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The challenges facing the U.S. military at home and abroad have highlighted the need for officers, including health care officers, who are educated and trained in joint matters and prepared to take on the new roles and responsibilities demanded by the current environment. This research, part of a larger project examining the preparation and support of leaders in the medical field in the civilian and military sectors, evaluates the need for and feasibility of qualifying health care officers as “joint” officers. Traditionally, officers could attain joint qualification by attending joint professional military education courses and serving in billets that provide them with joint duty experience and are included on the Joint Duty Assignment List (JDAL). New policy states that officers can also receive this experience in non-JDAL billets. However, both the traditional and current policies preclude the inclusion of certain positions, particularly health care officer positions, on the JDAL and allow waivers on a case-by-case basis from the joint requirement for promotion to general or flag officer positions. In addition to an extensive policy review, the study included an assessment of data from the 2005 Joint Officer Management Census survey suggesting that some health care officers are indeed serving in billets that need and provide joint duty experience for which they should receive credit.

The research described in this report was prepared for the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD). The research was conducted in the RAND National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center sponsored by the OSD, the Joint Staff, the Unified Combatant Commands, the Department of the Navy, the Marine Corps, the defense agencies, and the defense Intelligence Community.

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