The health of military personnel is critical to readiness and battlefield performance. The United States requires healthy soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen to fight and win wars. Systems and policies to promote the health of service members, therefore, are key national security functions as well as central personnel matters. Maintaining the health of each individual service member requires another personnel infrastructure—spanning uniformed service members, civilians, and contractors—to offer everything from nutritious meals to medical services.
Health care for service members is provided by one of the largest and most complex health systems in the world, with an imperative to offer high-quality, timely routine and emergency care, whether stateside or on deployment. In particular, the nation owes its service members the very best in battlefield medicine, from critical care at the site of injury through all trauma care services. All of these functions require highly trained and experienced personnel, who must be recruited and retained amid a complex, competitive, and expensive health care market.
Systems and policies to promote the health of service members are key national security functions as well as central personnel matters.
Health care is also an important component of military-personnel compensation. Like most other large U.S. employers, the military also offers health care benefits to the families of service members and to retirees. These benefits—which are among the most generous of any government or private-sector employer—help to attract and retain service members, especially those needed for longer careers who are difficult to replace. Health care and other efforts to promote the health of service members and their families comprise a substantial portion of the defense budget as a whole and of personnel compensation in particular.
Health care comprises a substantial portion of the defense budget as a whole and of personnel compensation.
In an era of scarce resources, the tradeoffs among efforts to promote health and wellness, the design of the military health care delivery system, and the various aspects of the military health care benefit—for service members, dependents, and retirees—have attracted intense scrutiny. Much is at stake, as the nation and military need these systems to perform at a high level in many respects. A high-performing Military Health System and a well-structured military health benefit are critical to ensuring readiness of service members in general, the readiness of the medical force in particular, and the adequacy of health care benefits to attract and retain service members, while also controlling the growth of costs for the system, which affects the availability of resources for other readiness and warfighting needs.
Department of Defense Task Force on Defense Personnel reports economy