Defense officials are delaying the initial rollout of a new multibillion-dollar electronic health record system until early 2017, but insist the shift won't hurt plans to field it throughout the military within six years or to share information with the Department of Veterans Affairs now.

The new MHS GENESIS system -- a $4.3 billion upgrade to the military's current records system -- was scheduled to be launched at two military bases this December.

Instead, program officials announced Tuesday that it will be launched at a single base -- Fairchild Air Force Base in Washington -- in February, with several other locations to follow next June. They blamed the delay on compatibility and technical issues that emerged during early testing.

"The time we are investing in the program now will help us ensure success in the future, providing the best possible user experience to our beneficiaries and health care providers from day one," said Stacy Cummings, program executive officer for Defense Healthcare Management Systems.

She said that the multiyear deployment schedule for the new health record system allows some flexibility in individual site launches and benchmarks without jeopardizing the overall goal of militarywide use of the system in 2022. She also said the delay will not change the price tag of the new system.

Officials did not characterize the delay as a setback, but instead part of the expected process in putting a new system in place.

Whether Congress sees it that way remains to be seen. Lawmakers have been critical of the Defense Department and VA for past failures to develop a shared electronic health records system, leading to continuity of care problems for troops as they transition from active-duty to veteran status.

President Barack Obama in 2009 promised a better, more interoperable system for both departments, but results thus far have been slow.

Cummings said that officials from both departments certified earlier this year that they have met congressional requirements for shared systems and information mandated by the end of this year, and will be able to better coordinate health records in coming years as the new MHS GENESIS system is implemented.

Leo Shane III covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He can be reached at


Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.

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