On 18 February 2007 the Washington Post began a series of articles chronicling problems at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The writers acknowledged that "the hospital is a place of scrubbed-down order and daily miracles, with medical advances saving more soldiers than ever." But saving lives and limbs was not the focus; rather, it was the failure of the military to provide follow-on care for wounded, ill, and injured service members. In that failure could be heard a shaming echo from the Vietnam War era.
By that year public disaffection with the so-called "global war on terror" was growing, and the increasingly visible impact on service members and their families was contributing to it. When I returned to the Pentagon in May 2009 the admonition "No more Walter Reeds" reflected a palpable concern for the souring mood in Congress over the potential impact on the morale and thus the sustainability of the all-volunteer force (AVF). Today, "Walter Reed" is a catch-all phrase for a situation that has nothing to do with saving lives and limbs. And the failure of follow-on care that attracts media attention is a symptom of an organic institutional dilemma.