US military to eliminate 17,000+ medical jobs over next few years

The U.S. military is reportedly finalizing plans to eliminate more than 17,000 uniformed medical professionals, including physicians, dentists, nurses and other healthcare professionals — a roughly 13 percent cut to its medical workforce, Stars & Stripes reports.

Five things to know:

1. Senior officials told the publication roughly 7,300 service members from the Army medical staff and roughly 5,300 service members from both the Navy and the Air Force will be cut from the military's combined 130,000-person medical force during the next few years.

2. Officials said the reduction in workforce will also lead those billets to be repurposed as warfighters or combat-support skills to increase the lethality and size of operational units, and to deepen the workload of the remaining medical staff at base hospitals and clinics to strengthen their wartime medical skills, the report states. Navy documents obtained by the publication indicate the cuts will also result in an "expected total savings of $1.14 billion" from its uniformed medical "end-strength divestiture."

"Part of this drill is to realign our people to the appropriate level of workload so that their skills, both for battlefield care and for beneficiary care, improve," said one Defense Department official told Stars & Stripes.

3. While senior officials discussed the reasons for the cuts, they declined to confirm exact figures to Stars & Stripes, as those numbers will not be made official until the fiscal year 2020 defense budget is approved by the White House and sent to Congress in February. If both branches approve the budget, the reductions will begin to take effect in fiscal year 2021.

4. The workforce cuts come amid the other changes to military medicine. Control of all medical facilities is being transferred to the Defense Health Agency, and the three branches of military medicine are being consolidated to streamline operations and cut support costs, amid other goals.

5. Military officials said the staff cuts will also result in a change in the provider mix delivering care, leading more families to obtain care off base, the report states.

"We will expect to see an increase in certain skill sets [and] a decrease in other skill sets. More trauma surgeons, fewer pediatricians, for example. Those kinds of changes are right at the heart of what Congress has directed us to do," said one military official told the publication.

To access the full report, click here.

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