New Ramstein-area Hospital Plans Being Reassessed

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Defense Department officials say they are reassessing plans for a new military hospital to replace Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. A recent congressional report found calculation errors, improper documentation and other problems with the department’s initial proposal.

The Pentagon is conducting an analysis as requested by Congress to ensure the project is “properly sized and scoped to meet current and projected healthcare requirements taking into account manpower decreases, economic conditions and feasibility of using more of the German healthcare network,” Pentagon spokeswoman Cynthia Smith said in an email.

“It would be inappropriate at this time to comment on the outcome of that study prior to its completion,” Smith said.

Smith did not say when the department expected to complete the study.

But the office of Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has been notified that the reassessment is complete “and that it should be ready to come to us in the next few weeks,” Kathleen Long, a spokeswoman for Levin’s office, said in an email Monday.

Smith also did not say whether the new analysis takes into account the planned troop reductions in Europe.

In January, DOD announced it would reduce the number of brigade combat teams in Europe to two from four. The units slated to go away are both based in Germany: the 170th Infantry Brigade in Baumholder and the 172nd Infantry Brigade, headquartered in Grafenwöhr.

At the time of the Government Accountability Office review, “DOD officials told us that they were in the process of assessing these proposed changes in posture to better understand their ramifications for DOD’s medical facility needs,” the GAO report says.

GAO found problems with the overall planning that went into the original hospital proposal, such as incomplete documentation of data sources, calculations and explanation of methods used to develop the cost estimate of $1.2 billion, according to the report.

“Without a cost estimate for the facility that includes detailed documentation, DOD cannot fully demonstrate that the proposed replacement medical center will provide adequate health care capacity at the current estimated cost,” says the report. “Further, DOD and Congress may not have the information they need to make fully informed decisions about the facility.”

Long said the GAO report “validated our request for more information on the overall cost and size of the hospital.”

Sen. Levin “remains open-minded to the final cost for the hospital,” she said. “Our goal has been to provide a replacement hospital that is correctly sized to the requirement.”

Congress last year directed the Pentagon to reassess its plan for the hospital and approved only $750 million in total funding, after some lawmakers questioned whether the proposed hospital was properly sized, given recent force posture reductions in the European theater and the winding down of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Pentagon had asked Congress for $1.2 billion to replace the aging LRMC, the U.S. military’s largest overseas hospital. Plans called for building a new combined Army hospital and Air Force medical clinic on a sprawling campus on Army grounds just east of Ramstein Air Base, after DOD opted not to replace or renovate the 1950s-era hospital at its current site in Landstuhl.

In comments included in the GAO report, Pentagon officials said GAO’s recommendations are included in the reassessment ordered by Congress.

DOD was awarded $71 million this fiscal year for the first phase of construction, money which will allow the department “to begin some site preparations as we address the concerns raised by the Congress,” Smith said in an email.

Die Rheinpfalz, the local newspaper, reported recently that tree clearing at the new hospital site, estimated to be about 31 acres, could start as early as October. Smith would not confirm any of the project details, citing the study.

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