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Ranks of Army and Air Force chief dental officers to remain two stars

October 08, 2015

By Jennifer Garvin

Washington — Army and Air Force chief dental officers’ ranks will remain at two stars following the Senate’s Oct. 7 passing of the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act.

The Senate adopted the conference report to H.R. 1735, 70-27. A previous version of the bill called for reducing the ranks of the Army and Air Force chief dental officers from the current statutory grade of major general to a grade above colonel. The final version did not contain that provision and the House version of the report – which passed, 269-151, May 15 – never contained the language.

“This is a tremendous victory for military dentists who are not only tasked with assuring the dental readiness of our nation’s military, but also with assuring its overall medical readiness and timely deployment,” said ADA President Maxine Feinberg. “By recognizing the importance of dentistry in our armed forces, Congress is sending a clear message that dental readiness in the military is critically important as well as reinforcing that oral health is integral to overall health.”

In June, Dr. Feinberg and ADA Executive Director Dr. Kathleen O’Loughlin wrote to lawmakers, urging them to follow the House version of the bill and preserve the ranks.

“Dental readiness in the military is a critically important issue for overall medical readiness,” they wrote. “The ADA firmly believes that dentistry must maintain its position within the respective surgeon generals’ offices to ensure that dental readiness is not only maintained, but improved. Reduction in rank of the chief dental officer will result in a diminution of oral health readiness at a time when the services have just begun to achieve the overall dental health levels necessary to support national defense.”

Drs. Feinberg and O’Loughlin also noted that the statutory requirement for the chief dentist in the rank of major general for the Army was established by Public Law 95-485 in 1978, and in 2006 for the Air Force. The Navy Dental Corps Chief’s position was not part of the NDAA and will maintain its current rear admiral (lower half) grade authority.

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 (H.R. 1735 & S. 1376) assists lawmakers in setting policies regarding the military activities of the Department of Defense, military construction and the national security programs of the Department of Energy.