WASHINGTON — The Pentagon official in charge of the wounded warrior program said Sunday he has been forced to resign, as the military continues to struggle with how best to care for troops injured in combat.
Noel Koch said in an e-mail that he was asked to step down by Clifford Stanley, the undersecretary of defense for personnel. Koch had been serving as the deputy undersecretary of defense for wounded warrior care and transition policy.
Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said Defense Secretary Robert Gates had asked Stanley to do a full review of the Pentagon's personnel and readiness office. He said this is not the first nor the last change to take place.
"He was given wide latitude to make needed changes so that our men and women in uniform are better served," said Morrell. "What you're seeing is that the overhaul of that vitally important office is under way."
Koch said he believes the decision was unjust and that he resigned "under duress" after Stanley told him he had no confidence in him. The Pentagon had no comment.
"No explanation was given, although I pressed for one," he said. "No prior indication of dissatisfaction with the work of this office was cited."
Koch said the wounded warrior program has done good work during the past 11 months since his appointment to lead the new office.
Nearly nine years of war, in Afghanistan and Iraq, has physically, mentally and emotionally battered the military, sending thousands home with severe injuries and spawning spikes in suicides and post-traumatic stress issues.
Officials have scrambled to set up transition units to help wounded troops recover and return to society or even the military, but the flood of patients and the complexities of their injuries have often overwhelmed the system.
On the Net:
Defense Department: http://www.defenselink.mil