It sounds like a typical Washington story in 1995: One branch of government arguing for deep cuts in a costly healthcare program and another branch insisting that it continue.
But in this case, it's the Clinton administration demanding cuts, Congress arguing against them-and the program in question is the military's medical school in Bethesda, Md., just outside Washington.
The Clinton administration repeatedly has called for the closing of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, or USUHS. The school has graduated 2,000 military physicians since its first class graduated in 1980.
The Pentagon requested $47.2 million for USUHS for fiscal 1996, which begins Oct. 1.
The administration and other critics contend closing USUHS and relying on an armed forces medical scholarship program and volunteers to fill the ranks of the military healthcare corps would save the federal government as much as $300 million over five years.
Scholarships would cost the government less per student than paying for USUHS, critics say. In addition, they say, only one-tenth of the 13,000 military doctors are USUHS graduates.
About 1,000 doctors who enter the military every year are scholarship recipients who attended civilian medical schools.
But Congress has sided with USUHS and outside interest groups, repeatedly rebuffing the administration's closure proposal. Most recently, the Senate Armed Services Committee demonstrated its support for USUHS in late June by not only prohibiting closure but also by authorizing a new nursing school at USUHS.
Supporters point to the school's specific training of military doctors for combat-related treatment, graduates' tendency to serve longer than scholarship doctors and their more rapid rise to leadership positions.
"We believe it performs a necessary function for the nation," said David Moore, associate vice president for government relations at the Association of American Medical Colleges, which supports keeping the school open. USUHS' role is "something that's not readily replicated in the private sector," he said.