WASHINGTON – A powerful Republican lawmaker is questioning the Defense Department’s hiring of former Gov. John Baldacci to work on military health care reform.

U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee’s military personnel subcommittee, first raised concerns during a hearing Tuesday that Baldacci’s newly-created position, which pays $165,300, is a wasteful “duplication” of work already conducted by defense department officials.

Wilson plans to deliver a speech Thursday to “discuss his thoughts on the new ‘Military Health Care Czar’ and other military health care issues,” according to a release Wednesday by his office.

Baldacci’s job calls for a one-year stint, but with an option for the contract to be extended.
As Maine governor, Baldacci was paid $70,000 a year.

Baldacci, who served four terms in Congress before his two terms as Maine’s governor, last week referred questions about his hiring to defense department officials. He did not respond today to a phone message left at his defense department office.

Wilson brought up Baldacci’s hiring at a hearing Tuesday.  Noting that the military already has submitted a proposal for 2012 to raise the cost for enrollees of Tricare, the military health care program for retirees, Wilson said that he was surprised to learn last week about Baldacci’s new position and wondered whether it duplicated other officials’ duties.

“I’m concerned,” Wilson told Clifford L. Stanley, under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness, who hired Baldacci.