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Army surgeon general forced to retire
Worcester Telegram & Gazette
By Thom Shanker and David Stout THE NEW YORK TIMES
March 13, 2007

WASHINGTON— The Army's top medical officer was forced into retirement yesterday, yet another after effect of the disclosure of shoddy conditions for outpatients at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

The ousted officer, Lt. Gen. Kevin C. Kiley, the Army surgeon general, became the third high-ranking official to lose his job because of shabby living quarters and bureaucratic tangles endured by wounded troops returned from combat.

"I submitted my retirement because I think it is in the best interest of the Army," Kiley said in a statement released by the military. "We are an Army Medical Department at war, supporting an Army at war. It shouldn't be and it isn't about one doctor."

Before yesterday's announcement, Kiley had indicated a desire to continue serving. Just last Tuesday, he told the Senate Armed Services Committee, "I still think I've got the right skill sets and the right experience to fix these problems."

Army officials said Kiley would most likely suffer the financial penalty of retirement benefits at two-star level, one rank lower, since he had not completed the required three years' service as a three-star general to qualify for benefits at that rank.

The Army announced that Maj. Gen. Gale S. Pollock, the service's deputy surgeon general since October, had assumed the surgeon general's duties. Pete Geren, the acting Army secretary, said a board would convene in April to recommend candidates to succeed Kiley.

"We must move quickly to fill this position," Geren said.

Though it was clear that Kiley had been forced to retire, Geren expressed thanks "for his dedication to duty and long years of service." Kiley began his military career on July 1, 1976. He became the 41st surgeon general of the Army on Sept. 30, 2004.

The ouster of Kiley followed by a week-and-a-half that of Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman, the Walter Reed commander, who was fired on March 1 because, the service said then, Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey "had lost trust and confidence" in his ability to make improvements in outpatient care at the hospital.

Only a day later, Harvey was let go by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who was described by aides as angry over Harvey's choice of Kiley to succeed Weightman. Kiley had earlier appeared to play down the problems at Walter Reed, where he was in command until 2004.

Maj. Gen. Eric B. Schoomaker, a longtime Army doctor, has since taken command at Walter Reed, and, in another personnel shift related to the troubles there, the Army announced yesterday that Brig. Gen. Michael S. Tucker, currently the deputy commanding general of Fort Knox, Ky., would become Schoomaker's deputy.

In a speech yesterday to the staff at Walter Reed, Geren said the service's disability system "has become a maze, overly bureaucratic, in some cases unresponsive and needlessly complex."

"It is a system that frustrates and often stymies the best intentions of dedicated public service and compromises the Army values we pledge to uphold," Geren said. To the applause of the hospital staff, he added, "In simplest terms, a soldier who fights the battle should not have to come home and fight the battle of bureaucracy."

Original Text