Cost-Saving Plan to Unify Military Medical Services on Hold

Gregg Zoroya | USA Today | January 31, 2012

An idea to unify the medical operations of the Army, Navy and Air Force that researchers say could save a half-billion dollars a year has been shelved at a time when the military is trying to cut nearly half a trillion dollars from its budget. The proposal by the Defense Department was put on hold for a year by the Senate Armed Services Committee so its costs and impact could be studied further.

Dr. Jonathan Woodson, assistant secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, said the unification would reduce duplication and increase efficiencies in research and development, logistics, accounting, information technology, budget management and hospital operations. "We were close," Woodson said of the proposal.

Military health care spending, driven by medical and psychological wounds from a decade of war, is one of the fastest growing areas of the Defense budget, accounting for 10% of spending. It has gone from $19 billion in 2001 to $53 billion this year.