Leaders Look to Protect Best MWR Programs
By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 9, 2011 The leaders of the services’ morale, welfare, and recreation departments today pledged to sustain military families’ best programs while searching for ways to deal with inevitable budget cuts.
“As we are focused on efficiencies, we will take care of our most valuable asset: our service members and their families,” Robert L. Gordon, the Defense Department’s deputy assistant secretary for military community and family policy, told a congressional subcommittee.
Gordon appeared before the House Armed Services Committee’s military personnel subcommittee to discuss morale, welfare, and recreation programs, along with leaders of each of the service MWR programs.
Results from the first survey of MWR program patrons conducted in 2009 shows the programs are fine, but could use improvement, especially in outdoor and recreational facilities, Gordon said.
Rich Gorman, executive director of the Army’s Family and Morale, Welfare, and Recreation Command, said MWR programs are important to help soldiers maintain physical fitness and alleviate stress, and support families.
“Everything we do every day is designed to support our soldiers,” he said. “MWR serves soldiers everywhere they serve.”
Gorman added that support is equal for families. “Mission accomplishment is directly related to soldiers’ knowing their families are safe and happy,” he said. “The Army has long recognized that if we don’t retain the family, we simply won’t retain the soldier.”
Rogers Patrick, acting director of the Navy’s Fleet and Family Readiness Programs, said his department has streamlined costs through its Quality of Life models to improve on-base housing, community centers, and galleys.
Those savings have helped to fund 30 more child care centers, allowing for 7,000 more openings and a waiting list of no more than three months, he said.
“Whatever the need, whatever the location, our patrons know they can count on MWR to give high-quality programs,” Patrick said.
Charles E. Milam, director of Air Force Services, said his office has “stretched the traditional programs of MWR to meet the constantly changing needs of airmen.”
Air Force Services has enhanced warrior and survivor care, outreach programs, and the dignified transfer services of fallen service members, Milam said. “We will not lose site of our core function of allowing for mission-ready airmen” as he and others develop next year’s budget, he said.
Timothy R. Larsen, director of the Marine Corps’ Personnel and Family Readiness Division, said the Corps increased funding for the programs by $10 million this year as part of a multiyear effort to transition programs such as the Exceptional Family Member and Quality of Life programs into the Personnel and Family Readiness Division, noting the programs’ importance to the resilience and readiness of Marines.
Gordon and the others said they are focused on how to preserve the best programs while finding cost savings in ones that are less effective or valued.
“Our services have done a very good job assessing the programs for the degree to which they provide effective quality of life for service members and their families,” he said. Program leaders will continue to focus on what military families want and need, he added.
“This notion of focusing on our human element … is absolutely essential,” he said.