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DoD Discusses Family Matters With State Officials

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 28, 2005 – The Department of Defense understands that the nature of the volunteer force has changed, the head of DoD's personnel and readiness organization told state officials today.

"The department recognizes that the volunteer force of the 21st century must be cared for in ways that were not seen as relevant when the active force was garrisoned in Europe and Asia and the Guard and Reserve were active on weekends and two weeks per year," David Chu, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, said in text prepared for delivery. "The needs of today's military represent a force that is largely married with the same family concerns and aspirations of our civilian population."

It is those issues and the states' roles in helping to address them that brought people here for the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices Workshop. The session brought together policy officials from states that host about 70 percent of active, Guard and Reserve servicemembers and their families, Chu said.

Some issues, like states allowing servicemembers and their families the benefit of in-state tuition to pursue higher education at state institutions, are already being addressed by half of the states.

Other servicemember concerns include making sure that the children of military families experience a smooth transition between schools, Chu said. Transferring records timely will keep students on track for graduation, and consideration for work already completed in another system will make transitioning easier. Chu said that the department is looking for collaboration among states, school districts and military communities to facilitate such opportunities.

"Providing some flexibility in accepting academics achieved in other school systems and in tryout times for team and extracurricular activities" will help ensure that a parent's transfer does not penalize these students, Chu noted.

That same sort of flexibility when it comes to licensing practices in certain professions will also help smooth a nonmilitary spouse's transition after a move.

Chu asked that the states consider flexibility and reciprocity that honors licensing from other states and waives licensing fees.

"Many of our spouses are qualified teachers and nurses and can meet a growing need for these professionals within your states," he said. "The department is engaged on numerous fronts to assist spouses in their careers, but states can propel and create links within this effort to ensure mutual success."

He said unemployment compensation for a nonmilitary spouse would help military families deal with the financial impact of a move. It also would allow that spouse to explore career opportunities.

Also put before the officials was the need for foreign language expertise to support missions around the world. Chu asked for the states' assistance in filling the pipeline "for this expertise at all levels of education."

He added that he hoped participants would leave the workshop with a clearer understanding of how they and their states could support our nation's fighting force and its families.

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David S.C. Chu

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