A ‘breakdown in leadership’

A top army general blamed “a breakdown in leadership” for poor living conditions of wounded soldiers at the US Army’s renowned Walter Reed Medical Center.


But General Richard Cody, vice chief of staff of the army, said no one has been relieved of command or disciplined since the problems were exposed over the weekend by The Washington Post.

“Clearly, we’ve had a breakdown in leadership and bureaucratic, medical and contractual processes dogged down a speedy solution to these problems,” Cody said at a Pentagon news conference.

The Post said convalescing soldiers in one army building were living in rooms with mold covered walls, holes in the ceiling and infestations of rodents and cockroaches.

The series set off a furor with the White House expressing shock and lawmakers demanding action.

Cody said he inspected Building 18, where 76 service members are housed, and found that their rooms ranged from “being very good to not being good.”

They were well furnished, he said. “But the upkeep of the infrastructure, the walls and stuff, wasn’t up to speed,” he said.

The general attributed the lapse in standards to officers who were inexperienced and too low-ranking for the job they had.

He said “appropriate actions” have been taken but said no one has been relieved of command or fired.

“We will do the right thing across the board as we continue to assess where the leadership failure and breakdowns were,” he said.

Cody said the army also is reviewing its procedures for handling wounded soldiers and their families, following complaints of bureaucratic red tape.

The Pentagon is setting up a separate independent group to review practices at both Walter Reed and the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, which also treats wounded service members.

Copyright © 2007 Agence France Presse


  1. Citiwindo

    Honestly, the Senior Leadership at the Pentagon were unaware of the specific conditions at Bldg 18. The bldg is not located close to where they go when they visit the wounded warriors and their families. The leaders I know truly trusted that the leaders at WRAMC were doing the right thing. These guys are working 18 hour days, 7 days a week since this war started. They deeply care about each and every Soldier and Family Member. I have seen their tears and their compassion. Their own children are fighting this war. Their own children have been seriously wounded and killed. They understand what a breakdown in leadership does to Troop morale. If you don’t have your best leaders in the right positions to effect positive change, then the breakdown occurs. The majority of our best leaders are fighting this war, but like Rear Detachments, we are learning that we also need to leave some of our best leaders back to take care of the Soldiers on the homefront. Yes, we are stretched thin, our leaders are stretched thin. Breakdowns will occur, and it did at WRAMC. The leadership here at the Pentagon is happy that all of this has come to light. They are anxious to make positive changes in the processes. There are so many people who want to help. We can be Army Strong, but what we really need is to be AMERICA STRONG!!!!

  2. Boots

    The military sure does have a way with words — “a breakdown in leadership” — that’s an understatement. Yeah, since the Reagan administration. The only thing different now is they have no balls. They probably knew of the problems but didn’t want to get fired from their jobs by being NEGATIVE. They are the “Perfumed Princes” that Hack used to talk about.

  3. Kent Shaw


    Sandy Price wrote: “It makes me sick to see how little interest our White House and Pentagon have in our brave soldiers.”


    It was the illustrious Henry Kissinger, currently a behind the scenes Whitehouse advisor, who called soldiers dumb animals to be used for political purposes. So why should we be surprised. The treatment of our returning veterans is criminal.


  4. Kim Brechtel

    I wonder how long this tragic story can be on the front pages when every news media is more interested in what Brattney has done about her recovery or Anna Nicole’s circus of a death. Not meaning th be mean and heartless, BUT I would rather the media attention was more on the vets and their conditions than celebs and wanna be’s crap!

  5. The VA is NOT responsible for Walter Reid Hospital or Building 18! The responsibility for this debacle lies SQUARELY across the Pentagon’s shoulders!

    This is how Bush and Company “supports the troops”!

    Supporting our troops is more than a magnetic yellow ribbon made in Korea on the back of a Cadilac Escalade! WE as Americans must hold this President’s feet to the fire on this! We CANNOT and MUST NOT be silenced by fabricated fear stories that turn out to be as insustantial as smoke on the breze!

    Our best and bravest who have given their limbs, and their health, and their precious young lives for this country are being treated like trash on a garbage heap, and it’s OUR FAULT!!!!!

    Now just what the Hell are we going to do about it!!!

  6. Don Purvis

    The question in my mind is where are the Sergeants Majors? The Sergeant Major of the Army lives and works in the neighbor hood. It is his responsibility to handle problems like this. Where is the Command Sergeant major of the hospital? These guys enjoys the privileges…it is time to hold them responsible.

  7. erika morgan

    How much of the abuse is trying to get our deserving vets to get so sick of how they are being treated that they become “broken down” and sign off their right to continued care for their injuries incurred defending us and settle for a “one time pay-out” allowing our cheapskate government out of their financial obligation so they can give the money to Haliberton for services and material substandard and not received and way over priced, to pay Haliberton back for the damage Chaney did the company when he ran it. I think the abuse is intentional.

  8. Steve Coder

    If you have been keeping up with this story you will note that it is not the VA but the DOD and the Army that are running these facilities. Put blame where it goes. As for the VA Medical System, an independent survey of the US medical system, both VA and private for profit hospitals were compared and the VA now has the best system in the country. The best care at the lowest cost in the Nation. But if Bush gets his way that will change quickly as he attempts to underfund the VA yet again. The problem at Walter Reed can be summed up in a few words. No one at the top of the food chain gives a shit about the troops after they have served their usefulness.

  9. Why should it surprise anyone that our cannon fodder is treat like, well, cannon fodder?

    The sooner we realize that its the same guys (and now gals) who always do the fighting and dying, the sooner we’ll have the Revolution that this country so desperately needs. The elite have no time for cannon fodder–ask Kissinger who spoke of them with pure contempt. These are the same individuals who went forth to fight the wars that the Kissingers dream up.

  10. James

    How can they fire anybody when they cannot find enough volunteers (incompetent or not!) for military service under Bush? I certainly would not want the job; who would? IMHO, only the dysfunctional would agree to inflict government service under Bush on themselves and their families.

  11. skyguy

    Just a quicky comment – the VA hospital system is broken! Period. End of story. And it has been broken since WWII.

    NO administration that I am aware of has EVER staunchly defended our Veterans, much less given them back some degree of what was lost in their “answering the call.”

    I, as a Veteran, would NEVER even consider going into a VA hospital because I have heard far too many horror stories from other vets who wish they, too, had NEVER gotten involved with the VA medical system. If you’ve had a good experience with the VA hpsital system, consider yourself to be one of the lucky few.

    It is a tragedy that fine young men and women willingly throw themselves into the meat grinder when called upon to do so, only to be treated less than a bag of trash when they ask to have their wounds tended to.

    Shame on this, and all the other, administrations for having such little regard for the sacrifices made for this nation.

  12. Roger Easson

    Resigned??? Are you kidding? This administration believes in rewarding incompetence and failures of leadership. Give those generals a promotion or perhaps the medal of Freedom. Well done!

  13. Patricia

    There was some discussion in the Middle Tennessee area last year because of the horrific conditions at the VA Nursing Home in Murfreesboro. This facility has mostly WWII vets there, so it is not just the young vets that the VA doesn’t take care of it is the old ones, too. I guess this is how the US takes care of its veterans.

  14. cincigal74

    A BREAKDOWN IN COMMAND????What an understatement!The breakdown in command starts in the White House and is at the root of all that has happened since this dolt has been there.No one looses their job no matter how lousy their performance.Usually they are awarded the medal of honor.If only he was a Democrat he would have been IMPEACHED long ago.Obviously the Democrats do not understand how the system is supposed to work.However,since they are ALL busy running for President they dont have enough time left to do the business for which they were elected.We need term limits in Congress,and NO ONE should be allowed to run for another office while serving a term in congress.

  15. Jason Shapiro

    What exactly is a “breakdown in leadership?” This is not like a transmission breakdown in your car, this state of affairs is the result of SPECIFIC people with SPECIFIC responsibilities not doing their jobs and not being held SPECIFICALLY accountable. People have long known that the first goal of any organization is to increase its power and influence and to avoid all responsibility when things go awry and the Pentagon is the prime example of this rule. it’s really the same old crap and whether you call it “fog of war,” “unanticipated events,” or “breakdown in leadership” it’s all about people covering their asses and protecting their miserable little careers.

  16. UNLESS this story STAYS on the SURFACE, meaning does not get pushed aside by Britany’s hair starting to grow back or something similar like a who’s who in Rehab this week, NOTHING will change.

    Think back. Whenever there is something like this from hurricane Katrina, to a major day of death in Iraq whatever there is ALWAYS an attention diverter to make the story go away quickly.