Official Equates Financial, Military Readiness
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 19, 2010 Through outreach and a robust system of educating servicemembers, Defense Department officials are working to keep troops financially fit to fight and protected from predatory lenders, a Pentagon official said today.
Defense Department officials grew more attentive to servicemembers potentially falling into bad financial standing as credit became more easily accessible, said Marcus Beauregard, a program analyst for the Pentagon’s military community and family policy office.
Officials have told members of Congress that any legislation that protects servicemembers without limiting their access to legitimate goods and services would be welcomed and encouraged, Beauregard said.
Poor financial situations among troops can greatly affect military readiness and the ability of servicemembers to accomplish their mission, he noted.
“Financial stability helps servicemembers [and the Defense Department],” he said. “If they’re paying more attention to their financial concerns, they’re paying attention less to their primary mission and their primary jobs.”
Commanders have voiced concerns to defense policy makers, making them more aware of issues troops have had in buying automobiles and repaying short-term loans, Beauregard said. Leaders also have learned certain products perpetually have caused problems for their servicemembers, he added, and they hope to prevent issues from becoming problems, he added.
A Defense Department study showed that finances are behind only career and mission issues as the top stressors among servicemembers, Beauregard said. Noting the busy tempo and numerous requirements placed on the lives of troops today, he said it’s important to the department that troops sustain good financial standing and learn how to avoid being burdened by obligations they may not be able to handle.
Educating troops is the best way to ensure their readiness and financial situation remain intact, Beauregard said. The Military OneSource website, unit advisors, installation financial counselors and legal assistance advisors are great sources of information, he said.
“[The Defense Department] is looking for opportunities and protection that will support our servicemembers,” he said. “Anything that will help a servicemember to do their job better and feel more prepared for their duty in taking care of their finances is certainly beneficial.”
Beauregard urged troops to be wary of companies and businesses that claim to be military-friendly, noting that some are good and some are bad. He also stressed that they shouldn’t sign documents unless they completely understand the contract, and that they avoid short-term loans.
“The most important thing we can do is to educate servicemembers and their families, make them aware of things that may be a problem, [and] make them aware of how to deal with transactions,” he said. “That’s certainly their body armor that’s going to keep them in good standing.”
Defense officials work closely with financial regulators at the local, state and federal levels to ensure those institutions are aware of the needs of servicemembers and what’s going in the marketplace, he said.
“It’s that communication, that ability to let [regulators] know that servicemembers need to be looked after as part of their community,” he said. “There’s now a greater awareness within the general community that finances are an important part of the servicemember’s life and can impact that servicemember in terms of the preparedness and readiness to do their job.”