U.S. Army Medical Department, Office of Medical History
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The Army Medical Department Civilian Corps:
A Legacy of Distinguished Service, Page 5

The Army Medical Department Civilian Corps: A Legacy of Distinguished Service

The Army Medical Department Civilian Corps: A Legacy of Distinguished Service, page 4

participate in off-post training courses. These policy innovations helped with recruitment and retention of AMEDD Civilian personnel, but other imminent changes would have the opposite effect.

In 1964, as the military situation in Vietnam was escalating and the United States contemplated a massive deployment of ground troops, Congress dealt government civilians a harsh blow with the Dual Compensation Act. This act, and the even more stringent Civil Service Reform Act of 1978, imposed heavy financial disincentives for military retirees wishing to continue serving as government civilian employees. In order to take a Federal Civil Service job after retiring from the military, the retiree would have to forfeit some or all of his retirement pay during the period of employment. Few military retirees were willing to give up their retirement pay when regular corporate jobs typically offered comparable pay without the financial penalties. At the same time, many college-age members of the American populace were disillusioned with the government because of resentment over the unpopular war in Vietnam. This left two potential sources of civilian employees—new college graduates and military retirees—virtually excluded from the hiring pool.

The end of the Vietnam War initiated a period of significant change in the Army, most evident in the AMEDD by a complete reorganization of the department in 1973. The keystone of this reorganization was the establishment of the US Army Health Services Command (HSC), a new organizational structure that consolidated command of medical centers, hospitals, non-divisional medical activities (MEDDACs), research facilities, and training sites throughout the continental United States (CONUS). Major General Spurgeon Neel was appointed as the commander of the new organization, charged with the daunting task of pulling dozens of disparate units together in the new organization.
Many of the people affected by the new organization were AMEDD civilians—over 22,000 belonged to HSC at the end of its first year, most of whom were brought into the command via “Mass Change” directives that moved employees of all CONUS medical activities to HSC on 1 July 1973. The mass change was implemented by Walter N. Howell, the first Civilian Personnel Director in HSC, who served in that position for only a few months before departing at the end of July. In addition to those civilians who transferred to HSC under the reorganization plan, additional civilian positions were added over the next few years as part of a vigorous “civilianization” program that converted thousands of jobs from military to civilian. The impetus for civilianization was two-fold: first, the Army was shrinking due to post-Vietnam strength reduction policies; and second, the end of conscription in 1973 meant that more and more military positions went unfilled due to military manpower shortages.

Civilian recruiting was almost as difficult as military recruiting for the Army in the early 1970s, and the embryonic Health Services Command was no exception. The new HSC Civilian Personnel Director, William R. Bruce, reported in March of 1974 that “with less than six months

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