Readiness Council Adds Family Reps, Prioritizes Troop, Family Support
By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sep. 21, 2012 The Defense Department’s Military Family Readiness Council convened at the Pentagon yesterday with more family representation and an agreement to work to save troop and family support programs from budget cuts.
Congress created the council as part of the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act with a mandate to meet at least twice a year to review military family policies and programs and make recommendations to the secretary of defense. This year’s defense spending bill expanded membership to include one spouse or parent representative from each of the services, as well as the director of the Office of Community Support for Military Families with Special Needs.
Yesterday’s meeting was the council’s second this year and included as new members representatives from each of the services’ manpower and personnel offices, two senior enlisted advisors and two senior enlisted advisors’ spouses, and representatives from the American Red Cross, the National Military Family Association, and Blue-Star Families.
Erin Conaton, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, led the meeting, calling its charge “critical work” in the minds of all the DOD and service leaders.
The council agreed that its priority for the upcoming budget year will be protecting troop and family support programs, followed by increasing support to service members transitioning out of the military. Specifically, the council is interested in ensuring appropriate time for service members and families to transition, and members said transitional compensation and health care coverage is needed to help cross over to civilian life.
“A national debate is needed now on how veterans’ families will be supported once they leave the safety net of support they had while the service members were on active duty,” according to an overview presentation given by Navy Cmdr. Chris Davis, who serves with the council.
Davis said the priorities, which came from installations and others in no particular order, include:
-- Improving training and awareness for unit leadership of what successful family readiness programs look like;
-- Improving the possibilities for spousal employment, and
-- Ensuring that military children get the best education possible.
The council issues its annual report each February.