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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Obama’s ‘Private Army’

Q: Did the new health care law give Obama a Nazi-like “private army” of 6,000 people?

A: No. Contrary to false Internet rumors, the new Ready Reserve Corps of doctors and other health workers will report to the surgeon general and be like the “ready reserves” in other uniformed services. They will be used during health emergencies.


I just received an e-mail concerning a section of the new healthcare bill establishing a “ready reserve health corps” of 6,000. Some, Fox News, are saying this is an attempt to erode our freedoms. Should we run to our bunkers?

Obama Just Got His Private Army

Were you aware of the fact that the health care bill created a civilian army?

A Ready Reserve Corps for service in time of national emergency.
All commissioned officers shall be citizens of the United States and shall be appointed without regard to the civil-service laws (which means they will not be sworn to uphold the Constitution) and compensated without regard to the Classification Act 2 of 1923, as amended.

Remember when Obama said he wanted a “national security force”? Not the national guard, but a civilian one that has not sworn to uphold the Constitution?

On July 2, 2008 in a speech in Colorado Springs, Barack Obama called for a police state. Remember that first alarming glimpse of what that army might look like? Notice how much these “Hitler youth” type young men talk about health care!

Obama just got his private army… and no one seems to have noticed. It is buried in the Senate revisions to the health care bill.
Subtitle C–Increasing the Supply of the Health Care Workforce
Sec. 5201. Federally supported student loan funds.
Sec. 5202. Nursing student loan program.
Sec. 5203. Health care workforce loan repayment programs.
Sec. 5204. Public health workforce recruitment and retention programs.
Sec. 5205. Allied health workforce recruitment and retention programs.
Sec. 5206. Grants for State and local programs.
Sec. 5207. Funding for National Health Service Corps.
Sec. 5208. Nurse-managed health clinics.
Sec. 5209. Elimination of cap on commissioned corps.
Sec. 5210. Establishing a Ready Reserve Corps.
Subtitle D–Enhancing Health Care Workforce Education and Training
See the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act, page 1312:


Section 203 of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 204) is amended to read as follows:

(1) IN GENERAL.–here shall be in the Service a commissioned Regular Corps and a Ready Reserve Corps for service in time of national emergency.

(2) REQUIREMENT.–All commissioned officers shall be citizens of the United States and shall be appointed without regard to the civil-service laws and compensated without regard to the Classification Act 2 of 1923, as amended.

(3) APPOINTMENT.–Commissioned officers of the Ready Reserve Corps shall be appointed by the President and commissioned officers of the Regular Corps shall be appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate.

(4) ACTIVE DUTY.–Commissioned officers of the Ready Reserve Corps shall at all times be subject to call to active duty by the Surgeon General, including active duty for the purpose of training.

(5) WARRANT OFFICERS.–Warrant officers may be appointed to the Service for the purpose of providing support to the health and delivery systems maintained by the Service and any warrant officer appointed to the Service shall be considered for purposes of this Act and title 37, United States Code, to be a commissioned officer within the Commissioned Corps of the Service.

(b) ASSIMILATING RESERVE CORP OFFICERS INTO THE REGULAR CORPS: Effective on the date of enactment of the Affordable Health Choices Act, all individuals classified as officers in the Reserve Corps under this section (as such section existed on the day before the date of enactment of such Act) and serving on active duty shall be deemed to be commissioned officers of the Regular Corps. [Note here that those personally appointed by BO — without the advice and consent of the Senate — automatically become a part of the Regular Corps. Ed.]

(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.

(2) USES: The Ready Reserve Corps shall–

(A) participate in routine training to meet the general and specific needs of the Commissioned Corps;
(B) be available and ready for involuntary calls to active duty during national emergencies and public health crises, similar to the uniformed service reserve personnel;
(C) be available for backfilling critical positions left vacant during deployment of active duty Commissioned Corps members, as well as for deployment to respond to public health emergencies, both foreign and domestic; and
(D) be available for service assignment in isolated, hardship, and medically underserved communities (as defined in section 399SS) to improve access to health services.

(d) FUNDING.—For the purpose of carrying out the duties and responsibilities of the Commissioned Corps under this section, there are authorized to be appropriated such sums as may be necessary to the Office of the Surgeon General for each of fiscal years 2010 through 2014. Funds appropriated under this subsection shall be used for recruitment and training of Commissioned Corps Officers.

Again, I ask the question: Were you aware of the fact that the health care bill created another army? We can easily imagine what they will be ordered to do, including lethal injections (a.k.a. vaccinations) to “unworthy” people?

Whew, Nazi Germany all over again and it is happening right before our eyes, and right under our noses.


This e-mail features a prominent reference to something we’ve dealt with before: A July 2, 2008, speech in Colorado Springs by then-presidential candidate Barack Obama. Obama talked there about building up “a civilian national security force that’s just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded” as our military force. But the doomsayers left out the context: Obama was proposing strengthening the Peace Corps, Americorps, the USA Freedom Corps and the ranks of the State Department’s foreign service officers.

Despite our efforts, though, some people have been on the lookout for signs of Obama’s “national security force” ever since, and they think they have found it in section 5210 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the health care overhaul recently signed into law by the president. The blogosphere has been ablaze with postings, which, like the e-mail above, often contain references to Hitler, brownshirts, Nazism and the like.

The truth about the new Ready Reserve Corps is a lot less interesting than the conspiracy theories. Before the law was passed, the Public Health Service, unlike other elements of the government’s seven uniformed services, didn’t have a “ready reserve” – a cadre of individuals who could be called up involuntarily in times of need. What it had was a regular, full-time corps of 2,800 doctors, nurses, scientists and other medical professionals, which was the limit under law. It also had a reserve corps. But most of the individuals in the reserve corps, which was larger than the regular corps, were on extended active duty for the duration of their careers; in other words, they worked full-time, just like the regular corps, because they were needed, but the statutory cap prevented the service from bringing them into the regular corps.

The new law eliminates the personnel cap and brings the members of what used to be the reserve corps into the regular corps, which as a result now numbers about 6,600, according to an official at the Public Health Service who spoke to us on background.

And the law creates the ready reserve of individuals who can be called up for service by the U.S. surgeon general in times of need; the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina is often used as an example of an incident that might trigger a call-up.

Officials at the PHS are in the process of developing regulations that will determine how the Ready Reserve Corps is populated, but the person we spoke to said there will be limits on how long individuals could serve on active duty. Those who are activated will be paid for the duration of their service, and the bill provides $12.5 million per year through 2014 for the Ready Reserve.

It’s unclear at this point how large the Ready Reserve will be, but a number in the neighborhood of several thousand has been mentioned. The PHS had been hoping to create the new team for several years, for reasons that may have been best described in a 2008 report, Blueprint for a Healthier America, published by a nonprofit group called the Trust for America’s Health to help guide the next administration and Congress:

Blueprint for a Healthier America: There are not sufficient numbers of public health professionals to respond during major health emergencies, and when Corps members are called away to respond to emergencies, it means their ongoing functions are often neglected. If a “Ready Reserve” program was created, retired members of the Corps could become reservists who could be deployed on short notice during emergencies, or could fill in at federal agencies when active members are needed during emergencies, to ensure ongoing functions are carried out. Reservists would be required to participate in an appropriate number of drills and training throughout the year. Members of the reserve could also help fill in to provide services for underserved communities where health problems are the greatest.

Jerry Farrell, executive director of the Commissioned Officers Association, told us that the Ready Reserve can help the PHS avoid situations such as what happened after Katrina, when so many members of the regular and reserve corps were dispatched to New Orleans and other areas hit by the 2005 hurricane that “the corps discovered, for instance, that they had deployed a whole surgical clinic of the Indian Health Service.”

Needless to say (we hope), there is absolutely no support for this chain e-mail’s speculation that uniformed members of the Public Health Service would be ordered to give “lethal injections (a.k.a. vaccinations) to ‘unworthy people.’ ”

–Viveca Novak


Hamburg, Richard. Deputy Director, Trust for America’s Health. Interview with FactCheck.org. 6 April 2010.

Trust for America’s Health. “Blueprint for a Healthier America.” October 2008.

Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Pub. L. No. 111-148. Enacted 23 March 2010.

Farrell, Jerry. Executive Director, Commissioned Officers Association. Interview with FactCheck.org. 6 April 2010.