President Bush has signed a defense authorization bill passed by Congress this past November containing a provision requiring that the chief of the Army Veterinary Corps hold the rank of brigadier general.
Restoring the general star to the veterinary corps has been a priority of former AVMA president, Dr. James E. Nave, a veteran of the corps, since taking office in July 2000. For more than two years the AVMA has lobbied Congress for the necessary change (see JAVMA, June 1, 2002, page 1601).
The Army Veterinary Corps was established in 1916. Today, some 410 veterinarians, 58 warrant officers, and 1,365 enlisted soldiers serve on active duty in the corps. They provide veterinary services to the entire Department of Defense, including food safety, biomedical research and development, and animal medicine programs in support of force health protection and military readiness.
The current chief of the veterinary corps, Dr. Jack Fournier, is a colonel. The initiative was important to the AVMA because the United States is seen as the world leader in military matters. So at international meetings of military veterinarians, it was incongruous when the veterinary corps leaders from other countries were generals but the chief of the U.S. Army Veterinary Corps was of a lower rank.
The provision in the defense authorization bill mandates that the corps' chief, at a minimum, hold the rank of brigadier general.