The Congressionally directed Task Force on the Future of the Military Healthcare held its first public meeting Tuesday in Washington, D.C., and first on the agenda—Pentagon officials reprising last year’s arguments about adjusting Tricare fees. (Remember Congress only said “not now.”) The primary argument, per DOD, is that an increase in fees for military retirees would save an estimated $11.2 billion between Fiscal 2007 and 2011. David Chu, undersecretary of Defense for personnel and readiness, and William Winkenwerder Jr., assistant secretary of Defense for health affairs, explained—again—that costs have doubled in five years, from $19 billion in 2001 to $38 billion in 2006. By current reckoning, DOD is spending eight percent of its budget on healthcare; by 2015, DOD projects it will spend 12 percent, or $64 billion.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.