The civilian in charge of the Defense Department's Office of Warrior Care Policy has resigned his position, effective March 29, the second official in that office to leave within the last two months.
"I have determined that I can most effectively continue this work in the private sector where I plan to dedicate myself to this deserving population," wrote John R. Campbell, deputy assistant secretary of defense for the office of warrior care policy, in a March 4 email to his employees. Campbell could not immediately be reached for comment.
Campbell's resignation follows the reassignment a month ago of his second-in-command, Philip Burdette, principal director in the warrior care policy office. Defense Department spokeswoman Cynthia Smith said the Pentagon's Office of Health Affairs, which oversees the warrior care policy office, "is realigning staff to cover important and ongoing work relative to the President's [Executive Order] on mental health."
Smith confirmed that Campbell has resigned. Donna Seymour has been appointed as acting principal director to replace Burdette for now. Previously, Seymour was principal director for the deputy assistant secretary of defense for civilian personnel policy.
"I personally think [Campbell's] heart has been in the right place," said one advocate familiar with wounded warrior programs.
Staff turnover and behind-the-scenes turmoil have roiled the Pentagon's personnel and readiness directorate for months. Burdette was the subject of at least one inspector general complaint filed in late 2011 alleging he was illegally placed in the position by Clifford Stanley, former undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, who himself resigned in October 2011 amid allegations of impropriety.
The IG complaint against Burdette also alleged he created a hostile work environment in the wounded warrior office and misused and abused contractor personnel, among other allegations. Smith said the investigation is ongoing and "it would inappropriate for me to comment." A spokeswoman for the DoD IG office said the office doesn't comment on investigations or investigative matters.
The advocate familiar with wounded warrior programs said that regardless of why Campbell is leaving, his departure is not a good sign for the personnel and readiness directorate.
"There's no way to put a good face on it," he said. "Under any scenario, the implications aren't good. … With these kinds of programs, where everyone has acknowledged there will be cutbacks and challenges, when you lose the leader, who's going to be the champion?"
Another source familiar with wounded warrior programs said although she believes Campbell cares about wounded warriors and their families, there seems to be a larger effort to dismantle the warrior care policy office over time.
"There hasn't been much oversight from that office anyway," she said. "I don't think the office was set up with the full amount of authority to drive change. It's not just DoD — it's also the culture of the services."
The office has undergone a number of changes over the last year and is now part of the Military Health System.
Smith denied that the office is being dismantled.