WASHINGTON - Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey abruptly stepped down Friday as the Bush administration struggled to cope with the fallout from a scandal over substandard conditions for wounded Iraq soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
The surprise move came one day after Harvey fired the two-star general in charge of the medical center in response to disclosures of problems at the hospital compound.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Harvey had resigned. But senior defense officials speaking on condition of anonymity said Gates had asked Harvey to leave. Gates was displeased that Harvey, after firing Maj. Gen. George Weightman as the head of Walter Reed, chose to name as Weightman's temporary replacement another general whose role in the controversy was still in question.
"I am disappointed that some in the Army have not adequately appreciated the seriousness of the situation pertaining to outpatient care at Walter Reed," Gates said in the Pentagon briefing room. He took no questions from reporters.
Gates said a permanent replacement for Weightman would be announced by the Army later Friday.
Harvey has been the Army secretary since November 2004. Gates said Harvey will depart March 9. Gates said the Army under secretary, Pete Geren, will become acting secretary until President Bush nominates a permanent replacement.