Friday, March 02, 2007

Army Secretary Resigns in Scandal's Wake

WASHINGTON — Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey abruptly stepped down Friday as the Bush administration struggled to cope with the fallout from a scandal over substandard conditions for wounded Iraq soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Harvey's sudden departure was the most dramatic move yet in an escalating removal of commanders with responsibilities over one of the military's highest-profile and busiest medical facilities.

Hours earlier, President Bush ordered a comprehensive review of conditions at the nation's network of military and veteran hospitals in the wake of the Walter Reed disclosures.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Harvey had resigned, but senior defense officials speaking on condition of anonymity said Gates had asked Harvey to leave. Gates was displeased that the officer Harvey had chosen as interim commander of Walter Reed _ Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley, a former commander of Walter Reed _ has been accused by critics of long knowing about the problems there and not improving outpatient care.

On Thursday, Harvey fired the medical center's previous commander, Maj. Gen. George Weightman, for failures linked to the outpatient treatment controversy. Many had speculated that Weightman would be relieved of command, but Harvey's departure was a major surprise.

The Army announced Friday that Maj. Gen. Eric R. Schoomaker will be the new commander of Walter Reed.

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