Spouse Survey to Help Shape Future Family Programs
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 6, 2005 Defense officials want to make sure that military spouses know it's important for them take the time to complete the online 30-minute survey they got notices about in the mail late November.
The new Defense Department survey has gone to spouses to get their views as defense planners shape family programs to meet their needs and interests, a top Pentagon family policy official said today.
Nearly 74,000 military spouses have been asked to participate in two new surveys, one directed at active-duty families and one for National Guard and Reserve families, according to John M. Molino, deputy undersecretary for military and family policy.
The survey group, selected at random to provide a cross section of all military families, received the notices asking them to participate in the online survey, Molino said during an interview with the Pentagon Channel. The survey period runs through late January.
The survey responses are confidential, he said, and responses will be instrumental in determining how DoD directs its resources to family programs in the future, Molino said.
"Participation in this survey will directly influence policy," he said. "So it is very important that the people who have been contacted and invited to participate" respond. This, Molino said, will give DoD a full cross section of responses to using in tailoring its family programs.
"There is always competition for limited resources, (so) we want to make sure we spend our money smartly in the future," he said. "And the survey is an opportunity for military spouses ... to be sitting around the table with us, to be giving us their input so that we can make smart decisions on how to spend these monies and these resources in the future.
"We can't really do it smart without them," Molino said.
The last spouse survey, in 1999, underscored the need for more and better child-care facilities, particularly on bases, and interest in enhanced education benefits, he said. Officials have worked to introduce improvements in both areas, he said.
Molino said he's hoping spouses asked to participate in the 2005 survey will weigh in with their views to help identify gaps and direct programs to fill them, particularly in light of changes in the military since the last survey.
The new survey, for example, will focus more on deployment issues and challenges they present families, he said.
"The world has changed since 1999. A lot has changed within the military and a lot has changed in the nature of the military (and) the makeup of the military family," Molino said.
"So we think it is time, as we look ahead, that we ask today's military families what's important to them (and) what's relevant to (them), so we can better plan and better spend the resources that we will spend in the future" on programs to meet their needs, he said.
Family programs have become increasingly important within the military, Molino said, noting that more than half of today's servicemembers are married.
Ensuring that families have strong programs and services boosts readiness, because it frees servicemembers to focus on the mission rather than wondering if their families are being taken care of, Molino said.
But family programs are a big factor in retention too, because families satisfied with military life are far less likely leave the military, he said.
"Families are a key," Molino said. The decision to join the military may be an individual decision, but the decision to stay in the military is a family decision."