DOD’s Top Doctor Calls Military Medicine a Joint Force
By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 7, 2013 As the second of two wars winds down in Afghanistan, today’s military health care has become an efficient joint force of active duty and reserve components, the Defense Department’s top health affairs official said here today at the Reserve Officers Association’s National Security Symposium.
Addressing reservists in the symposium’s medical seminar, Dr. Jonathan Woodson, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs and director of TRICARE Management Activity, told the audience he’s grateful for their collective work during the last 12 years in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
Medical reservists are talent-rich, available, proven to respond when called up, and do whatever needs to be done to accomplish the mission, he said.
The U.S. military medical system has no equal in the world, Woodson noted, adding that the active and reserve component force is prepared to work together as partners with NATO and other countries to respond to natural disasters and acts of terrorism.
After every major war, he emphasized, there’s a resetting and retooling on organizational strategy.
In the last 12 years, DOD has “thought differently,” especially in medicine as it became a joint and international force that produced medical standards, Woodson added. “Now, as we complete operations in Afghanistan, we have to figure out how to codify that … for the future,” he said. We’re working diligently with the services to define and develop what the future of military medicine looks like, and make it better and stronger.”
It’s clear it’s going to be very impressive and very relevant, Woodson said. “The services are … defining skills and knowledge and [identifying] the people who are the backbone of what we do,” he added.
As U.S. military troop strength downsizes from the war in Afghanistan, DOD is considering the proper balance between active-duty service members and reservists, and to optimize medical force readiness, Woodson said. Yet, while U.S. military medicine is the best in the world, some realities must be dealt with, he told the audience.
“We have to make sure that greater society understands the added value that we bring to the defense of this nation,” Woodson said. “Medicine, however, is expensive; there’s no doubt about it.”
Because of that, military medicine programs must be responsible and use systems that are effective and efficient for the future, he said. And with the collaboration among the services, medical methods and approaches will no longer be “service-unique.”
While military medicine looks at how to better standardize and integrate health care delivery at the local level, Woodson described a “signature change” regarding the magnitude of the changes in military medicine.
“On Oct. 1, we’re standing up the Defense Health Agency, which represents [DOD’s] interservice, joint administrative structure,” he said. The new agency will operate and oversee shared services, which will affect nearly all aspects of military medicine -- policy, research and development, medical logistics, health information technology, education and training, the management of TRICARE and its pharmacy programs, and the design and construction of medical facilities.
Woodson also emphasized the role of leadership to properly defend the nation. DOD’s top doctor said the department wants to hone the experiences of the last 12 years and what it takes to mobilize reservists and active duty, and return them to their communities.
“It’s important for us to cull those lessons learned, … the policies, programs and procedures, … so all of you effectively serve this nation,” he told the reservists. “The job could not have been done without you. You have become indispensable. Thank you for your courage, patriotism and sacrifice.”