The transfer of the administration of the military department’s medical treatment facilities to the Defense Health Agency (DHA) is intended to cut costs and staffing, but the Pentagon’s lack of a clear plan for trimming headquarters-level personnel could jeopardize its ability to achieve expected savings, according to a new report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). DOD’s stated goal is to reduce headquarters-level personnel, including contractor personnel, by 10 percent by 2021. The department’s June 2018 implementation plan, however, states that DHA will experience personnel growth during each phase of the transition. The plan does not provide details as to how DOD will cut headquarters-level personnel while the agency experiences personnel growth, according to the report.
GAO also found DOD excluded 16 operational readiness and installation-specific medical functions from consideration for transfer to the new agency. DOD did not assess the potential impact of excluding those functions, which include dental care, substance abuse and occupational health, the report said.
“Until DOD takes action to resolve these two weaknesses, DOD will likely not be well positioned to reduce or better manage duplication and improve efficiencies, including reducing headquarters-level personnel across the Military Health System,” concluded GAO. DOD concurred with GAO’s recommendations that it define and analyze the 16 operational readiness and installation-specific medical functions for duplication, validate headquarters-level personnel requirements and identify the least costly mix of personnel.
Navy photo by Jacob Sippel