Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Deleted post on Walter Reed problems

Yesterday, I had a post on Walter Reed. I quoted a portion of an Ann Coulter column which made the point that civil service employees at Walter Reed who are responsible for the maintenance of the facilities have such job protections that firing them for lack of performance is virtually impossible.

Coulter blamed Democrats for making the rules. I stated the following as the main point of my post:

"I won't join her and place blame solely on the Democrats because there have been plenty of Republicans who've supported - or failed to oppose - such civil service rules.

But if the real problem is the maintenance issue, as reported, will there be anyone bold enough or courageous enough to point out the inadequacies in the processes - or will this be just another political opportunity to bash your opponent and get prime media face time, with no real solutions as a result?"


Two people commented about how terrible Coulter was - and I know there are people who do not like her or anything she writes. I've found some of her writings to be sarcastically entertaining - others I don't care for. I'm not a Coulter fan or detractor...but I would like to remind people that even a clock with no battery is correct twice a day. That being said, the point of MY post was not to emphasize Coulter, but her position on civil service rules.

However, the same two people commented that Coulter was wrong about the civil service employees - going to the point that the maintenance at Walter Reed was being done by Halliburton. That point, if correct, would have been a factual issue and not opinion.

I've always tried to make sure that the facts I have on my blog are correct. Opinion about those facts is another issue entirely. Since two individuals called into question the FACTS, I pulled the post until I could verify whether or not the individuals responsible for the maintenance at Walter Reed were government employees.

Of course, one of the individuals (SensorG) took exception to this, accusing me of being wrong and deleting the post as if it'd never happened. I appreciate the people who read and comment here and I hope that you will understand and agree that a post which contains factual errors should be corrected. And, the comments made on the post have been saved, but let's first set the record straight.

In looking for a reference source that could explain the issue, I came across this CNN article which explains a three-year delay in contracting for mainentance at Walter Reed.

The article begins:

"An Army contract to privatize maintenance at Walter Reed Medical Center was delayed more than three years amid bureaucratic bickering and legal squabbles that led to staff shortages and a hospital in disarray just as the number of severely wounded soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan was rising rapidly.

Documents from the investigative and auditing arm of Congress map a trail of bid, rebid, protests and appeals between 2003, when Walter Reed was first selected for outsourcing, and 2006, when a five-year, $120 million contract was finally awarded.

The disputes involved hospital management, the Pentagon, Congress and IAP Worldwide Services Inc., a company with powerful political connections and the only private bidder to handle maintenance, security, public works and management of military personnel.

While medical care was not directly affected, needed repairs went undone as the non-medical staff shrank from almost 300 to less than 50 in the last year and hospital officials were unable to find enough skilled replacements."


The claim that Halliburton had the contract and was responsible for the lack of maintenace is not correct, according to the article:

"IAP is owned by a New York hedge fund whose board is chaired by former Treasury Secretary John Snow, and it is led by former executives of Kellogg, Brown and Root, the subsidiary spun off by Texas-based Halliburton Inc., the oil services firm once run by Vice President Dick Cheney.

IAP finally got the job in November 2006, but further delays caused by the Army and Congress delayed work until February 4, two weeks before the Post series and two years after the number of patients at the hospital hit a record 900."


So Halliburton doesn't have the contract, although individuals who worked for a former subsidiary of Halliburton lead the hedge fund which owns the company that did get the contract (as poster Rusty correctly stated). But this company didn't start work at Walter Reed until Feb. 4, 2007.

I encourage you to read the whole article as it details the difficult bureaucratic rules and regulations that government has created - and it points out the serious impact of such bureacratic messes and how they can be manipulated.

I don't blame anyone in particular for the atrocious problems at Walter Reed - I blame them all - Congress, the Pentagon, the White House, IAP and the American Federation of Government Employees, a federal workers' trade union.

Which brings me back to the original point I was trying to make: Will there be anyone bold enough or courageous enough to point out the inadequacies in the processes - or will this be just another political opportunity to bash your opponent and get prime media face time, with no real solutions as a result?

If you'd like to comment on the point, please do so. But if you're just interested in a political opportunity to bash individuals, don't bother.

The original post:

The real problem at Walter Reed?
Say what you will about Ann Coulter, and many do...but I think she makes a very good point in her March 14th column:

“Democrats have leapt on reports of mold, rats and bureaucratic hurdles at Walter Reed Army Medical Center as further proof of President George Bush’s failed war policies.

To the contrary, the problems at Walter Reed are further proof of the Democrats’ failed domestic policies—to wit, the civil service rules that prevent government employees from ever being fired. (A policy that also may account for Robert Byrd’s longevity as a U.S. senator.)

Thanks to the Democrats, government employees have the world’s most complicated set of job protection rules outside of the old East Germany. Oddly enough, this has not led to a dynamic workforce in the nation’s capital.

Noticeably, the problems at Walter Reed are not with the doctors or medical care. The problems are with basic maintenance at the facility.

Unless U.S. Army generals are supposed to be spraying fungicide on the walls and crawling under beds to set rattraps, the slovenly conditions at Walter Reed are not their fault. The military is nominally in charge of Walter Reed, but—because of civil service rules put into place by Democrats—the maintenance crew can’t be fired.

If the general ‘in charge’ can’t fire the people not doing their jobs, I don’t know why he is being held responsible for them not doing their jobs.

You will find the exact same problems anyplace market forces have been artificially removed by the government and there is a total absence of incentives, competition, effective oversight, cost controls and so on. It’s almost like a cause-and-effect thing.”

I won't join her and place blame solely on the Democrats because there have been plenty of Republicans who've supported - or failed to oppose - such civil service rules.

But if the real problem is the maintenance issue, as reported, will there be anyone bold enough or courageous enough to point out the inadequacies in the processes - or will this be just another political opportunity to bash your opponent and get prime media face time, with no real solutions as a result?





8 comments:

Progressive said...

I agree with you on this entirely. While Ann Coulter is certainly controversial, it doesn't always make her wrong. Indeed, I've heard accounts that she is actually very pleasant in person. She's a deadhead, she can't be that bad (see her website and jambands.com for more on this). But perhaps she stands for the proposition that anyone who chooses to make a buck by being outrageous can do so, and I think she's done a hell of a job making that point.

That said, I tend to agree with your proposition, Maggie, that it is just as outrageous to blame one particularly person or organization for the problems at Walter Reed. In my opinion, it takes a long time for these conditions to develop. I would imagine this lack of attention goes back to the late 80's.

- Kurt

Rusty said...

The problem is that the Bush administration started a war with significant major casualties and failed to provide resources for downstream medical care and disability determinations.

The phrase "failed to provide resources" seems a common theme in this administration.

Blaming anyone at WR is mendacious at an extreme level.

On a related note, the Special Inspector General seems to think the administration threw away $10B or so in Iraq reconstrustion funds. Anyone remember Senator Dirksen's quote?

Conservatives who worship the likes of Ann Coulter are devaluing conservatism.

Maggie Thurber said...

Rusty - I haven't seen anyone here worshipping Coulter...

Rusty said...

Maybe worship is too strong a word, but one of the reason wer conservatives are in retreat is that too many give credibility to Ann Coulter, Michael Savage, Rush Limbaugh, and etc. who are immensely entertaining but have little substance.

We have replaced William F. Buckley with Ann Coulter and Jonah Goldberg. No wonder we are in retreat.

Maggie Thurber said...

Well, Rusty, I understand your point, but I wouldn't use the term "we" - rather "some" conservatives.

And I'd take Jonah Goldberg over Arlen Specter any day...

I guess I'm at a point where I can read/listen to these people and value the good points they make without believing that everything they say is gospel or that they're saying things in the best of manners.

And there are a limited number of Republicans who I believe can talk authoritatively about conservative philosophy...but that doesn't mean I ignore good points made by others.

Rusty said...

On a more substantive point, if the GOP doesn't like civil service rules they had from 2001-2006 to eliminate those rules, and did not.

So if the GOP and/or conservatives don't take care of business, who should complain.

The Bush administration is inept and incompetent. An embarassment to conservatives.

Maggie Thurber said...

Rusty - I've allowed this post, but you're pushing it when it comes to bashing a person instead of discussing the point.

I agree that the elected Republicans haven't been as conservative as I'd like and they've done some things that do not reflect the core values of the Republican Party. I think that's part (maybe most) of the reason they lost the majority.

However, you seem to want to bash the President - I blame them ALL.

Hooda Thunkit said...

As was said before, there is PLENTY of blame to go around on this one, irrespective of party affiliation.

And, the practices that led to this neglect of duty took years to develop, maybe decades...

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