DOD announces new military health system governance plan

Deputy Defense secretary Gordon England approved a new conceptual framework for governance and management of the military health system on Nov. 27, the Defense Department announced today.

The concept creates joint oversight and leadership of several key functional areas ' education and training, medical research, health care delivery in major U.S. markets and critical shared services ' across the health system.

This new approach is intended to streamline operations, create greater efficiencies and cost savings, improve coordination of medical services, improve support to warfighters, leverage better medical research, and create greater oneness and standardization in training military medical personnel.

The new framework is in response to departmental direction that the undersecretary of Defense for personnel and readiness, Joint Staff and military services work together to improve management performance and efficiency of the military health system.

'The approved concept does not seek a total medical joint command structure, but concentrates on consolidating and unifying key functions and providing authorities needed to make decisions jointly to build a more effective organization,' England said.

The undersecretary of Defense for personnel and readiness, assistant secretary of Defense for health affairs, Joint Staff and surgeons general will identify details for the conceptual framework and then appoint a transition team to implement and align the new governance approach.

'With this decision, we will take important steps toward consolidation of administrative and management functions as well as strengthening joint decision-making authorities necessary to operate more effectively and efficiently,' said Dr. William Winkenwerder Jr., assistant secretary for health affairs.

'Command authority remains with the military services and combatant commands and the three surgeons general remain aligned with their services,' Winkenwerder emphasized. 'This far-reaching governance change represents the most significant realignment in military health system management since the 1991 actions to strengthen medical management, including establishment of the Defense health program.'

The transition and realignment is scheduled for completion by 2009.

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