New fiscal reality, same commitment to Soldiers, Families
May 4, 2011
- As the inevitable belt-tightening comes, we are not trying to do more with less.
- We are working to make sure we can do the important things better.
- The Army's commitment to Soldiers and Families remains as strong as ever.
ARLINGTON, Va. - A fundamentally different fiscal reality. We will be hearing some variation of that phrase from Army leaders for a long time to come. The Army's budget is smaller than it has been in previous years, and it will get smaller still. However, a different fiscal reality does not change the reality of what we owe to Soldiers and Families for their service and sacrifice. The Army's commitment to Soldiers and Families remains as strong as ever.
For the last 18 months, the Installation Management Community has been taking a hard look at the programs and services we provide to Soldiers and Families, with an eye not only to costs but also to effectiveness. As the inevitable belt-tightening comes, we are not trying to do more with less. We are working to make sure we can do the important things better.
One of our most important efforts has been to fully establish Survivor Outreach Services, to provide Survivors with longer-term, expanded support and care after casualty assistance ends. SOS staff have made tremendous progress in a short time, receiving more than 24,000 cases from Casualty and Mortuary Affairs, and they continue to enhance services as more Survivors provide feedback. This past year, SOS initiated a Survivor vehicle decal program to ease installation access, established a Facebook page, and held the first annual SOS summit to address challenges Survivors face.
Other efforts include:
*Transforming how Army Community Service delivers services, by cross-training more generalists to handle multiple programs and moving service locations out into communities.
*Adding 44 more Systems Navigators to Exceptional Family Member Programs at 26 installations, to assist Families with special needs members in accessing educational, medical, housing and personnel services on and off post.
*Hiring more than 240 additional Army Substance Abuse Program counselors for installations worldwide.
*Launching the Confidential Alcohol Treatment and Education Pilot, a program which allows Soldiers to seek help for addiction without mandatory command involvement.
*Launching a pilot program in which Military Student Transition Consultants join School Liaison Officers in working with school districts, garrisons and Families to help students succeed at their new schools.
*Revising the Total Army Sponsorship Program that helps prepare Soldiers, Families and Civilians for their new duty station.
*Reinvigorating the Army Family Action Plan process, with an analysis and review process that has reduced the backlog of active AFAP issues from 86 in February 2010 to 51 in February 2011.
This is a snapshot of what we have been doing to enhance support for Soldiers and Families. It does not begin to convey the full scope of the programs and services installation management professionals provide every day, including housing, public works, emergency services, environmental programs, recreation, child care, single Soldier programs and Family programs.
When we look at some big indicators, we see evidence that the Army is meeting the needs of Soldiers and Families. The Army is exceeding its recruitment and retention goals, and on the most recent Survey of Army Families, the majority of spouses said they are satisfied with the Army as a way of life. This is significant after 10 years of ongoing conflict-it speaks to the dedication of Soldiers and their Families and the Army's commitment to providing a quality of life commensurate with their service.
In the new fiscal reality, it will be more of a challenge for the Installation Management Community to provide the level of support we want to for our Soldiers and Families, but we will. We are finding better and smarter ways to provide services and programs by asking ourselves the same questions Families ask when they look at their own budgets: do we really need it' Is it worth the cost' What are we willing to do without'
To answer these questions, we need to keep hearing from Soldiers and Family members-through ICE and local AFAP summits, for example-about the specifics of what is working, what needs to be improved, and what is missing. The commitment to supporting Soldiers and Families remains as strong as ever, but more than ever, we have to make sure we are on target in meeting their needs.