Army Leaders Pledge Ongoing Support of Family Programs
By Elizabeth M. Collins
Army News Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 12, 2011 Family programs remain important and their budgets will not be used to fund other initiatives, top Army leaders pledged at a family forum here this week.
Army Secretary John M. McHugh, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno and Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III sign the Army Family Covenant, Oct. 10, 2011, as wounded warrior Army Sgt. Jeremy Barnhart and his family look on. The Barnhart family was honored as the Association of the U.S. Army’s volunteer family of the year. U.S. Army photo by Elizabeth M. Collins
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Army Secretary John M. McHugh and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno assured family members and family readiness group leaders that family programs remain as important as ever, despite looming Defense Department budget cuts and drawdowns in Iraq and Afghanistan. The leaders spoke Oct. 10 during the Association of the U.S. Army’s 2011 annual meeting and exposition.
"We don't talk enough about our families, about what we've gone through," Odierno said. "We sometimes don't know the impact it's had on our children, and I do worry about that. What are we doing for our children? Wherever I go, I talk about [how] our children are the strength of our nation, our children are the strength of our Army, and how we help them to get through these numerous deployments and how we help them to cope with issues of missing Dad or Mom.”
And this won't end the day U.S. forces come out of Afghanistan, the general said.
“We're going to have a lot of work to do after that as well, because we'll have to continue to deal with family issues [and] family programs for years to come,” he continued. “We have to ensure that we're invested in them, and we have to ensure we understand what those issues are.”
And he does understand, Odierno added, noting that his wife makes sure of it.
Odierno and McHugh said they can't say precisely what will happen until they have an exact budget to work with, but they will have to consider ending underutilized programs and directing resources at programs that are the most popular and useful.
"I want to make a commitment to you," McHugh said, "to let you know that while we're going to look at ways in which we can do things more efficiently. We owe that to ourselves, we owe it to the taxpayers of this nation. We will try and make decisions as to how you feel what is working and what is not.
“We may change some things. I'd like to think those changes will be for the better,” he added. We will not make Army family programs the bill payer for other kinds of initiatives. That's a place we've been in the past, and it's a place I don't want to help take us back to."
Leaders will be looking to families for their input on the effectiveness of programs, McHugh said.
"We've got folks under our jurisdiction who are looking at these things, but we're going to be heavily dependent -- and it's not just the family programs, quite honestly, it's a lot of facilities-based initiatives -- as to what folks like you think works and what doesn't to keep us absolutely on point," he explained. "We're not going to cut budgets just to cut budgets, but we have put an enormous amount of money -- over $1.2 billion -- in family programs, and we've got to make sure that we're not funding something with a lot of money that you folks either don't know about, are confused about or you don't take advantage of it."
McHugh added that family members also should contact their congressional representatives about their concerns, and the need to keep funding family programs. He and Odierno then renewed their commitment to Army families by re-signing the Army Family Covenant with Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III.