Thursday, August 25, 2005



WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A military panel voted on Thursday to close the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, which has treated U.S. presidents and soldiers including Iraq-war casualties over nearly a century in the U.S. capital.

The Base Realignment and Closure Commission voted 8-0, with one abstention, to close the Walter Reed campus and combine its operations with the nearby Bethesda Naval Medical Center in Maryland.

The closure will affect 5,630 jobs, many of which will move to Bethesda and a new community hospital at Fort Belvoir in northern Virginia, and will cost nearly $1 billion.

Walter Reed was established in 1909 and has provided medical care for wounded U.S. soldiers since the first World War. It has treated 4,350 patients from Iraq since the war there began in 2003, including 1,214 battle casualties.

The facility has also treated U.S. presidents including Harry Truman, Ronald Reagan, and Dwight Eisenhower, who died there in 1969.

Members of Congress, Sir Winston Churchill, the former Shah of Iran and King Hussein of Jordan also received care at Walter Reed.

The nine-member commission, made up of a retired admiral and generals, former congressmen and other ex-government officials, is reviewing Pentagon recommendations for the first round of domestic base closures and cutbacks in a decade.

The plan aims to save tens of billions of dollars over 20 years and modernize the military to face new threats. Many of the actions involve combining noncombat operations of the Army, Navy, Air Force and reserves, such as medical care, supply and logistics and training.

Later on Thursday, the panel was due to consider Air Force closures, including Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota's second-largest employer, and Air National Guard cutbacks that have already drawn legal challenges from some states.

I don't know what this is about, but there certainly aren't less injuries.

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