No Need for Medic Draft, Health Affairs Chief Says
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 20, 2004 DoD's top medical official said today there is no need for a contingency plan study on drafting medical personnel.
The Selective Service System is studying various iterations of a draft, but is doing so only because a 1987 law requires it, said Dr. William Winkenwerder Jr., the assistant secretary of defense for health affairs.
Winkenwerder got involved after news stories surfaced about the Selective Service studying a draft of medical personnel. The doctor said the contingency plan study was not taken at his direction nor at the direction of anyone in DoD.
"There is no need for such a contingency plan," he said. "The military health system today is ready, capable and flexible, and has an incredible amount of capacity."
DoD also has more than 130,000 skilled, trained medical personnel in the active-duty medical system. He said there are "many tens of thousands" skilled medical professionals in the reserve components. DoD has 75 hospitals and 450 clinics worldwide.
When Congress passed the 1987 law, the Tricare health system, in which today 216,000 civilian physicians participate, was not around. In 1987, DoD and the Department of Veterans Affairs health programs were not as closely linked; today VA hospitals provide the department with additional capacity. In 1987, the computer technology breakthroughs available today were not ready for prime time, and they now help pharmacists, for example, to dispense drugs widely and quickly.
"From my perspective, the planning assumptions for that law are way outdated," Winkenwerder said. "In summary, the military health system has performed superbly in support of our men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan all around the world. There is no need for such a contingency plan."
Earlier today on a San Antonio radio station, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said DoD has not requested a draft, nor will the department request that authority.
Rumsfeld called stories surfacing about a draft "a mischievous political effort that's being made to frighten young men and women."
"The truth is we do not need a draft," he stated.