By Vice Adm. Forrest Faison
U.S. Navy Surgeon General and Chief, U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery
Military medicine, including Navy Medicine, is undergoing some of the most significant changes we have seen in decades. From changes mandated by Congress, to Department of Defense-directed reforms, we have an opportunity to successfully navigate these changes and create an improved Navy Medicine to support our Navy and Marine Corps. In doing so, our focus will be on three major areas: the next fight, a renewed emphasis on readiness, and our new organization.
Focusing on the next fight
First, Navy Medicine is not a building, nor is it just peacetime health care. Our first responsibility is being ready to go and save lives where it counts, when it counts. We need to ensure we are preparing for the future and to be ready, as we have been in the past.
For the past 18 years, the heroic service and sacrifices of our hospital corpsmen, nurses and doctors on the battlefield have resulted in unprecedented combat survival rates. As we look to the future and the possibility of peer or near-peer adversaries, it will be a different fight and it is clear we cannot assume the same advantages we have enjoyed.
As the Navy and Marine Corps move toward more distributed operations, casualty care and survival may depend on the individual medical personnel on a ship or in a unit, potentially for extended periods of time. The readiness of every single member of the Navy Medicine team is paramount to combat survival in the future. Our focus will be on getting and keeping them ready.
Renewed emphasis on readiness
You may have heard about the transfer of management and administration of our military treatment facilities (MTFs) to the Defense Health Agency (DHA). These transfers are slated to occur in phases over the next several years. Phase one started last October and, for Navy, was the transfer of Naval Hospital Jacksonville and its branch clinics. So far, that transition is going well.
For beneficiaries, the bottom line is the transition of the MTFs to the DHA shouldn’t cause you to experience any significant changes. If you’re a patient at a Navy facility, you’ll still continue to receive high quality medical care.
As we transition MTFs to the DHA, we are, in parallel, standing up new commands, Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Commands (NMRTC), at each location.
Currently, our military medical personnel are assigned to platforms (such as a ship), but with duties at an MTF when not deployed, taking care of Sailors, Marines, their families and retirees. As the NMRTCs stand up across the enterprise, our military medical personnel will continue to be assigned to platforms, but with duty at the NMRTC. The goal is a command dedicated to tracking how our medical personnel develop and maintain operationally relevant skills and competencies – those useful on the battlefield.
Navy Medicine’s new organization
As Navy Medicine establishes these NMRTCs, we are also restructuring our headquarters – called the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery – and our regions, which are currently designed to manage Navy MTFs on the East and West Coasts, and all of our other subordinate commands around the globe. Navy Medicine East and West will be replaced by Medical Forces Atlantic and Pacific, respectively, and will focus exclusively on readiness for our Navy and Marine Corps. We are also exploring changes at our third “regional” command – Navy Medicine Education, Training and Logistics Command – to ensure continuity in our training and functional command missions.
As we undergo this transformation, I want to share three commitments that we will keep. First, we will continue to ensure our Sailors and Marines are medically ready for the fight tonight. Second, we are going to set the DHA up for success during and after transition – we cannot be successful if they are not successful. And finally, we will do right by all the members of our Navy Medicine family – both military and civilian – by keeping them fully informed as decisions are made and we move forward.
Change can be challenging and sometimes daunting. It can also be good if it provides new opportunities to do things better, refocus on priorities, make more of an impact and help those we are privileged to serve. Change is part of life. In medicine, we know this better than most because our profession is always changing, always improving, always moving forward. These changes are no different; we will fully seize those opportunities, and the military men and women we serve will be better for it.