An Overdue Retirement

According to AP reports, Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley has announced his resignation as Surgeon General and his retirement from the military. Kiley joins Army Secretary Francis Harvey and Walter Reed commander Maj. Gen. George Weightman in the growing pool of individuals who have lost their jobs as a direct result of the Walter Reed crisis. Until a permanent replacement is named, his job will be filled by his deputy, Maj. Gen. Gale Pollock.

Kiley's retirement is certainly overdue. His performance as commander of Walter Reed from 2002-2004 has been called into question as investigations of conditions there have continued. His move to fire Weightman and name himself as interim commander was widely seen as an exercise in self-protection. That impression was only enhanced by his testimony before various congressional committees over the last couple of weeks. In his testimony, he appeared to be extremely reluctant to personally accept responsibility ("I don't do barracks inspections at Walter Reed"), and extremely willing to publicly blame others ("failure of junior leadership").

Based on what I've heard around base, Kiley had definitely managed to annoy not only his superiors but also his subordinates. (The phrase "fired the wrong general" has come up more than once in conversations around the hospital.) Fixing the problems with the delivery of medical care to wounded soldiers was clearly going to require skilled leadership. Removing Kiley should make that possible.

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Why isn't anyone asking for the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to resign? Isn't he ultimately responsible to see that our veterans are cared for?

The VA is responsible for the care of veterans after they leave the military. Until they are either discharged or retired, their care is the responsibility of the military. The current disaster involves the care given to troops before they leave the service, so the responsibility in this case rests on the Army and Pentagon.

That is not to say, of course, that the VA is blameless, or even that they are doing the best possible job when it comes to providing health care to wounded vets. It just means that they aren't responsible for what's been happening at Walter Reed.