Walter Reed and Bethesda Medical Centers Merging

One of the things I noticed when reading through the list of base closures and realignments earlier was that the Army’s venerable Walter Reed Medical Center was targeted for shutdown. Scott Koenig has the rest of the story:

Military medicine is undergoing a major administrative overhaul for this BRAC round, with all enlisted medical training to be consolidated at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio. Walter Reed Army Medical Center will essentially be closed, or “consolidated” on the grounds of the Bethesda National Naval Medical Center. The new, joint facility will be called Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

This consolidation is long overdue. Medicine is medicine, and there is ample room for crossover training amongst the different branches in the military. In Iraq today, doctors from the Army, Air Force, and Navy are all working side-by-side in joint facilities; it only makes sense for them to train and operate in the same manner back at home. The savings and benefits to the services should be obvious.

That also explains why Fort Sam is getting bigger. I agree with Scott’s assessment: This is an excellent, indeed. And keeping the Walter Reed name attached to what will surely be the military’s premier facility is a nice touch, too.

BRAC 2005: DoD Uses Process to Revamp Medical System (DefenseLink)

The major recommendation would establish the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on the grounds of the Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland. It also will create a brand-new 165-bed community hospital at Fort Belvoir, Va. If approved, this will cost around $1 billion, said Dr. (Lt. Gen.) George P. Taylor, Air Force surgeon general, who headed the joint cross-service group that worked on DoD’s medical BRAC recommendations.

Army, Navy and Air Force medical personnel will staff both facilities. The current hospitals – Walter Reed Army Medical Center and Bethesda – are separated by just seven miles. They are the primary receiving hospitals for casualties from Iraq and Afghanistan. “We believe the best way to do this is to place the facility on the Bethesda campus,” Taylor said.

In addition to housing the Walter Reed National Medical Center, the Bethesda campus will keep the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. The National Institutes of Health is also right across the street from the Bethesda facility. “The facility is able to accommodate the in-patient activities at this location,” Taylor said.

Part of this recommendation would close the Army’s Walter Reed campus in Washington, D.C., and Malcolm Grow Hospital at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., would close its in-patient facilities and become a large same-day surgery center.

“We know these types of joint medical facilities work,” Taylor said. “We have two of them today: Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany has been staffed by Army and Air Force for more than 10 years. If you go to Balad Hospital in Balad (Iraq), it is Army and Air Force run.”

Changes would take place in San Antonio also. The two big medical platforms there are Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston and the 59th Medical Wing’s Wilford Hall Medical Center at Lackland Air Force Base. Plans call for medical care to center at Brooke. It will become the San Antonio Regional Medical Center, and will be a jointly staffed, 425-bed center. At Lackland, BRAC recommends building a world-class outpatient and ambulatory surgery center. The trauma center at Lackland will close, and Brooke will expand to handle the need.

San Antonio also will become the hub for training enlisted medical technicians of all services. Currently, the Army trains at Sam Houston, but the Air Force trains medics at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, and sailors train at Great Lakes, Ill., San Diego, and Portsmouth, Va. “All enlisted specialty training would be done at Fort Sam Houston,” Taylor said. The approximate student load would be about 4,500.

Aerospace medicine research will move from Brooks City Base (the one-time Brooks Air Force Base) to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. The Navy’s Aeromedical Research Lab will move from Pensacola, Fla., to Wright-Patterson also.

The recommendations create six new centers of excellence for biomedical research, and all are joint. Assets will come from Navy, Air Force and Army locations to these new centers. They are the Joint Center of Excellence in Battlefield Health and Trauma at the Brooke Regional Medical Center, the Joint Center of Excellence in Infectious Disease Research at the Forest Glen Complex in Maryland, the Joint Center of Excellence for Aerospace Medicine Research at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, the Joint Center of Excellence in Regulated Medical Product Development and Acquisition at Fort Detrick, Md., the Joint Center of Excellence in Biomedical Defense Research at Fort Detrick, and the Joint Center of Excellence in Chemical, Biological Defense Research, Development and Acquisition at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.

Overall, the recommendations will cost $2.4 billion to build new facilities and capabilities. Once in place, the services will save $400 million per year, officials said.

Can simply purple suiting the medical personnel from all Services be far behind?

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. JACK ARMY says:

    what about purple suiting other branches as well? I mean, other CS and CSS MOS’s would be easy to merge and even some combat arms as well. The savings would be tremendous: recruiting, housing, training, weapons and equipment procurement and standardization… it goes on and on.

  2. jwbrown1969 says:

    It sounds like a wedding invitation

    Mr and Mrs Navy invite you to the wedding of their daughter Bethesda and Walter Reed, son of Mr and Mrs Army

  3. John Burgess says:

    I wonder how much of this is going to be a paper exercise–albeit one getting rid of redundancies–and how much will be actual phsycial closings?

    WR still has top-notch research facilities–not to mention the Military Medical Museum. Wouldn’t make much sense to close them for the sake of real estate values alone.

  4. anita haley says:

    Dear Walter Reed Hospital

    Visiting Senator Corzine’s office May 11, I was
    informed to arrange a tour of the “real facility”
    please send me a contact person and number
    thanks anita haley