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American Forces Press Service

New Defense Health Headquarters Opens in Virginia

By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service

FALLS CHURCH, Va., Sept. 18, 2012 – Top leaders in Army, Navy and Air Force medicine are now housed under one roof for the first time to direct the future of military medicine to stay relevant, strong and effective for service members in harm's way, the Defense Department’s top health affairs official said here today as the new Defense Health Headquarters officially opened.

Dr. Jonathan Woodson, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs and director of TRICARE Management Activity, spoke at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new headquarters, a product of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Act.

"Today signifies a beginning, and not an end," Woodson said. "Today is about a promise we make to the men and women who serve, the American people and to the U.S. Congress that we are committed to be the [best] military medical force going into the future."

The BRAC move put medical people and organizations physically together, which has benefits that are not necessarily captured on organizational charts, he said, adding that Congress knew there would be a greater return on the investment as time marched along.

"For decades, we worked effectively together on all of the issues that affect military medicine," he said. "So we are not fixing something that is broken -- we are strengthening our system for the future."

The move of key military medical personnel into one building will bring a new era between the services -- a joint approach and enterprise decision making, which is important to make the U.S. military better in the future and to have a medically ready force, Woodson said. "There's nothing that can replace face-to-face conversation," he added.

"The [Base Realignment and Closure Commission] understood that we have a shared mission and a shared vision, Woodson said. “They understood that patient care and the responsibilities for overseeing that care cannot be finely sliced and put into organizational boxes. There are many overlapping lines, … especially as we've seen in the last 10 years of war. We stood shoulder to shoulder delivering that care on the battlefield.”

The new facility is important to readiness because the Defense Department needs more enterprise solutions for a medically ready force. "We need approaches to mental and physical health and conditioning,” he added, “so this allows us to develop uniform policy around being medically ready."

Another component to being medically ready in theater involves providing a skilled medical workforce to be on land, sea and in the air to deliver on the promise of care, he said.

"This also allows for the efficient planning of medical training platforms that are so important, particularly in an era where the training is technologically dependent,” he said.

The years ahead are going to be different, Woodson said. "We are expected to be more agile and efficient, with a more joint and enterprise focus in how we reach and implement decisions. The Congress, the services and the American taxpayers demand it of us."

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