Mikulski also questioned Lt. Gen. Kiley on the impact of the Bush Administration's A-76 public-private job competition process on Walter Reed, which he has said sapped the facility of workers necessary for proper maintenance
WASHINGTON - Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) today questioned the U.S. Military's top surgeon generals about the readiness of their outpatient facilities across the country, in light of the Washington Post series that revealed substandard living conditions, bureaucratic delays and inadequate benefits for seriously injured service members at the Army's flagship military hospital, Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley, Air Force Surgeon General Lt. Gen. James Roudebush, and Navy Surgeon General Vice Adm. Donald Arthur, testified this morning before the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. Today's hearing was one in a series of congressional hearings held this week to seek answers and accountability from Bush Administration and Walter Reed officials.
"We know our military medical doctors and nurses are performing heroically, saving lives on the battlefield and in acute care. But what happens when they come home? What is the plan for their long-term care after they leave Walter Reed and other military hospitals? We have to get to the bottom of this," said Senator Mikulski. "We don't need just phrases and yellow ribbons; we need action. We must take steps to stand up for not only our wounded warriors, but our wounded 'waiting' warriors."
Senator Mikulski also questioned Lt. Gen. Kiley on the impact of the Bush Administration's A-76 public-private job competition process on Walter Reed, which he has said sapped the facility of workers necessary for proper maintenance. In the 109th Congress, Senator Mikulski fought to prohibit the U.S. Army from outsourcing 350 federal maintenance jobs at the facility through the A-76 competition. The Mikulski amendment to prevent the competition was defeated by a close vote during the Senate's consideration of the 2007 Defense Appropriations bill. Senator Mikulski called on all three witnesses to re-evaluate the impact of the A-76 process on their operations.
"Our worst fears have come true. It seems our troops are at war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and then at war at home to get the health care they need and deserve," said Senator Mikulski. "For too long in this war, we've seen little people blamed while we see Generals go on to get medals and book deals. I will not allow federal workers to be blamed for the disgraceful conditions at Walter Reed that are a direct result of the Bush Administration's contracting out policy."
Federal workers began leaving Walter Reed immediately after Senator Mikulski's effort failed, causing a dramatic exodus of skilled staff. Prior to the A-76 competition, more than 300 maintenance employees served the facility. By February 2007, less than 60 remained. At the time of the Post's series, the new contractor had only 50 employees doing the same level of work.