Defense Leaders Tackle Family Issues
By Tech. Sgt. Chris Vadnais, USAF
Special to American Forces Press Service
HONOLULU, Jul. 19, 2007 The Defense Department has identified 10 key issues of importance to military members and their families, including education policies and benefits, accessible support for military families, and spouse employment opportunities.
Navy Adm. Timothy J. Keating, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, met here with David S.C. Chu, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, this week to discuss such key issues.
“Family issues are crucial to the willingness of our people to continue to serve,” Chu said.
Among the most important of the 10 key issues is the interstate compact for educating children of military members. The mobile military lifestyle creates challenges for children, and the Defense Department wants to provide a policy platform to head those off, Chu said. For example, some school districts will allow children to start kindergarten at age 5, while others require children to be 6 years old to start school. Children who start school in one location might not be able to go back to school at a new location when military families move.
“If the young lad or the young lady has already started school, why can’t he or she keep going?” Chu asked. “Many school systems say, ‘No, we’ve got to wait,’ and that’s a big issue with a military family,” he said. “We’d like to get issues like these ironed out at a national level so military families can do the same thing every other American family can do.”
Other key issues include policies for members of the reserve components, unemployment compensation for military spouses, and responsive voting programs. “Those issues affect the well-being of our families,” Chu said. “We put a lot of burdens on military personnel; the family has to be well supported if they’re going to accept those burdens.”
Keating said healthy partnerships like the one between the Defense Department and the state of Hawaii are key to providing the best possible quality of life for military families. “It is that communion between the community and the military members that will produce long-lasting effects,” he said.
“It is a powerful tool for us here,” he added. “The governor and the mayor have both promised me that they would pay close attention to any initiatives that I brought to their attention, and they have followed through on that.”