Reforms for Military Hospitals Vital to Readiness

The Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission recommended the Defense Department create a “joint readiness command,” in order to preserve critical medical skills gained in combat medicine since 2001 and to ensure there are no disconnects between peacetime military treatment facilities requirements and wartime needs. The command also would help the 56 military hospitals and centers and 360 outpatient facilities around the world be better prepared for future conflicts, commission members told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday. The MTFs must preserve core health and casualty care, and provide a trained cadre for both contingency operations and for wounded service members returning to home garrison. But there is no Joint Staff-level focus on aligning Active Duty medical requirements with combatant commander demands. Doctors in some cases do not have the appropriate experience needed to preserve readiness in peacetime, Commissioner Peter Chiarelli, the former Army vice chief of staff, told Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.). Doctors need to treat patients in hospitals back home, but they also need to deploy at a moment’s notice and provide “day-one treatment anywhere,” Chiarelli said. “That’s one reason why we look so strongly at a readiness command,” he said. “There has to be someone keeping an eye on this system, to keep those MTFs a viable training ground for our personnel.”