continue to duck responsibility, as he has his entire life, for another miserable failure.
Gates has his work cut out for him.