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The Pentagon's new Defense Health Agency, designed to streamline health care among the military services, has commenced operations. "This day has been a long time in coming, and represents a major milestone in the history of the [Defense] Department and in military medicine," said Jonathan Woodson, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, of DHA's Oct. 4 launch. The agency is charged with creating common business and clinical practices for the services and integrating functions that each has done separately, such as purchasing medical supplies and equipment, according to an Oct. 8 release. Among its activities will be to manage the Tricare health plan for the military's 9.6 million beneficiaries. Lt. Gen. Douglas Robb heads DHA, which is expected to be fully operational by October 2015. "We think there's a huge opportunity here for us to improve readiness, individual health and sustain quality, while also saving money," said Allen Middleton, DHA's acting deputy director. In fact, defense health officials estimate the savings will total at least $3.4 billion in agency's first five years, states the release.