WASHINGTON -- How do Army leaders define readiness for Soldiers, much less for their Family members? How do Families influence unit readiness? What develops, strengthens and sustains self-reliance and readiness?

Those topics will be center stage during Military Family Forum I Oct. 8 at the 2018 Association of the United States Army annual meeting and exposition in Washington, D.C.

The Army asked scientists at the Research Facilitation Laboratory in 2017 to build a new portrait of military family readiness by reviewing literature from the last 10 years related to family readiness. The Research Facilitation Laboratory is part of the Army Analytics Group.

Research Facilitation Laboratory scientists reviewed more than 400 studies on military family readiness published from 2007 to 2017. Their summary and findings have been published in "What We Know About Military Family Readiness: A Decade of Research Evidence from 2007-2017." Their review identified 16 indicators of family readiness and presented the evidence base that described the effect of each indicator.

Dr. Stacy Hawkins, principal investigator at the Research Facilitation Laboratory, will open the forum with a presentation and discussion of the 16 indicators of military family readiness. An expert panel will follow to discuss the importance of family readiness connections to adult functioning, relationships, deployment experiences, social connection and networking. Vice Adm. Raquel "Rocky" Bono, director of the Defense Health Agency, also will present on TRICARE.

"What is clear to me from this report," said Helen Roadarmel, Chief of the Soldier and Family Readiness Division, Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation Management, "is that Soldiers carry family responsibilities and issues -- and sometimes problems -- into the unit. Sixty percent of all Soldiers have a spouse or dependents, in addition to parents, siblings and others."

"Soldiers and Families value support programs, they value consistency and predictability," Roadarmel added. "Their trust in the Army and its leaders is influenced by their perception of the care and concern shown to them. The evidence supports continued investment in family programs and services."

The Army, and the nature of military lifestyle, places many demands on its Soldiers and -- inevitably -- their Families. Two decades of conflict amidst a shifting political and cultural landscape have changed Army demographics, policies and culture. Soldiers and their Families have weathered changes while successfully sustaining readiness and lethality over the same period.

"Every Army Family has unique needs," said Dee Geise, acting deputy director of Installation Services for the Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation Management. "Our job is to provide the programs and services that strengthen the self-reliance and personal readiness of Soldiers and Families -- to prepare them for the challenges they will face as a part of military life and to ensure they have skills and resources to successfully navigate and overcome those challenges."

Previous research assessments on Army family readiness were published in 1993 and 2007, summarizing then-current information on Army Families and their effect on Soldier and unit readiness. When combined, these reports summarize 800 studies, surveys and analyses from 1983 to 2017 -- over 35 years of data related to how Families influence outcomes important to the Army: morale, retention and readiness. The evidence helps military leaders make decisions about policies, programs and services that affect the readiness of military families, Soldiers and units.