The Defense Department’s (DoD) most senior leadership faced the wrath of one of the House Appropriations Committee’s most senior members today over what Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., a former chairman of the committee, regards as slow progress toward the goal of efficiently linking electronic health records (EHR) systems used by DoD and the Veterans Affairs Department (VA).

DoD and VA, through contracts with healthcare IT supplier Cerner Corp., are working to link their systems, but the pace of the work is clearly not to Rep. Rogers liking.

At today’s hearing of the Appropriations Committee’s Defense Subcommittee, Rep. Rogers told Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that their predecessors had promised for ten years to efficiently link the two EHR systems, and had spent billions of dollars in as-yet unsuccessful efforts to do so.

“We are told it’s going to take another four or five years” to fix, Rep. Rogers said, adding, “I can’t believe we have not already solved this problem.”

Secretary Shanahan did not offer a detailed technical reply to the congressman, but pledged “I promise to do my best” to speed the EHR effort.

“Mr. Secretary, we are going to hold your feet to the fire,” Rep. Rogers promised. “Get it done, it’s time, it’s past time … It’s not going to take another ten years, or another four years,” he said.

“We are spinning a lot of plates, but we won’t drop the ball” on the EHR effort, Shanahan said.

Elsewhere at today’s hearing, Shanahan told subcommittee members that DoD is planning on organizing a “space day” event on Capitol Hill so that agency officials can meet with lawmakers and congressional staff to further explain the Trump administration’s push to establish a Space Force as the sixth branch of the U.S. Armed Forces.

President Trump issued a directive in February ordering the Secretary of Defense to create a legislative proposal that, if approved  by Congress, would establish the Space Force as a separate branch.

Shanahan said today that the planned presentation on Capitol Hill would feature less of the military jargon than is typically used to describe DoD activities.

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MeriTalk Staff