Horoho: Army Medicine must be protected from sequestration
WASHINGTON (April 14, 2015) -- Sequestration would force "devastating reductions" on Army Medicine personnel and have dramatic impacts on medical readiness and capabilities, the Army's surgeon general told Congress, April 14.
The funding caps imposed by the 2011 Budget Control Act, also known as sequestration, would have a "significant, detrimental impact on our patients, our Families, and our medical team," Lt. Gen. Patricia D. Horoho said.
"Service members go into battle confident because Army Medicine, in concert with our sister services, goes with them," she told a House Appropriations Committee budget hearing on the defense health program.
"For the past 13 years, when wounded Service members on the battlefield heard the rotors of a Medevac helicopter, they believed they were going to survive," she said. "We must protect that system that gave them that confidence."
DRASTIC CUTS WOULD IMPACT EVERY PROGRAM
Sequestration would force the Army Medical Command to close in-patient and ambulatory surgical centers at a number of military treatment facilities, she said. That would jeopardize the Army's ready and deployable medical force.
"Devastating reductions to both civilian personnel and military end strength would impact every Army Medicine program," she said.
Army Medicine is still trying to fill vacant positions for highly skilled employees, two years after the furloughs and hiring freeze of 2013, she said.
"Reductions driven by sequestration would be devastating and very different than our current right-sizing to correctly align our medical capabilities," Horoho said.
The Army surgeon general made similar warnings about sequestration at a hearing last month to the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on defense.
THREAT TO READINESS
In her remarks, Horoho said the Army is a national leader in its programs for medicine, dentistry, research, education, training and public health. Viewing Army Medicine through the lens of a civilian health care system would be the wrong approach, she said.
"An ever-changing security environment demands that Army Medicine vigilantly maintains a medically ready force and a ready medical force," she said.
The Army's medical programs are linked to Soldiers and deployment readiness; Army hospitals are the health readiness platforms. That link to readiness sets Army medicine apart from the civilian health care system.
"Army Medicine provided the majority of the operational medicine and combat casualty care in Iraq and Afghanistan that led to 91 percent survivability rate for our wounded Service members," she said.
"Any radical departure from our combat-tested system would degrade readiness in an environment where the next deployment could be tomorrow," Horoho said.
ARMY MEDICINE ACCOMPLISHMENTS
Horoho began the hearing by paying tribute to "America's sons and daughters who are in harm's way.
"Over 141,000 Soldiers are deployed or forward stationed. Army Medicine has nearly 2,500 civilians and Soldiers deployed around the globe," she said.
She noted a year of "unprecedented challenges and accomplishments" for Army Medicine, including training every Soldier who deployed to West Africa for efforts to contain the Ebola outbreak.
Medical research teams from the Army Medical Research and Materiel Command were an important part of the effort, working with interagency partners on the ground in Liberia and developing "ground-breaking vaccines," she said.
In addition, the surgeon general said health readiness has been enhanced with the Performance Triad program that stresses good nutrition, proper sleep and exercise.
"Our Soldiers' health readiness remains our number-one priority. We added combat power back to the force by reducing the number of Soldiers who are non-available due to health reasons," she said.