The Future of Combat Casualty Care
Jul 26, 2021
To prepare for future combat operations, the Military Health System needs an agile, resilient, and global network of treatment facilities, storage sites for medical supplies, and transportation assets. It must also understand the implications for the U.S. health care system and the industrial base for medical supplies. Identifying gaps and risks is necessary to strengthening combat medical support in an evolving security environment.
Opportunities to Refine the Military Health System's Alignment with the National Defense Strategy
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The Military Health System (MHS), through its global network of facilities and providers, meets the health care needs of more than 9 million service members and their dependents during peacetime. It is also responsible for treating casualties during combat operations and in the aftermath of disasters and humanitarian crises. The 2018 National Defense Strategy emphasizes a need to prepare for future combat operations that could be distinctly different from those of the past few decades. The evolving security environment is characterized by precision missile strike capabilities and a risk that adversaries will target critical military infrastructure. These types of attacks could significantly degrade U.S. combat capabilities and significantly increase casualties.
There is a range of opportunities for the MHS to align its capabilities to address potential future threats. But to implement effective mitigation strategies, it requires an understanding of the numbers and types of casualties it can expect in a future combat operation, the capability and capacity to treat and evacuate casualties, the network of storage facilities and transportation assets to ensure access to medical supplies, the capacity and capabilities of the U.S. health care system overall, and gaps in the medical supply industrial base. A thorough analysis of these sources of risk highlights how the MHS can build a more agile and resilient medical support capability so that it can continue to provide the best care possible to the warfighter both at home and in combat.
The Challenges of Future Conflict Framed by the National Defense Strategy
Challenges to Combat Casualty Care in Future Combat Operations
Enhancing Care on the Future Battlefield
Enhancing the Global MHS Network of Medical Supply Caches
Improving the Resilience of Medical Logistics and Sustainment
Preparing Medical Support for Homeland Missions
Improving Casualty Support Through Enhanced Resilience in Medical Supply Chains
Recommendations and Policy Implications
An Overview of Triage Principles
Models for Analyzing Military Medical Support Postures
This research was sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense and conducted within the Forces and Resources Policy Center of the RAND National Security Research Division (NSRD).
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