Readiness Associates

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Safe & Ready

Nation’s Military Health System must be ready for disasters

By Michael Boardman, CEO, Readiness Associates


The U.S. Department of Defense Military Health System, or MHS, includes 65 hospitals, 412 medical clinics and 414 dental clinics around the world that serve nearly 10 million active-duty personnel, military retirees and their families. MHS has a $50 billion budget and 137,000 employees whose mission is “to provide a medical benefit commensurate with the service and sacrifice” of their target population.

In 2017 alone, MHS had 106 million outpatient visits, 1 million patient admissions, 110,000 babies born in its facilities, and filled 119 million prescriptions.

According to the MHS website: The Military Health System (MHS) is one of America’s largest and most complex health care institutions, and the world’s preeminent military health care delivery operation. Our MHS saves lives on the battlefield, combats infectious disease around the world, and cares for 9.4 million beneficiaries in one of the nation’s largest health benefit plans.

The missions of the MHS are complex and interrelated:

  • To ensure America’s 1.4 million active duty and 331,000 reserve-component personnel are healthy so they can complete their national security missions.
  • To ensure that all active and reserve medical personnel in uniform are trained and ready to provide medical care in support of operational forces around the world.
  • To provide a medical benefit commensurate with the service and sacrifice of more than 9.4 million active duty personnel, military retirees and their families.

We are more than combat medicine. The MHS is a complex system that weaves together:

  • Health care delivery
  • Medical education
  • Public health
  • Private sector partnerships
  • Cutting edge medical research and development

In a May 28, 2014, memorandum ordering a review of the MHS, then Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel reminded DOD personnel about the importance of the service.

“Our Service members and their families deserve the highest quality health care possible wherever they are stationed or deployed,” Hagel wrote. “In recent years, the Department has made great improvements in our health care delivery system – nowhere more important than in improving trauma care, which has resulted in the highest ever survival rate from battlefield injuries.

“The Department must continue to provide the best available health care to our Service men and women, and their families, who have sacrificed so much on behalf of this Nation.”

Obviously, this sprawling enterprise must be as ready as any healthcare system in the world for the possibility that a natural or man-made disaster could affect its beneficiaries. Because its facilities are found in a variety of locations across the globe, they could face everything from cyberattacks to tsunamis.

Supporting the military’s efforts

Military medical facilities face a daunting task in keeping their vast array of employees and contractors trained with the latest protocols. They can augment their readiness by enlisting the support of emergency preparedness/response professionals, some of whom already have long experience working with government agencies.