Army Times: privatization of Walter Reed a disaster


Richard Moore

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03/05/2007 11:19 AM
Committee subpoenas former Walter Reed chief
Army Times

Committee subpoenas former Walter
Reed chief
By Kelly Kennedy - Staff writer
Posted : Saturday Mar 3, 2007 9:31:09 EST

The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has subpoenaed Maj. Gen.

George Weightman, who was fired as head of Walter Reed Army Medical 
Center, after Army officials refused to allow him to testify before 
the committee Monday.

Read complete coverage of the Walter Reed controversy.

Committee Chairman Henry Waxman and subcommittee Chairman John 
Tierney asked Weightman to testify about an internal memo that showed 
privatization of services at Walter Reed could put "patient care 
services... at risk of mission failure."

But Army officials refused to allow Weightman to appear before the 
committee after he was relieved of command.

"The Army was unable to provide a satisfactory explanation for the 
decision to prevent General Weightman from testifying," committee 
members said in a statement today.

The committee wants to learn more about a letter written in September 
by Garrison Commander Peter Garibaldi to Weightman.

The memorandum "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,'" the 
committee's letter states. "According to multiple sources, the 
decision to privatize support services at Walter Reed led to a 
precipitous drop in support personnel at Walter Reed."

The letter said Walter Reed also awarded a five-year, $120-million 
contract to IAP Worldwide Services, which is run by Al Neffgen, a 
former senior Halliburton official.

They also found that more than 300 federal employees providing 
facilities management services at Walter Reed had drooped to fewer 
than 60 by Feb. 3, 2007, the day before IAP took over facilities 
management. IAP replaced the remaining 60 employees with only 50 
private workers.

"The conditions that have been described at Walter Reed are 
disgraceful," the letter states. "Part of our mission on the 
Oversight Committee is to investigate what led to the breakdown in 
services. It would be reprehensible if the deplorable conditions were 
caused or aggravated by an ideological commitment to privatize 
government services regardless of the costs to taxpayers and the 
consequences for wounded soldiers."

The letter said the Defense Department "systemically" tried to 
replace federal workers at Walter Reed with private companies for 
facilities management, patient care and guard duty - a process that 
began in 2000.

"But the push to privatize support services there accelerated under 
President Bush's 'competitive sourcing' initiative, which was 
launched in 2002," the letter states.

During the year between awarding the contract to IAP and when the 
company started, "skilled government workers apparently began leaving 
Walter Reed in droves," the letter states. "The memorandum also 
indicates that officials at the highest levels of Walter Reed and the 
U.S. Army Medical Command were informed about the dangers of 
privatization, but appeared to do little to prevent them." The memo 
signed by Garibaldi requests more federal employees because the 
hospital mission had grown "significantly" during the wars in Iraq 
and Afghanistan.

It states that medical command did not concur with their request for 
more people.

"Without favorable consideration of these requests," Garibaldi wrote, 
"[Walter Reed Army Medical Center] Base Operations and patient care 
services are at risk of mission failure."

Original letter asking Weightman to testify.

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