DHA Turns 9: 'Now Fully Responsible for Health Care Delivery' in DOD
Defense Health Agency celebrates its 9th year; continues to grow military medical mission.
A ninth anniversary for a military organization may not be filled with as much fanfare as a 10th or a 20th. But when the Defense Health Agency turned nine on Oct. 1, it marked the occasion that the agency has grown to be “now fully responsible for health care delivery in the Department of Defense,” said U.S. Army Lt. Gen. (Dr.) Ronald Place, DHA director.
He’s referring to the four-year process to transition more than 700 military medical and dental facilities from the individual military services to the DHA, which started in October 2018 with stateside hospitals and clinics and finishes this month after establishing overseas Defense Health Agency Regions in Europe and the Indo-Pacific.
During a ceremony on Sept. 30 to celebrate the DHA’s ninth birthday, Place said the DHA is now responsible and accountable for operating military medical facilities “ … anywhere (and) everywhere where we have fixed facilities—worldwide, here in the U.S. and every overseas location, every hospital and every clinic, medical or dental, and for every patient encounter with every private sector provider.”
[Watch the DHA’s ninth anniversary ceremony and listen to Place’s complete remarks.]
DHA was created in 2013 as a joint combat support agency that enables the military to provide a medically ready force and a ready medical force, both on and off the battlefield.
In 2016, the DHA grew its responsibilities, by federal law and by order of the U.S. Secretary of Defense, to directly manage all military hospitals and clinics and serve as the single DOD agency to integrate military health care with the TRICARE network of providers around the world.
“It’s an enormous responsibility … the process by which we declare our medical teams ready to care for patients, the way we set the guidelines for delivering care, how we evaluate the quality of care, how we investigate when things go wrong, and how we improve a little bit every single day,” Place said.
At the ceremony, DHA was also honored with the Joint Meritorious Unit Award for Excellence by the U.S. Secretary of Defense for its work during the first months of the global COVID-19 pandemic, from January 2020 through October 2020.
The award citation recognized that DHA “flawlessly executed its combat support role, synergistically leading the Military Health System, providing adaptive planning and execution for all disease synchronization efforts across the Military Health System and the military departments in response to the 2019 coronavirus disease pandemic.”
The citation also noted the agency’s “exemplary performance” to mitigate the spread of the pandemic.
“The COVID-19 pandemic was an earth-altering event,” Place said. “And yet, you maintained the discipline to prepare the organization and establish the processes to take on the responsibilities that we have now.”
Reflecting on the past two and a half years, Place said that through all the change, “one thing has stayed the same, and that is that we, the Defense Health Agency, (are) a combat support agency, with emphasis on the word ‘support.’”
After celebrating nine years, DHA continues looking to the future. “The fact that our transition is now largely complete only means that our support role is even more explicit and our accountability clearer. We need to show that the organizations who are counting on us can see the value of an integrated approach to help them accomplish their missions, that we move with agility, that we make good decisions more quickly,” Place said.
With a global workforce of more than 100,000 military personnel and civil servants, the DHA continues to grow. It is currently completing the initial steps to transition DOD public health and medical research and development community organizations to the agency.
This adds to the military medical enterprise services DHA already manages, which include the TRICARE Health Plan, pharmacy, health information technology, medical logistics, research and acquisition, education and training, facility management, and budget resource management and contracting.
“You should be immensely proud of what you have accomplished as a team,” Place said.
As part of the commemorative events, Place and U.S. Army Command Sgt. Major Michael Gragg, the DHA’s senior enlisted leader, laid a wreath at the Tomb of Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery on Oct. 1 to honor those who have fallen in defense of the United States and to renew the agency’s commitment to eradicate preventable deaths across the MHS.
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