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Network of researchers advancing warfighter readiness

Air Force Maj. Gen. Lee Payne, the assistant director for Combat Support at DHA, delivered the keynote address at the Global Emerging Infections Surveillance Scientific and Programmatic Advancement Meeting, GSPAM. He emphasized the importance of Force Health Protection measures and linked the GEIS mission to DHA’s combat support mission. (DoD photo) Air Force Maj. Gen. Lee Payne, the assistant director for Combat Support at DHA, delivered the keynote address at the Global Emerging Infections Surveillance Scientific and Programmatic Advancement Meeting, GSPAM. He emphasized the importance of Force Health Protection measures and linked the GEIS mission to DHA’s combat support mission. (DoD photo)

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Air Force Maj. Gen. Lee Payne, the assistant director for Combat Support at DHA, delivered the keynote address at the Global Emerging Infections Surveillance Scientific and Programmatic Advancement Meeting, GSPAM. He emphasized the importance of Force Health Protection measures and linked the GEIS mission to DHA’s combat support mission. “The DHA’s health surveillance-funded initiatives are vast and contribute significantly to operational readiness. Each of these health surveillance capabilities is part and parcel to the DHA’s combat support mission – they provide unique resources and information to the operational setting that, in lockstep with the Services and the Joint Staff, make our warfighters better prepared, better protected, and better cared for,” said Payne.

The two-day meeting themed, “Advancing Harmonization across the GEIS Network,” sought to improve reporting consistency among partner laboratories, share initiatives, and discuss new and emerging technologies. In fiscal year 2020, GEIS awarded approximately $60 million to more than 20 DoD laboratories and U.S. government partners around the world to conduct infectious disease surveillance activities. This funding allowed the Service laboratories and other partners to work with host nations and regional partners to conduct infectious disease surveillance and outbreak response to support FHP, readiness, and combat global health threats as a matter of national security.

AFHSB Chief, Army Col. Douglas Badzik, encouraged attendees to unify their efforts and continue to show value in the work that they provide to the Geographic Combatant Commands through the Defense Health Agency’s role as a combat support agency.

“DHA is a combat support agency and we cannot lose sight of this function in addition to our other priorities. With the changes that have occurred over the last four years in GEIS, we are now driven by the needs of the Geographic Combatant Commands,”said Badzik, as he encouraged the group to continue to look for opportunities to show value. “I’m a huge believer in what you do as a group within the GEIS program. The work that is being done at the Service laboratories contributes to global situational awareness and to the combatant command’s ability to make decisions that inform readiness, force health protection, and increase lethality.”

GEIS Chief, Navy Capt. Guillermo Pimentel provided a high-level overview of the GEIS program and reinforced the need for GEIS-funded activities to result in timely, actionable and valuable information to FHP decision makers.  His presentation identified critical opportunities to increase the speed and relevancy of infectious disease surveillance information to key platforms across the Joint, Interagency, Intergovernmental and Multinational partnership. Pimentel noted that the goal is to develop products that provide the greatest value possible to stakeholders. 

Mr. Sean Friendly presented an overview of the strategic environment in which the GEIS Network operates and provided the context for GEIS partners to understand the needs of the GEIS Network’s primary customer – the Geographic Combatant Commands.  This presentation reinforced the network’s end-state, which is globally integrated situational awareness of health threats to our U.S. National and DoD Interests around the world.

Other GEIS staff members presented an overview of key areas of surveillance, including antimicrobial resistance, enteric infections, febrile and vector borne infections and respiratory infections, as well as initiatives around data harmonization and next generation sequencing.  Working group sessions on the second day of the meeting allowed attendees to begin fostering collaborative approaches to advancing harmonization. 

Nearly 150 people attended the Global Emerging Infections Surveillance (GEIS) Scientific and Programmatic Advancement Meeting (GSPAM) hosted by DHA’s Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch on November 18-19. The event brought together researchers, epidemiologists, program managers, and leaders from Department of Defense laboratories in the U.S., the Republic of Georgia, Kenya, Ghana, Peru, Thailand and Cambodia, as well as other U.S. government agencies and external infectious disease surveillance collaborators and partners.

“The GEIS Network is a critical DoD asset providing direct support to the Geographic Combatant Commands and an instrument of medical diplomacy,” said Pimentel.

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Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Tom McCaffery visits U.S. Africa Command's Command Surgeon and team to discuss the strategic context of global health in advancing shared security objectives with partner nations across the region. The Department of Defense recognizes that Global Health Engagement activities play a key role to advance U.S. troop operational readiness, build interoperability, and enhance Security Cooperation.

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