The U.S. military is about to begin construction on a new state-of-the-art medical facility in the Washington, D.C. suburbs.  VOA's Paula Wolfson reports President Bush officiated at the official ground-breaking ceremony.

The Army is shutting down its aging Walter Reed Hospital in the nation's capital - a historic facility that in recent months has been criticized for providing poor living conditions for wounded troops.

A major effort is underway to correct flaws at the aging Army medical center.  But this is only a short term solution.  Walter Reed is getting a new home.

"I am so excited to be here for what is a grand occasion.  This is a big deal, the breaking ground of a new joint medical facility for the men and women of our Armed Forces" said President Bush.

President Bush says this new facility that is to be completed by 2011, will provide state-of-the art care to all branches of the military by merging Walter Reed with the Navy's premier medical facility - Bethesda Naval Hospital.

The expanded compound will take on the Walter Reed name, and a new medical treatment, teaching, and research center will join the existing hospital on the Bethesda grounds.  It will include a four-story in-patient building and a six-story out-patient building.

The president says personnel from all branches of the military will work together at the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and share their expertise.

"At this new center, wounds will be healed, medical knowledge will be advanced, lives will be rebuilt.  And those who wear our nation's uniform will be reminded that they have the enduring gratitude of the American people," he said.

The new complex will also be in the same neighborhood as the U.S. government's main medical research facility - the National Institutes of Health.  President Bush predicts greater cooperation between civilian and military medical personnel with the promise of breakthroughs in health care that will benefit everyone, not only U.S. troops.