Napolitano rails against 200-year-old public health Commissioned Corps

Guest hosting for Glenn Beck, Fox News' Andrew Napolitano revived the conspiracy theory that President Obama is creating a civilian army, citing what Napolitano called a “bizarre” provision in the recently enacted health care reform legislation that would allow Obama to staff this army with “more doctors and have the doctors train to perform some type of indescript [sic] service.” Actually, the reserve corps established under the health care reform legislation would support the Commissioned Corps, which traces its roots to the Marine Hospital Service established under President John Adams, and which facilitates health care delivery and disease prevention during national emergencies.

Napolitano stated:

NAPOLITANO: There is a very bizarre section in this legislation, which calls for the creation of a reserve corps. The president has the opportunity to take some people from the state National Guard and pull them into the federal service, to hire more doctors and have the doctors train to perform some type of indescript [sic] service. He talks about this on his way to the Democratic National Convention in July of 2008 when he would receive the Democratic nomination. Listen to what the president said he was looking for.

OBAMA [video clip]: We cannot continue to rely only on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives that we've set. We've got to have a civilian national security force that's just as powerful, just as strong, just as well funded.

NAPOLITANO: David, a civilian national security just as powerful, just as strong -- I'm quoting him now -- just as well funded as the Pentagon?

The target of Napolitano's bluster is the establishment of a ready reserve corps to function as a supplement to the Commissioned Corps:

''(1) PURPOSE.-The purpose of the Ready Reserve Corps

is to fulfill the need to have additional Commissioned Corps

personnel available on short notice (similar to the uniformed

service's reserve program) to assist regular Commissioned

Corps personnel to meet both routine public health and emergency

response missions.

By way of background, the Commissioned Corps traces its history to John Adams:

The history of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps is the history of health defense in the United States. For more than 200 years, the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps has been our Nation's frontline against the spread of disease from sailors returning from foreign ports, to immigrants entering the country, to communities affected by natural and manmade disasters. The Corps response to the health threats posed by Hurricane Katrina and other recent disasters underscores the value to our Nation of having a highly trained, multidisciplinary, and quickly mobilized cadre of medical professionals. Today, the Corps fights for better public health on multiple fronts. Corps officers are involved in disease control and prevention, biomedical research, regulation of food and drugs, mental health and drug abuse, health care delivery, and international health. As a vital part of the U.S. Public Health Service, the Commissioned Corps is an essential component of the largest public health program in the world.

The “indescript service[s]” performed by the Commissioned Corps in the past have included responding to terrorist and anthrax attacks, hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and the 2006 Hawaiian earthquake.

CATO's Michael Cannon, in fact, explained as much to Napolitano and sidekick David Asman:

CANNON: The people who serve in it are commissioned officers. They have to be approved by Congress. Their commissions have to be approved by Congress, and what the legislation would do is, it would create a ready reserve corps, which is sort of like to the public health service what the Army Reserve is to the Army. In the case of some pandemic the president would be able to call for these reservists in order to help contain the spread of contagion.

Still Asman pressed on:

ASMAN: [Obama] says, “We need something in addition to our military in order to achieve the national security objectives” -- he's not talking about the Peace Corps.

Wait, who said anything about the Peace Corps?