New Defense Health Agency Director Will Face Big Challenges in Military Medicine

New Defense Health Agency Director Will Face Big Challenges in Military Medicine
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christine Groening) Army Lt. Gen. Ronald Place is now in charge of the Defense Health Agency.

There is new leadership at the helm of the Defense Health Agency, and the three-star will play a pivotal role as military health looks to shutter facilities and cut billets.

MOAA attended the change of responsibility ceremony Sept. 3 when Navy Vice Adm. Raquel Bono relinquished command of the DHA to Army Maj. Gen. Ronald Place.  Bono retired in a ceremony later that same day, just as Place was promoted to lieutenant general at the Pentagon. 

Lt. Gen. Place’s plate will be full as he faces a host of challenges.  The biggest are the incorporation of all military treatment facilities from the services into the DHA, sorting out the right-sizing efforts of the services, which includes the potential of large military medical personnel reductions, and the administration of the TRICARE health plan managed care support contracts. As he notes:

“The DHA, like the [Military Health System], is in the midst of unprecedented change. Health care is always changing, but it’s our people that make the difference,” Place said via Twitter @DHADirector. “We must be flexible and agile to successfully navigate these changes together.”

[TAKE ACTION: Send a letter to Congress, asking them to stop cuts to medical billets.]

This is a heavy lift and we support his efforts for success as he advances the biggest reforms to the military health system in decades.  But we will also continue to engage and press for improvements to the TRICARE program and will communicate beneficiary concerns, which we feel need to be addressed. Our hope is that along with readiness, one of his main priorities will continue to be the care of beneficiaries.

“My goal is to ensure that everything we do improves the health of our patients and we—the DHA team—are fulfilled in our jobs and mission,” Place said. “Together, we will achieve great outcomes, a ready medical force and truly satisfied patients.”

Place, who is a surgeon by training, has the background and experience to face the challenges that await. His bio indicates he has had significant leadership responsibilities as chief of surgery att Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, in  Germany, and at Madigan Army Medical Center, in Washington state, as the deputy commander for clinical services and principal deputy commander. He also commanded the medical activities at Fort Knox, Ky., and Fort Stewart, Ga.

As we start our fall meetings with the DHA and forge our relationship with Lt. Gen. Place, we are continuing our fight to pause nearly 18,000 medical billet cuts until the Defense Department can show their plan and analyses for such drastic reductions. You can help by sending a letter to Congress, seeing the inclusion of important language in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act that would put these cuts on hold.

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About the Author

Capt. Kathryn M. Beasley, USN (Ret), is a former director of health affairs for MOAA Government Relations.