Defense Health Agency Celebrates 10 Years of Mission Readiness: ‘We Make a Difference’ | 2023-10-25

By Ken Cornwell, MHS Communications

Image of U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Telita Crosland, director of the Defense Health Agency, poses with U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Billy Clay Jr.; Natalie Noland, DHA; U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Robert Camacho, U.S. Army Master Sgt. Roberto Jerome Jr., and U.S. Air Force Command Chief Master Sgt. Tanya Johnson, DHA senior enlisted leader.
The Defense Health Agency celebrated its 10th birthday as the nation’s only military medical combat support agency. U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Telita Crosland, director of the Defense Health Agency, poses with U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Billy Clay Jr.; Natalie Noland, DHA; U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Robert Camacho, U.S. Army Master Sgt. Roberto Jerome Jr., and U.S. Air Force Command Chief Master Sgt. Tanya Johnson, DHA senior enlisted leader, during an Oct 23, 2023 celebration Defense Health Headquarters in Falls Church, Virginia (Photo by: Robert Hammer).

The Defense Health Agency marked a decade in its commitment to support the nation by improving military health and building readiness—making extraordinary experiences ordinary and exceptional outcomes routine.

“While we are young, we are mighty. We are important, and we make a difference,” said U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Telita Crosland, the DHA’s fourth director, during an Oct. 23 ceremony to celebrate the agency’s 10th birthday at DHA headquarters in Falls Church, Virginia.

“It is an organization built on a legacy of greatness,” Crosland continued. “The agency started with a fairly defined mission set as a combat support agency and shared services, and in quick order expanded. We absolutely require the best and brightest you all represent.”

During the ceremony, U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Tanya Johnson, DHA’s senior enlisted leader, reflected on her pride in the DHA workforce. “I'm actually at 30 years [of service], but I have volunteered to stay longer. I'm excited by our plans for the future and by seeing what each and every one of you do every day.”

Supporting 9.6 Million Beneficiaries

The Department of Defense established the DHA on Oct 1, 2013, as one of eight combat support agencies supporting joint operating forces and combatant commands engaged in military operations around the world. 

DHA’s core mission as a joint, integrated combat support agency enables the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, and U.S. Air Force medical services to supply a medically ready force and ready medical force to combatant commands in both peacetime and wartime. .

The agency directs the execution of joint shared services, including the TRICARE health program; pharmacy operations; health information technology; medical logistics; facility management; research and development; education and training; public health; budget and resource management; and contracting. 

The most notable change to the agency’s mission occurred between Oct.1, 2018, and Oct. 1, 2022, when more than 700 military hospitals and clinics operated by the military departments formally transitioned to the DHA. 

After those organizational transitions, the DHA’s global workforce grew to more than 130,000 civilians and military healthcare professionals delivering care to 9.6 million service members, retirees, and family beneficiaries. This dedicated and inspired team of professionals is committed to medical excellence, healthcare improvement, and ensuring military personnel are ready to perform combat operations and humanitarian missions at home and abroad.

Most recently, on Oct. 1, 2023, the agency restructured the previous 20 military medical markets worldwide into nine Defense Health Networks. Every military hospital and clinic reports to one of these one networks, each led by a general or flag officer.

In its dedication to enhancing warfighter health, the DHA:

  • Oversees nine medical centers, 36 hospitals, 525 clinics, and 138 dental facilities with an operating budget of approximately $16.9 billion in fiscal year 2023. 
  • Manages the execution of the DOD’s $55.8 billion unified medical budget, which makes up approximately 7.2% of the overall DOD $773 billion budget.
  • Manages the DOD health plan, TRICARE, totaling $18.5 billion.
  • Operates an $11 billion-a-year medical supply chain that supplies close to 560,000 medical devices to the joint force.
  • Earned the Joint Meritorious Unit Award for Excellence by the U.S. Secretary of Defense for its work during the first months of the global COVID-19 pandemic, from Jan.- Oct. 2020.

History of Improving Health and Building Readiness

In recognition of its first decade as a combat support agency, the DHA published an interactive timeline commemorating its foundations.

While the DHA is still a young organization, its history can be traced back to the Continental Congress, which established the Medical Department of the Continental Army in 1776. This marked the beginning of organized medical support for the American military during the Revolutionary War. 

Other historical highlights include the establishment of the Army Medical Museum, now the National Museum of Health and Medicine, in 1862, a center for research in military medicine and surgery; the implementation of the Armed Services Blood Program in 1952 that went on to support all of the military’s blood product needs; and the advent of TRICARE in 1993, a health maintenance organization model of health care for active duty service members, retirees, and their families. 

Virtual Health Future for DHA

Crosland is furthering the evolution of the DHA with an ambitious vision to transition the DHA to a digital-first model of health care delivery centered on the patient.

To that end, Crosland and DHA senior leadership released a new DHA Strategic Plan for FY 2023-2028, guiding how the agency will provide a strong, integrated healthcare delivery system in support of the military departments, combatant commands, and beneficiaries.

The plan includes three priorities to guide DHA’s future advancements:

  • Enabling combat support to the joint force in competition, crisis, or conflict
  • Building a modernized, integrated, and resilient healthcare delivery system
  • Empowering dedicated and inspired teams of professionals driving military health’s next evolution

"To accomplish our mission, we must use the right tools, at the right place, at the right time, for the right reason," said Crosland upon the release of the strategic plan. "This includes scaling innovative workforce ideas with proven value across the agency."

“Thank you for what you do,” said Johnson addressing attendees. “I am so humbled to be able to be a part of your team and witness how we have evolved over the last several years. I cannot wait to see what you do next.”