Friday, March 02, 2007

Accountability in the Defense Department

"Support The Troops" isn't -- or shouldn't be, at least -- just another way of saying "Don't Question The President". It should mean that we honor the sacrifice of our citizens who willingly sacrifice their freedom and risk their lives to protect our nation. That support doesn't end when their term of service does, nor does it extend only to those who make it through healthy and whole. It means that we should provide them with adequate training and material, that we should give them aid and comfort when and where we can, and we should do our best to take care of those who are harmed in the course of their duties.

Recently a series of reports from "The Washington Post" have uncovered truly deplorable conditions at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, including poor living conditions like mold, filth and leaks in Building 18, an Army facility that houses recovering troops.

Up until now I have come to expect a complete lack of accountability in this Administration. Every time someone has performed in a spectacularly incompetent fashion, they've been rewarded and supported by their political masters. The low point, of course, was "Heckuva job, Brownie".

And for a while there, it looked like this was going to be just another in the long list of whitewashes (literally in this case). But today, a funny thing happened:

Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey abruptly stepped down from his post, apparently because Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was displeased with the way he handled the Walter Reed situation.

According to, Gates said in a press briefing that "I am disappointed that some in the Army have not adequately appreciated the seriousness of the situation pertaining to outpatient care at Walter Reed."

I blogged earlier on the appointment of Secretary Gates, expressing hope that at long last a grown-up would be in charge of the Defense Department. This is just one instance, but it is very much looking like that hope was not misplaced. I am delighted that Gates is making it clear that anyone who treats our soldiers with less than complete professionalism and the highest standards will be disciplined.

Nothing less than the best should be accorded the men and women who have made huge sacrifices so we can all sit back and enjoy the fruits of liberty. Adequate health care is the very least that we owe them, and I thank Secretary Gates for holding responsible those in the senior leadership who fail to truly support our troops. I can only imagine how much better off we'd all be had Gates replaced Rumsfeld earlier, but regardless, I'm glad he's there now. I hope this kind of no-nonsense, professional administration continues.

Gig 'em, Bob.

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