More on Walter Reed from Government Executive:
During a Monday hearing to investigate widely publicized problems at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, lawmakers and Army officials placed partial blame on a public-private job competition that sapped the facility of workers, and on uncertainty about the slated closure of the center in the ongoing Base Realignment and Closure process.
Several lawmakers questioned whether it had been a mistake to outsource base operations support through a competition conducted under the Office of Management and Budget’s Circular A-76 rules. The Walter Reed competition began in January 2000 and went through numerous protests and appeals. The contractor selected to perform the work, Cape Canaveral, Fla.-based IAP Worldwide Services, finally took over operations on Feb. 4 of this year.
“We certainly could have done it better, and maybe we shouldn’t have done it at all,” said Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley, the head of the Army Medical Command and Walter Reed’s commander from 2002 to 2004, in response to a question from Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif.
Call it unfair to accuse this administration of not caring about the troops. Sure, everybody cares to some degree. There aren’t that many psychopaths on Earth. Let’s stipulate that the administration cares deeply, for all the good that has done. The problem is that people in important positions care about conservative ideology one degree more than literally anything else.
I will illustrate the point with a different example. Nobody would sensibly claim that the administration doesn’t care about Iraq. Quite the contrary. The president’s strongest supporters and his worst critics alike will tell you that nothing has mattered more than overthrowing Saddam Hussein. For better or worse (depending, natch, on who you ask) rebuilding the middle east via Iraq constitutes this administration’s signature issue and the fundamental test that will decide whether the Bush presidency is judged a success or a failure. In that sense Iraq is the ultimate test of whether there exists a policy so important and favored that its executors will choose pragmatic leadership over ideology.
Surprise! Ideology won.
After the fall of Saddam Hussein’s government in April 2003, the opportunity to participate in the U.S.-led effort to reconstruct Iraq attracted all manner of Americans — restless professionals, Arabic-speaking academics, development specialists and war-zone adventurers. But before they could go to Baghdad, they had to get past Jim O’Beirne’s office in the Pentagon.
To pass muster with O’Beirne, a political appointee who screens prospective political appointees for Defense Department posts, applicants didn’t need to be experts in the Middle East or in post-conflict reconstruction. What seemed most important was loyalty to the Bush administration.
O’Beirne’s staff posed blunt questions to some candidates about domestic politics: Did you vote for George W. Bush in 2000? Do you support the way the president is fighting the war on terror? Two people who sought jobs with the U.S. occupation authority said they were even asked their views on Roe v. Wade .
Many of those chosen by O’Beirne’s office to work for the Coalition Provisional Authority, which ran Iraq’s government from April 2003 to June 2004, lacked vital skills and experience. A 24-year-old who had never worked in finance — but had applied for a White House job — was sent to reopen Baghdad’s stock exchange. The daughter of a prominent neoconservative commentator and a recent graduate from an evangelical university for home-schooled children were tapped to manage Iraq’s $13 billion budget, even though they didn’t have a background in accounting.
Let this sink in for a moment. Iraq, the singular focus of this administration’s obsessive attention, was run in such a way as to practically guarantee failure. Successfully doing the job unambiguously ranked lower on the priority list than preserving the maximum possible ideological purity. Taking that into account, the question of whether the administration cares about rebuilding Iraq proved totally irrelevant. They obviously cared quite a lot. But one thing will always matter more.
Again. Recall the encounter that spawned the term reality-based community.
The aide said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” … “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”
It’s the same story every time. Important figures in our government earnestly believe that they can override objective reality through force of will and use of force. This same victory of doctrine over responsible management ensured the eventual failure of Communism. At every point in the hierarchy bureaucrats who served the Party Doctrine earned greater rewards than civil servants who did the job swiftly and efficiently. Now, as the worst news day yet shudders to a close, it seems clear that our conservative movement has doomed itself to the same fate.