The AAMC joined over 20 health care and medical specialty organizations in a July 1 letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin regarding future medical staffing and Department of Defense (DOD) medical education and training.
The letter thanked Austin and President Joe Biden for the fiscal year (FY) 2023 president’s budget request announcing a one-year pause on military end strength divestitures and urged a pause to any future reductions or realignments in military medical billets, as well as a reevaluation of further closings of military treatment facilities.
The letter follows inclusion of language in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY 2022, which would prevent the DOD from realigning or reducing military medical personnel within one year of enactment, which the AAMC supported [refer to Washington Highlights, Oct. 8, 2021]. Additionally, the FY 2022 NDAA added billet validation requirements to the personnel estimates required of the DOD and required a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on the DOD analysis used to generate its medical billet estimates before workforce changes could be implemented.
In the letter to Austin, the AAMC and others urged the DOD to consider the existing stress on military medicine, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the mental health crisis, restraints on deployment and surge capacity, the effects on medical education and training, and the quality of care at military treatment facilities as they consider medical end strength requirements.
“While this ‘pause’ in reductions is welcome, the undersigned organizations are concerned that the service branches … are still planning to move forward with a substantial reduction in military medical end strength over the next several years which we feel does not align with the current state of our country’s health care system,” the letter stated. “Further, any proposals to eliminate [graduate medical education] and training programs, especially at the Uniformed Services University of the Health [Sciences], which help train and supply the [Military Health System] with expertly trained uniformed medical clinicians that provide needed care for our military servicemembers and their families, should be reconsidered.”
The House Armed Services Committee passed on June 23 by a vote of 57-1, its version of the FY 2023 NDAA (H.R. 7900), which modified language in the FY 2022 NDAA to require the GAO to provide preliminary observations on its medical billet reductions analyses by Dec. 27 and the full report by May 31, 2023.