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Leadership blamed for shabby Army hospital building

Story Highlights

• Walter Reed building has mold, holes in walls, newspaper says
• Army secretary says top brass didn't know about problems
• "Action plan" being put in place to prevent recurrence
• Wounded troops from Iraq, Afghanistan wars treated at facility
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Army Secretary Francis Harvey blamed a failure of leadership for substandard conditions in a building that is part of Walter Reed Army Medical Center and vowed Tuesday to move quickly to fix the problem.

"We failed here, we failed in having a facility like this," Harvey told CNN. "Unfortunately, it's a leadership problem."

Inside Building 18, used for outpatients who suffered wounds in Iraq and Afghanistan, workers were repairing plumbing, covering holes in ceilings and repainting mold-covered walls. (Watch a tour of the run-down facility Video)

Harvey said he learned about the conditions in the building, a former hotel where some soldiers have been recuperating for more than a year and a half, on Sunday, when the Washington Post broke the story.

"If we would have known about this, we would have fixed it," he said. "Unfortunately, we didn't know about it."

The article, titled "The Other Walter Reed," said some outpatients at the facility include veterans who suffer from depression and were involved in overdoses and suicide attempts.

Walter Reed is the Army's top medical facility. It opened in 1901 in a single small building and now is a complex of structures with 28 acres of floor space.

The hospital can accommodate 250 patients and admits more than 14,000 a year. Thousands use its outpatient facilities daily.

President Bush has been seen visiting wounded troops at the hospital several times, and presidents often receive medical care there.

The Base Realignment and Closure Commission in 2005 recommended closing Walter Reed in 2010.

Harvey said an "action plan" was being put together "to ensure across the board that our soldiers are being taken care of with the highest quality medicine possible in the kind of facilities that provide a quality of life for the soldier that is equal to the quality of their service."

He added, "To have it in this condition is disappointing to me, unacceptable to me as the secretary of the Army, and we have a plan in place."

A former hotel that is part of Walter Reed Army Medical Center is in serious disrepair, the Washington Post reported Sunday.

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