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DoD Studying Improved Housing, Quality of Life, Abell Says

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 7, 2001 – Recruiting, housing, military pay and other quality of life issues were the hot topics of discussion during a 45- minute meeting Aug. 31 between Charles S. Abell and the Pentagon press.

In response to questions about recruiting, retention and development of the civilian work force, Abell, assistant secretary of defense for force management policy, predicted that all the services will meet their recruiting goals this year. He said the downturn in the economy tends to help recruiting efforts, but attributed the bulk of the services' success to "hard work and good policies."

However, he said, "recruiting is not OK. They're going to make their numbers this year ... but that's not the time to relax. They made their numbers because a lot of people worked 20-hour days, six and seven days a week, to attract and contract those high-quality young men and women."

The civilian work force still needs some downsizing, though not nearly as much as it has experienced in the past five to seven years, Abell said

DoD is developing human resources strategies for both civilian and military personnel, he noted. As part of the strategy for military personnel, DoD is studying the services' "up-or-out" retention practices, longer tours of duty, longer careers and possible changes to the retirement system, Abell said.

He said DoD will use outside experts and work hand-in-hand with the services to determine what changes should be made. Working together will lessen the chance of creating something that will be a problem 10 years later, he noted.

He said one of his biggest quality of life challenges and goals is to improve bachelor and family housing. He predicted that budget constraints will make privatization the way to go to improve housing and military facilities.

"The department can't build or renovate housing in the numbers and in the time frame that are required to make the improvements that are necessary," Abell told reporters. "I think the budget submitted over the last several years, and probably for the next several, will indicate that privatization is where the priorities are."

On pay and benefits, Abell recited the importance of competitive pay to recruiting and retention and reaffirmed President Bush's and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's commitments to fair compensation and benefits.

He told reporters that his goal "is to give our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and civilian employees the best quality of life that we can." However, he said, quality of life means different things to different people. For example, he said, quality of life may mean a comfortable workplace to one person and comfortable quarters to another.

"We have to find a balance among the various categories that fall under quality of life as to how do we apply our resources in the most effective manner," Abell said. "Right now, facilities -- including bachelor and family housing -- are our first focus."

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