Attaining a Quality of Life and Well-Being for Our People that Match the Quality of Their Service
Maintaining the Viability of the All-Volunteer Force
The United States Army owes its success to the All-Volunteer Force, which provides the high-quality, versatile young Americans we depend on to serve as Soldiers. This is the first time in our history in which the Nation has tested the All-Volunteer Force during a prolonged war. The quality-of-life programs that support our Soldiers and their families, as well as our civilian workforce, will play a major role in maintaining the overall viability of this concept. Determining what kind of All-Volunteer Army we need and developing the environment, compensation, education and other incentives to keep it appropriately manned may well be the greatest strategic challenge we face.
Maintaining the viability of this force will depend on several factors. First, American citizens must remain convinced that the Army is a great place to serve. While Soldiers perform their duties to meet Army expectations, the Army, in turn, must provide an environment in which individual aspirations can be met. To concentrate on the challenges they face, Soldiers must understand the frequency and cycle of projected deployments. Likewise, they must believe that their families will be provided for in their absence. Similarly, programs to encourage civilian employer support to Reserve Component Soldiers, who comprise more than half the Army force, are required to recruit and retain Reserve Component Soldiers.
The Army is executing a full, diverse range of programs and activities that will help us to attract and retain the quality people we need to maintain a volunteer force during a time of war. It is of national interest to retain these dedicated Soldiers to sustain the overall viability of our All-Volunteer Army. The support of Congress and the American people is vital to this effort.
Caring for Army Families and Soldiers
Army Well-Being programs contribute to the Army's ability to provide trained and ready forces. These programs enable leaders to care for their people while accomplishing the missions assigned to their units. Providing for the well-being of Soldiers' families is a fundamental leadership imperative that requires adequate support and resources. We are pursuing numerous programs designed to improve spouse employment, ease the transitioning of high school students during moves and extend in-state college tuition rates to military families. We are also examining how best to expand support for veterans and National Guard and Army Reserve Soldiers. For example, TRICARE policies now allow for the eligibility of National Guard and Reserve Soldiers and their families.
Housing programs are another way in which we manifest our care for Soldiers and their families. We continue to focus considerable effort on our Residential Communities Initiative and Barracks Modernization Program. Congressional support for these initiatives has had a dramatic effect on improving the quality of life for our Soldiers and their families. The Army has already privatized more than 50,000 housing units and will eventually privatize over 32,000 more.
Programs like the Residential Communities Initiative, when reinforced with other ongoing programs, will greatly help in our ability to retain Soldiers and families. These programs include:
- Improvements in healthcare, child care, youth programs, schools, facilities and other well-being initiatives; and
- Investments in new barracks for Soldiers without families, new centers for Reserve Component units and significant improvements in training ranges.
We support our Soldiers who have become casualties during war through the Disabled Soldier Support System (DS3). This initiative provides our Army's most severely disabled Soldiers and their families with a system of follow-up support beyond their transition from military service. DS3 provides support to families during the initial casualty notification, tracks the Soldier's return trip home and provides appropriate assistance in coordinating pertinent local, federal and national agencies. For the Soldier, this support includes rehabilitation, support at the medical and physical evaluation boards (which embrace unprecedented ways for severely injured Soldiers to continue to serve) and integration with veterans affairs organizations, as required.
The Army will continue to look for ways to improve on our DS3 initiative and deliver on our unfailing obligation to care for our people. To monitor and to report on the care being afforded to our Soldiers in the DS3 program, we have enlisted the support of our voluntary Civilian Aides to the Secretary of the Army. These aides are notified when disabled Soldiers are released from active service. They support the transition of these Soldiers to civilian life and work closely with civic leaders to assist in job placement, continued rehabilitation, education and other services to benefit these Soldiers and their families.
The resilience of the young men and women and their spouses, who have sacrificed so that others might have a brighter future, is humbling and exemplary. We will honor their service and sacrifice by remaining steadfast in our support to them.