Congress must not degrade military health care chain of command
The recent House Armed Services Committee (HASC) mark-up of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2017 included a section (702) that will transfer administrative control of all Military Treatment Facilities (MTFs) from the service surgeons general to the Defense Health Agency (DHA).
AUSA thinks this is a solution looking for a problem – it’s a really bad idea. DHA is immature; its full operational capability was reached on Oct. 1, 2015.
Also, it is not a unified command, and it is not prepared to take on this responsibility.
Without service command and control of their MTFs, readiness of medical personnel for their commands’ operational missions will suffer.
The new law would give DHA control of budgetary matters for the MTFs. Since DHA and the services will likely have different priorities, resources will be diverted from where the Army needs them most, and moved to where a bureaucratic agency wants them.
Decisions on what services to deliver at which MTFs should not be made on the basis of “business” criteria.
The MTFs are readiness platforms, and that should be the perspective through which decisions on specific services should be made. Those decisions involve far more than the cost of delivering the benefit.
This provision, if it becomes law, will jeopardize the execution of service Title 10 responsibilities and degrade operational readiness.
The realignment fragments authority, and divides accountability for quality, mission support and readiness.
The first premise of medicine’s Hippocratic Oath is: “First, do no harm.”
The legislative provision ignores this premise and tries to fix something that isn’t broken.
In fact, it would jeopardize a system that, over the last 15 years of war, has performed magnificently in saving lives on the battlefield – lives would have been lost in previous conflicts.
AUSA strongly opposes this NDAA provision.
The Association of the U.S. Army has begun its advocacy efforts in the House of Representatives, meeting with members and staff on the House Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee and with the staff director of the full committee.
We are reaching out to other military service associations to build an alliance to oppose the measure.
AUSA is also contacting staff of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) to try to influence their mark in early May.
However, by the time you read this, the SASC will have marked its bill.
The next step is for the House and the Senate to each pass their separate bills, and then hold a conference to come up with the final bill that can pass both bodies.
That conference could be as early as September, or as late as December, so we will continue to fight.
Our legislators must be educated to understand that this provision will do real damage to our military health care system and the professionals delivering care in our MTFs.
Moreover, it will place the lives of wounded soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines at greater risk.
Don’t let Congress degrade the readiness of our warfighters or the medical force that cares for them.
Write or call your Congressman and Senators and let them know that this is a bad idea.
AUSA Government Affairs