Each one of the Department of Defense's five regional combatant commands should have three hospital ships permanently assigned to their respective areas of responsibility. Why so many, you ask?
It's so simple that it can be summed up in two words: medical diplomacy. Former Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson (who coined that term) was right on target when he said, "medical diplomacy is the winning of hearts and minds of people in the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and elsewhere by exporting medical care, expertise, and personnel to help those who need it most." Moreover, according to Thompson, "What better way to knock down the hatred, the barriers of ethnic and religious groups that are afraid of America, and hate America, than to offer good medical policy and good health to these countries?"