The medical unit of the Defense Intelligence Agency has received a new name to reflect its expanded role.
The Armed Forces Medical Intelligence Center was renamed the National Center for Medical Intelligence (NCMI) in a ceremony at Fort Detrick, Md., last week.
The name change reflects a wider mission for the organization, which traces its roots to the Army surgeon general's office during World War II. Once a producer of medical intelligence for the armed forces, it is now helping to safeguard health at home and worldwide by providing early warnings of potential health threats from food, animals, travelers, immigrants and returning troops.
The center's new responsibilities also reflect expanded relationships with the Homeland Security Department, the White House, the State Department and other agencies.
Even before the name change, the center had begun to focus on broader health threats, said Col. Anthony Rizzo, the center's director.
"In recent years, the center has provided information about diseases that troops in Iraq and Afghanistan might encounter, as well as intelligence on the threat of roadside bombs containing chlorine gas," he said. "When the tsunami occurred [in 2004], we provided intelligence across the entire government. When the Pakistani earthquake struck, we provided predictive intelligence about the risks and what forces would face."
The center also assessed the potential for military personnel overseas to be exposed to radiation from North Korea's nuclear program, Rizzo said.
"The evolution into a national center is a recognition of what we've been doing for some considerable period of time," he added.
Other government health organizations are also collaborating to share information on health threats in the United States. For example, the Military Health System provides data from military personnel sick calls to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which uses the data to track outbreaks of infectious diseases.
In December, NCMI, which employs 150 people, plans to break ground on a 15,000-square-foot addition to its Fort Detrick facility.