By CAPT Marshall Hanson, USNR (Ret)
Director of Legislation and Naval Services
ROA met with professional staff members on the Senate Homeland Security Committee last week to discuss the need for a Selected Reserve for the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS). Establishing a Selected Reserve for USPHS has been a ROA legislative agenda item for a number of years. Click here to read ROA’s position paper on this topic.
The staffers shared with ROA that the Senate version of the National Health Care Plan includes a provision for a USPHS Ready Reserve. Sec. 5210 would establish a Ready Reserve Corps by replacing all mentions of the U.S. Public Health Service Reserve Corps with “Ready Reserve Corps.”
In addition, members of the Reserve Corps serving on active duty would be deemed to be members of the Regular Corps. The Ready Reserve Corps would address a number of specified needs for additional commissioned personnel to assist the Regular Corps on short notice, for both routine public health and emergency response missions. The section would authorize the appropriation, for each of FY2010 through FY2014, of $5 million for recruitment and training, and $12.5 million for the Ready Reserve Corps.
Earlier legislation was drafted, recommending a USPHS Selected Reserve during the Bush Administration, but this legislation was never approved for release by the Office of Budget and Management. Instead the Bush White House recommended a civilian volunteer Medical Reserve Corps, which would call up medical professionals during periods of disaster or pandemic.
Tested during Hurricane Katrina and Rita in 2005, the Medical Reserve Corps responded with mixed results. Published lessons learned indicated that many medical professionals became frustrated with the lack of support equipment, the lack of organization and communications, or the duration of deployment. Some even left the disaster sites, because as volunteers, there was no authority to keep them “on station.”
The Department of Homeland Security suggested to the Senate staffers that they might look into establishing a USPHS Selected Reserve. The USPHS is part of the Department of Health and Human Services. ROA is looking forward to working on this agenda item.