Our evaluation was intended to assist the Department of Defense by ensuring the health and well-being of all personnel deployed during Operation United Assistance. The numerous endemic diseases of West Africa presented a force health protection threat to all deployed personnel. We examined the force health protection measures used to protect against malaria, yellow fever, food and water borne illnesses, Ebola virus disease, and other illnesses and injuries. Our evaluation also supported the Department of Defense’s efforts to maintain the public’s trust in preventing the inadvertent transmission of these diseases in the United States.
This report’s findings and recommendations will impact DoD’s future capability to respond to similar infectious disease epidemics.
We identified three findings:
First, the Department of Defense’s policies on the transportation and treatment of known or suspected highly contagious patients were incongruent with the capabilities that DoD created for Operation United A ssistance. T his d isconnect b etween policy and capability will place the training and sustainment of these capabilities at risk for future operational requirements.
Second, there are conflicting clinical laboratory requirements for the storage of blood products from patients who have been diagnosed with highly contagious September 30, 2015 diseases, such as Ebola virus. These conflicting requirements could jeopardize the hospital’s accreditation status with one or more of the U.S. laboratory-certifying agencies.
Third, we found an inequitable disbursement of family separation allowance for those Service members who were required to spend 21 days physically separated from their families following their deployment to Ebola virus endemic regions o f West A frica. I ndividuals w ho were r eturned t o their permanent station did not receive family separation allowance, while those who were not at their permanent station did receive the allowance.
We recommend the Department of Defense conduct a comprehensive requirements review to identify the enduring capabilities required to transport and treat highly contagious patients. We also recommend that the Department of Defense issue guidance that clarifies how clinical laboratories transfer or destroy patient samples that contain highly contagious diseases. Finally, we recommend that the Department of Defense take appropriate steps to address the inequitable disbursement of family separation allowance when unusual operational requirements prevent routine reintegration.
Management Comments and Our Response
We received comments from the Director, Defense Health Agency, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Military Personnel Policy, and the Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense f or Homeland D efense a nd G lobal S ecurity. T he Director, Defense Health Agency and the Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Global Security concurred with recommendations. The Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Military Personnel Policy non-concurred with the recommendation.
This report is a result of Project No. D2015-D00SPO-0080.000.