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Gates reaffirms decision to close Walter Reed facility

WASHINGTON -- Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the aging hospital strongly criticized for inadequate care of wounded soldiers, should be closed as planned, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said yesterday.

Gates's conclusion, following a review of Walter Reed by an independent advisory group, counters the recommendation of some in Congress who have called for the Pentagon to reverse its 2005 decision to close the facility.

The review group, which presented a summary of its conclusions during a news conference with Gates, recommended that Walter Reed remain on a list of military facilities to be closed.

It also urged that a plan to move the hospital's functions to an expanded National Naval Medical Center at Bethesda, Md., be accelerated.

The group's central finding, released last month, was that money woes and Pentagon neglect were mainly to blame for shoddy outpatient conditions and bureaucratic delays at Walter Reed, the Army's premier medical center.

Gates said he saw little wisdom in pouring money into Walter Reed. "Far better to make an investment in brand new, 21st century facilities," Gates said.

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