LIEUTENANT GENERAL MIKE LINNINGTON: Hello. I'm Lt. Gen. (retired) Mike Linnington, CEO of Wounded Warrior Project. It is a great pleasure to be back with the United States Army, albeit in a virtual setting.
As I watch our Army continue to answer our nation's call here in the United States and the world, I couldn't be more proud to be part of this family. Thank you. And thank you to AUSA for honoring Wounded Warrior Project with the opportunity to once again support the Army Senior Leaders Town Hall.
You know, the obstacles of this past year have stretched our limits as individuals, as families, as an Army, and as one of many organizations supporting Soldiers and military families. But we find strength and solace in those who walk alongside us through these unprecedented times. It is this notion that reiterates the importance of taking care of our people, which remains a top priority for the Army. Caring for people is at the heart of the mission at Wounded Warrior Project as well, especially now as the needs of wounded warriors and their families are even more critical than ever before.
We maintain mission focus, providing the necessary programs and support to improve the quality of life of those we serve. Perseverance, responsibility and innovation fuel our path forward as I know they do in the Army as well. On behalf of Wounded Warrior Project, we appreciate the opportunity to stay engaged and relevant and to do what we can to support our Army team. Please keep us as a resource for Soldiers, families and caregivers.
Thank you. God bless you. And Army Strong. Soldier for life.
STAFF: Thank you, Gen. Linnington and the Wounded Warrior Project for your amazing support.
PATTY BARON: Good afternoon, everyone. My name is Patty Baron, and I'm the Family Readiness Director at the Association of the United States Army.
On behalf of AUSA, thank you for joining us for Family Forum III: The Army Senior Leader Town Hall. Whether you're watching virtually or on the Army's Facebook page, I'm so glad that you chose to join us.
Before we start the town hall, I'd like to give a quick little shout-out to the Volunteer Family of the Year, the Raines Family, which includes Staff Sgt. Casey Raines, his amazing spouse Brittany and his beautiful kids, Kamden, Mason, Brooklyn, Caleb, Caiden and Bentley.
And I'd also like to publicly thank the Family of the Year sponsor, Veterans United. Thank you for your generous support.
And let's not forget that this year the Marshall Award Winner is the Army Family. It couldn't have gone to a better group of people.
And so now I would like to introduce our moderator for today's town hall, Lt. Gen. Jason Evans, the Deputy Chief of Staff for Installations, Army G-9. Lt. Gen. Evans is the principal advisor to Army senior leaders on installation policy plans and resources. He's also responsible for leading the Army's Quality of Life Task Force.
Sir, thank you so much for agreeing to moderate this town hall.
Lt. GEN. JASON EVANS: Thank you, Patty. Good afternoon. It's my honor to be the moderator for this town hall.
Before we begin I would like to thank AUSA and recognize Ms. Patty Baron for her hard work on these families forums this week (inaudible) providing great opportunity to (inaudible) families. Our installations serve as the Army's foundation and they support the readiness and well-being of the Soldiers, families, civilians and Soldiers for Life.
Family members, be they spouses, children, parents or siblings -- people are the Army's greatest strength. The Army has and will continue to deliver wins to ensure Soldiers, families, and civilians are afforded the quality of life they deserve.
At this time, I would like to introduce the Army senior leaders. Together, they work tirelessly to improve the readiness and quality of life for our total Army and champion the issues and concerns of our all-volunteer force.
The Honorable Ryan D. McCarthy, the 24th Secretary of the Army and a Soldier for Life.
The 40th Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. James McConville joins us today not only as a Chief of Staff, but also as an Army dad.
And the 16th Sergeant Major of the Army -- SMA Michael Grinston.
Welcome gentlemen and thank you for joining us today.
Secretary McCarthy, we'll begin with your comments, followed by the Chief of Staff of the Army, and then the Sergeant Major of the Army.
ARMY SECRETARY RYAN D. MCCARTHY: Thank you, General Evans and thank you for your leadership over the course of the last year. You orchestrated much of the progress that we're going to talk about today.
Army families are the bedrock of our institution, and this year especially has demonstrated their resiliency. Last year, we gathered to hear from families. We listened to your feedback, understood the issues, and laid out our way ahead for the FY 20. Today, I'd like to highlight the progress that has been made. We will continue to listen to make changes that ease the stresses and burdens to our Soldiers and their families.
First on housing, as a part of our efforts, we have been focused on ensuring we can offer safe and affordable housing. We have done a lot over the past year to hold our housing companies accountable and to improve oversight of their efforts, but we owe it to the families and our service members to do much, much more.
Yesterday, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations and Environment Alex Beehler, Gen. Ed Daly from Army Materiel Command and I met with a number of investors and banks to discuss increasing investments in Army housing. And as a result of our engagements, the Army and private housing companies are on track to invest up to an additional $2.8 billion for Army housing over the next five years.
New construction is already underway and much more is coming. These investments will result in 3,800 new homes and nearly 18,000 renovations of Army homes and installations across the country.
For barracks improvement, we are investing $9 billion from FY 20 to FY 30, with over 780 million executed in just FY 20 to 21 alone.
In health care, quality health care is an essential part of taking care of Soldiers and their families. We have increased access to health care during the pandemic through the use of virtual appointments. I realize that this isn't perfect, but we are working to provide quality health care to our families in these trying times.
In child care, we've increased staffing by seven percent, increasing child care spaces by over 5,000 spaces, and are adding over nine development centers over the next five years.
In spousal employment, this year we've made it easy for military spouses to gain employment with the Army by expanding non-competitive hiring authority and creating a mechanism that allows spouses to keep and transfer their job from post-to-post. In addition, we've increased relicensing reimbursement to $1,000 to include exam and registration fees. We need the skills spouses bring, and we need to make it possible and lessen the costs incurred by moving.
During our visits across the country, we meet with state officials to advocate on behalf of military spousal employment. Thirty-three states are showing signs of improvement with six having favorable reciprocity and 27 that are needing improvement, but heading in the right direction. On PCS moves, personally procured moves are now 100 percent reimbursable, and orders are cut earlier to allow service members more time to plan and prepare.
I want to give the Chief and the SMA the opportunity to amplify these Quality of Life initiatives. Between the two of these men, they have 57 years of combined experience as husbands and fathers in the formation.
ARMY CHIEF OF STAFF GEN. JAMES C. MCCONVILLE: Well, thank you, Mr. Secretary for your leadership. And good afternoon and -- and thank you all for listening in.
You know, as the Secretary said, you know, people -- first, people, it's our number-one priority. So what does that mean? It means the priority is where the resources go. And the Secretary just laid out all the initiatives and decisions we put in place. And it's going to take time to get these Quality of Life initiatives into place, but they're going to improve your quality of life.
And what I'd like to just take a couple of seconds to talk about is what we're telling leaders and what's their part and in our Soldiers. And, you know, the first thing we are recommending is that our families are absolutely a critical part of the golden triangle that we have put in place. Every -- every Soldier has a golden triangle around him. That's a leader, that's a family, and -- and -- and that's a buddy. And that's what makes us a cohesive team.
And Sergeant Major will talk about the "This is My Squad" initiative. But what we want to do is make sure that our leaders know the Soldier’s family before there's something wrong. So we ask each and every one of you to be part of that squad, to reach out to the leaders reaching out to you and get to know them before there's a problem.
For the chain of command, we're telling them that we're putting a lot of resources and initiatives in place. We are paying at this level for quality services and quality housing, and we expect that to be delivered. And we need your help to do that.
We're expecting leaders to go into barracks and make sure that -- that we have quality barracks for our Soldiers. Again, we're putting a lot of money into this and we want to make sure that has happened. We've hired inspectors for our moves to make sure that, again, you're getting those quality moves. We want the chain of command to be involved in that. We know there's transitions going on in health care, and this has been exacerbated by the COVID environment. So we need leaders again caring for their Soldiers, making sure they get the care they need and, if not, get it up to the appropriate level.
I do want to thank all of our medical professionals and CDC workers who have been working in a very, very difficult environment to provide the services we -- we need for our families. And these are not normal times, and leaders need to think through how we're taking care of our families in a COVID environment. We have single parents. We have dual-working parents. Child care is different, so we need to take a hard look at how we're supporting our Soldiers during this difficult time.
And I'd just like to conclude before I turn over to Sergeant Major just how proud we all are of our Soldiers and families and how they are dealing with this very challenging time.
Sergeant Major of the Army?
SGT. MAJOR OF THE ARMY MICHAEL A. GRINSTON: Mr. Secretary and Chief, again I'm proud to -- to be your Sergeant Major of the Army. It's still not my favorite title. My favorite title is being a husband and a father, and that's what it means when we talk about Army families.
Sometimes, you know, when you're in the Army, you're part of multiple squads. I always talk about my squad. You know, one of my squads is sitting up here. I got the Secretary, the Chief and the Under -- the Vice and Chief Dixon-Carter, which is still a really good squad.
And - but my second squad is my wife and my kids. And that's - they're important. They've been with me through all my deployments. They've been with me every time we PCS, 11 high -- 11 schools, three high schools for our eldest daughter. So that's how important these Army families are.
And I -- I once again want to thank the -- the Army of the Year -- the Army Family of the Year, the -- the Raines family and what they did. And with six kids -- and they really enjoy cold weather. We talked to them yesterday. And once you talk to them, you know we are really good with our families. And they have a wonderful family. It was a joy to talk to you -- them. And congratulations to the -- the Army Family of the Year, the Raines Family, one more time.
Over the last year, I really have walked through a lot of child care centers, and not only are we throwing resources at it, we're -- you know, building other child care centers, but we're also looking at how can we hire more folks. So our manning levels match what -- we have a capacity in the building, but if we make it so hard for a family to get a job in the CDCs, there's a lot of incentives that we're working on. One of those is, can I transfer from one CDC to the other? And that's really been important.
So I've -- prior to COVID I enjoyed walking through those. And then once COVID hit, I did put out one letter and -- from all of us to say for all our families and our -- our single Soldiers that have children is to be a little more lenient and have a little empathy in the child care when you're talking about family child care programs. We have a lot of single parents that are in the military, and we -- we need to actually look at our leadership, and that's one of the things we looked at in the last year especially in this COVID environment. And I appreciate everybody's support.
And then lastly, as we talked about, we have family housing in the barracks. I was true to my word. Last year, I said when you're walking through where our Soldiers live and, mainly in the barracks, have done family housing and barracks, I'd say that we're putting a lot of money into that. But I'd ask all leaders, just because we're giving you a building, does it really negate our responsibilities of leaders that are still continuously checking our Soldiers?
And that's what we need. All our family, we're all in this together whatever the environment that we have. And that's how come we're so proud to have an Army Strong Family. We have to stay connected. We all have to talk to each other. We have to reach out to the unit. The unit has to reach out. And that's one of those things we've really been talking about especially in the last six or seven months.
And again, I'm proud to be your Sergeant Major of the Army.
LT. GEN. EVANS: Okay, gentlemen, now it's time for some questions. Ladies and gentlemen, you can enter your questions in the chat box of the virtual town hall. We'll also be monitoring Facebook Live and we've got two questions now from Facebook Live.
And the first question is, if someone is being separated by Med Board -- Medical Board -- and wasn't given the opportunity to transfer educational benefits or their education to children, is there something that can be done? Early on before policy changed, I applied to give my benefits to them. But when I was going through the Medical Board, it was no longer an option.
SMA GRINSTON: Okay. Before we turn it over to the experts that we have in the room, I guess, I'll dive on that hand grenade. So I think it was six - nope, let's see. Maybe that's a little better.
You know, when we looked at this I think it was six years that you had to do the service (inaudible) requirement. I'm not tracking there's any waivers to that process because, you know, we wanted to see it was more like a re-enlistment tool. We wanted to, you know, keep you motivated to stay in. And if you don't reach that obligation, it's one of those things like it's a (inaudible), you know, and we do that with bonuses, too.
As a re-enlistment obligation we can too, but I'll turn it over to the expert if there's somebody else that can help me out.
LT. GEN. EVANS: This policy is steeped in law, so once you separate --
SMA GRINSTON: Yeah.
GEN. EVANS: -- there's -- there's no recourse. So you -- you must be able to transfer those educational benefits prior to separating from the Army.
SMA GRINSTON: Okay.
ROY WALLACE: Yes. So this is Roy Wallace, the Deputy G-1 for the United States Army.
(UNKNOWN): Come over to the --
MR. WALLACE: Okay. So again, this is Roy Wallace, the Deputy G-1 for the United States Army. The Sergeant Major hit it right on the head.
This is a retention incentive, and it comes with a service requirement after you transfer the benefit. So -- and it is based in statute as the G-9 said. So there is no recourse for -- for where we are today. However, this individual raises a great question that we probably need to take back to our friends at OSD and our other friends in these other services because this is not just the Army. This is everybody's issue that we might have to go down a different road on.
I'm sure that this individual didn't pick to be in the Medical Evaluation Board. And they may not have known it may have been something sudden or something that happened to them. So you raise a very, very interesting question that we need to dig into.
GEN. MCCONVILLE: Yeah, I was going to jump on that, Roy. You said exactly what I -- I think we need to take a look at is, you know, when someone is being separated through no fault of their own because of, you know, who -- who knows what's behind the -- the MEB? We ought to have a -- a look at that in the policy to see if there is possibility…
You know, if it's -- if -- if you don't finish your enlistment for your -- you know, because of something you might have done and that's a different story, but here is someone that -- that's serving, we don't know what the Medical Evaluation Board for, but there -- there ought at least be a thought about that. And we need to take a look at this, so we'll take that on and we'll bring that up through the policy channels.
LT. GEN. EVANS: Right. The next question, can we make commanders responsible for facility management and tie it to their officer evaluation reports?
GEN. MCCONVILLE: Absolutely. You know, when we talk about facilities, I mean, the commander is responsible for everything his unit does or -- or feels to do. And they are responsible and accountable for their facilities, for their barracks. There's a commander that's in-charge of every function on a military base. And they need to understand that and we need to hold them accountable.
And, you know, we give them the responsibility, we also give them the authorities to administer those facilities. And so they are -- they are responsible, and they are accountable.
SMA GRINSTON: And I'll -- I'd like to (inaudible), Chief, again, as we just changed. We had the First Sergeant's Barracks initiatives for a long time with the Army Barracks Management Program. And commanders should be signing for those facilities as -- as an example.
I think we're almost complete as an Army, but there's still some of that urban legend out there of, oh, well, am I really responsible? Yeah, actually it is. And that's -- that -- that was a not-so-recent change, but we still haven't caught up with that. So some of that's already actually in some of the policies, especially when you're talking about the -- the barracks housing.
LT. GEN. EVANS: Next question. This one's from (Jason Caleb?). The previous two were anonymous. How will Army leaders balance readiness and modernization priorities while aiming to place people first?
SEC. MCCARTHY: Go ahead.
GEN. MCCONVILLE: I'll go and take that -- take that one. You know, a lot of people go, hey, wait a minute, are we -- are we walking away from readiness? Are we walking away from modernization?
My experience has been that if we take care of our people, develop cohesive teams where everyone treats everyone with dignity and respect, and every Soldier knows their job and -- and does their job -- then everything else follows. Readiness follows, modernization follows, and we have the right people at the right time. And I think that's what makes the Army what it is.
And, you know, we expect leadership to take care of their people and inspire them to do great things. We don't need to inspire tanks or helicopters or artillery pieces. We do need to inspire people, and that's what makes us different. People makes us the greatest Army, and that's why we need to take care of them.
SMA GRINSTON: I guess, again, Mr. Deputy --
SEC. MCCARTHY: Go ahead.
SMA GRINSTON: -- you know, my interpretation is people first is readiness and modernization. If you look at the Soldier lethality, if I don't get the -- the -- the new ENVGs to the Soldiers, that's -- to me that's -- that's people.
If I can't be individually ready as a person, if -- if I'm - if I don't have a -- a Soldier that has good quality housing and I had to spend all my time at the housing, then they’re taken away from that person that's going to be trained and ready. So when I think of people first, that is enhancing readiness and modernization because we're -- we're looking to enhance those. That's just my interpretation.
LT. GEN. EVANS: Great. Okay. The next one is from Kelly Bell. Is the Army going to publish any official guidance regarding family care plans as it relates specifically to the pandemic? I know you have addressed this already in an e-mail. Thank you. But this remains a big issue as family care plans were not initially intended to cover day-to-day care.
SEC. MCCARTHY: If you want to (inaudible).
SMA GRINSTON: You want to lead.
SEC. MCCARTHY: Well, okay, you want to go (inaudible).
SMA GRINSTON: Yeah, I'll lead. So the -- what I wrote and what we sent out in the e-mail was, you know, there's already a policy. And, you know, I -- you know, getting the details of the policy, but the -- the leadership part is where we were missing. And that was the focus on the thing is that the policy is here and it's good, probably not in the global pandemic. So if the CDC is not open in my area, I can't take you to that. If I can't get my family because they're elderly over to my unit, I can't execute my family care plan.
A leader needs to make a decision and say, well, that's not appropriate, where just in my opinion, that's why in the letter I didn't say there is a new policy because I don't do policy. I'm just to start getting ready to execute. But it was -- because we can't cover every instance, there may be some folks that actually their CDCs may be open.
And then in Korea, the CDCs may be open or somewhere else. So putting that out Army-wide, the conditions in this global pandemic are different state-to-state, country-to-country, region-to-region, and to put out a policy that covers everybody as we go up and down through this COVID environment, I just didn't see how we could actually do that.
But if we have engaged, positive leaders, I think we will handle all those conditions and not try to -- to put out a policy that covers the globe. I -- I just -- no.
GEN. MCCONVILLE: Yeah. As he's moving to the mic, I mean, it's people first. You know, commanders are still going to have to get the mission done. And that's what we have to -- you know, have caring leaders. They -- they have to take care of the people and they’ve got to – they’ve got to be in a position to also get the -- the mission done. And we can give them some help if there's some extenuating circumstances.
Q: Yes, Chief and Sergeant Major. The only thing I was going to add is that -- and -- and leaders have the support of the installation, Force Health Protection and the commanders from the medical treatment facilities. So as we're engaging at every installation, they understand the full support that we are also augmenting if anything comes up in relation to their family care plans when it comes to medical support. And we'll continue to provide those commanders that -- that support and ensure that we cover anything required in family care plans when it comes to the medical aspect.
GEN. EVANS: The next question, while regulation is needed, Family Readiness Group regulations have made the old Family Readiness Group training events a minefield with regard to meals and fund-raising. Can we get some common sense changes?
GEN. MCCONVILLE: Yeah, why don't we go to (Paul ?) (inaudible). I mean --
GEN. MCCONVILLE: -- I mean, you know, I mean, the intent of the Family Readiness Groups is to build these cohesive teams that we're talking about. It's very, very difficult, you know, for our families. And we -- we -- you know, we've all watched the growth over -- at least I have over the last 39 years of -- from family support groups to family readiness groups, and, you know, some of the regulation that goes on with that and some of the challenges with funding.
But I mean, at the end of the day, you know, we want to bring families together and during challenging times. And we're willing to look at any regulations that we feel don't do that. And I'll turn them over to the policy (inaudible) to do that.
LT. GEN. EVANS: Sir, so we -- so we have that policy. And so there are some regulations in terms of a use of appropriated funds for meals and the -- and the fund-raising and alike. But we will take that on because it's not steeped in any legislation. It's obviously policy. We'll take it, evaluate and come back to the Army senior leaders.
GEN. MCCONVILLE: Okay.
SEC. MCCARTHY: Okay.
LT. GEN. EVANS: Next one is from --
GEN. MCCONVILLE: I do want to highlight --
LT. GEN. EVANS: Yes, Sir.
GEN. MCCONVILLE: -- the common-sense points you made. Let's -- you know, just let's make sure there's common sense --
LT. GEN. EVANS: Yes, Sir.
GEN. MCCONVILLE: -- in that. You know, sometimes regulations come as a result that maybe there wasn't -- you know, some -- there were some things done in the past, but --
LT. GEN. EVANS: Yes, Sir.
GEN. MCCONVILLE: -- it's always worthwhile taking a new look at them based on some of the leaders and families' concerns.
LT. GEN. EVANS: We'll bring you a solution that gets to yes.
From (Kevin Button?). "I am a volunteer mayor at Fort Belvoir, and one of the big issues I have noted is the way the lease is written, it makes the housing partner responsible for roads, street lights and trees, etc. This takes resources away from the real issue of maintaining homes. Recommend a relook at the contract."
SEC. MCCARTHY: You want to take that (inaudible)?
LT. GEN. EVANS: We do have General Gabram on the line. If you want to go to IMCOM, General Gabram is on the line, too, as well.
(UNKNOWN): What do you recommend?
GEN. EVANS: General Gabram, are you up, sir?
LT. GEN. DOUGLAS M. GABRAM: This is General Gabram. General Evans, can you hear me?
LT. GEN. EVANS: Turn your mic on.
Yeah, we can hear you.
Hey, Doug, we're getting bad feedback so ASA I&E will step in and provide an answer. Over.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF THE ARMY ALEX BEEHLER: Yes, the questioner is correct, the lease does provide those responsibilities to the particular partner. And it's part of a 50-year lease, and so the partner is legally obligated to do this. And certainly, at the end of the lease, we would be in the position to look at the terms of the lease and renegotiate appropriately.
The point should be made that we have certainly heard from a lot of residents that they not only are concerned about the housing, but also about the surrounding community. And part of that is the general maintenance and upkeep of both the roads and the surrounding lawns. So it does -- does serve the broader purpose of making sure that we have as attractive and favorable community to our Soldiers and families as possible.
GEN. MCCONVILLE: I guess -- I guess the question is -- is that we want to take on is we have families that -- that are living in houses that are, you know, not satisfied with the quality of housing that we're providing. And, you know, how the lease is written, that is one thing. The other thing that, you know, as we -- what the Secretary talked about -- is we do have housing that is not of the quality that we want. That's why we're working to replace that housing. If it's privatized housing, to get them to invest in that. If it's -- if it's Army housing for us to invest in -- in that, and -- and at the same time to put additional money in to make sure the quality of the housing is -- is what we expect it to be.
And so we need to work that and -- and so when -- you know, the -- the lease, as you say, Mr. Secretary, is exactly right. We're not going to change the lease, but we are doing things to get after how they provide the service of housing to our families. And that's something we can do.
SEC. MCCARTHY: And, Chief, we can drive the prioritization of every dollar in the investment account that the -- the preponderance of the -- the capital are going towards the recapitalization of homes or the building of new homes.
To Mr. Beehler's point, when there are safety-related issues they're going to address those, but I can emphasize to everybody that's on this call today that -- that those investment plans are brought to these three people up here, and we're going through every penny to ensure that we can maximize every dollar per square foot and bring the quality and safe homes to everyone in the formation.
LT. GEN. EVANS: Thank you, sir. We have that question to work some more on.
“Has HQDA looked into…” -- this is from (Quinn Kearsley?). “Has HQDA looked into keeping Soldiers at their current duty station for much longer than current averages as well as allowing Soldiers to volunteer to stay at one duty station for their entire careers? This would reduce cost that could be reallocated to modernization and put Soldiers first.”
GEN. MCCONVILLE: Now I have -- and I -- I guess I got the G-1 here. That's one in the M&RA, and they -- they can talk about details. But really the guidance is I think we should work hard to stabilize families for as long as we can. That allows the kids to go to school. It allow spouses to have jobs that they -- they can stay with.
And -- and I think as we move into more of a talent management business, you know, other than the schools and the professional development opportunities they need to take, we would like to see much longer stabilization of the troops. And you want to talk about that (inaudible)?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF THE ARMY E. CASEY WARDYNSKI: Thanks, Chief.
And, (Quinn?), Dr. Wardynski. I'm the ASA for Manpower and Reserve Affairs.
So your question is a great one. A lot of progress has already been made. We began with the Officer Corps because we had data systems and the ability to sort of manage at that level when we began. And that started with a review of business practices such as stabilization and other sets of rules. We scrubbed those from top to bottom, threw out rules that we don't need to keep anymore. And some of those were this very routinized three-year post and then three years you're out to the next post.
Those are gone. Those are being implemented in the marketplace that opens here in November for the Officer Corps. We do have people from last year that stayed in place, stayed in the same brigades. We have people that wanted to move. That's being migrated down the rank structure now and to our NCO and enlisted ranks. We're taking steps in the civilian world to modernize there as well.
And so a lot going on with the specific question you raised in mind, and both improving conditions for our families and, of course, recognizing where we can have some savings so we can put them back to work elsewhere in the Army.
And I think General Brito can talk in even more detail.
LT. GEN GARY BRITO: Thank you, sir.
And -- and, (Quinn ?), thank you for that great question. It's important for our families.
I can offer up that this issue has been looked at both pre- and post-pandemic. Post-pandemic, Soldiers are certainly allowed to put into deferral for PCS, which had been very effective for some families who want to facilitate spouse employment, minimize turbulence during a heavy PCS move and minimize any disruption of what would give a Soldier a hardship tour.
I would mention, tied to the Chief's comments on -- on taking care of our people and talent management -- once we address and look at it closely -- the needs of the Army -- I'm very, very comfortable that the accommodations will be made to support the Soldier and their family.
If a further deferment is requested, the Soldier would receive proper counseling on what they could do to his career time line. But long and short of it, as the Chief mentioned upfront, we'll do all that we can to balance the needs of the Army, putting the people in the right place and take care of our Soldiers and families as well.
LT. GEN. EVANS: Thank you, sir. All right. This next comment is from (Brian Speier?), and I think this is a complement to Army senior leaders and the folks in the room. "This is a fantastic -- this is fantastic to have the SMEs in the room and watch the People First Strategy get implemented in front of our eyes. Each of the Army Senior Leader Town Halls should aim for this approach."
SEC. MCCARTHY: Thank you.
GEN. MCCONVILLE: Well, thank you.
We'll take -- we'll take that one. And again, winning does matter.
LT. GEN. EVANS: Yes, Sir.
GEN. MCCONVILLE: And we have one satisfied customer.
LT. GEN. EVANS: At the time.
GEN. MCCONVILLE: No, but let me touch it. I mean, this is -- this is leaders' business. And, you know, the Secretary has put out, the Sergeant Major has talked about and we've all discussed about, you know, people first and being the number-one priority. Again, it gets back to, you know, the Army is people. We have to take care of our Soldiers. We have to take care of our families.
I think it's 78 percent of our sergeants and above have families. And so if we want to retain the very, very best, we've got to retain families. And it's the right thing to do, and we intend to do that. And we're going to do things differently to allow people to stabilize longer.
And really what -- what that's about, in which the G-1 and the M&RA are working on, is moving away from an Industrial Age system where every Soldier is treated as an interchangeable part, and you start managing Soldiers by their talents, by their knowledge, their skills, their behavior and kind of (inaudible) in the Army -- even by their -- their preferences. So if they want to stay somewhere, then we're going to try to do -- allow them to stay to meet the mission.
On the other hand, we have Soldiers who want to move all the time. They love to move. And -- and -- but every Soldier is different, every family is different, every family has different needs and different requirements. We want a system that takes those needs and requirements into place when we're doing assignments.
LT. GEN. EVANS: Next one's from (Saterine?). “When will all Army community service programs and services be available to all Army Soldiers and families and not just those in the active component?”
SEC. MCCARTHY: (Inaudible), is it?
GEN. MCCONVILLE: Yeah.
SEC. MCCARTHY: Yeah.
DEE GEISE: Dee Geise, Soldier and Family Readiness Division. I work for General Evans. So we have Army community services at our post camps and stations, and I know the Reserves and National Guard also have support systems in place. The manning for those ACS centers are based on active component populations, although I've never heard of an ACS center turning away a Guard or Reserve member in need.
So we can go back. We can take another look at that. We also try and combine the support systems within all three COMPOs, but it's a provocative question. Thank you for that. And we'll -- we'll turn back and take another look at it.
GEN. MCCONVILLE: Yeah. If we can have them come, you know, offline however, we get that to see what services specifically they would like to see, we can -- we can go ahead and address that. Our National Guard and Reserves are -- are critical parts of our Army. When we say Soldiers, we need regular Army, we need National Guard and we need -- and we need Reserves. And again, we could take a look at that.
MS. GEISE: Yes, sir. We'll reach out.
LT. GEN. EVANS: Okay. Next question. “What keeps you up at night as it pertains to the military families?”
SEC. MCCARTHY: If I could --
GEN. MCCONVILLE: We all can do that one.
SEC. MCCARTHY: The extraordinary OPTEMPO that the U.S. Army has faced really for the last 19 years -- and it's something that the Chief and the SMA had talked about a lot -- is that December 31st, when everybody was getting ready to go out for dinner and -- and have a, you know, a nice event to cap off a year, U.S. Army and other joint elements conducted a raid and took out a terrorist leader who was posing a significant threat to us in the Middle East -- Qasem Soleimani, the Quds Force leader in the Iranian regime.
We had 178,000 people deployed in our 19th year of combat operations at that point, over 18 years at that point. And that was considered normal. Another 10,000 troops blew out from the 82nd Airborne Division over a matter of days, and then about 45 days later, COVID-19. Another 60 days later, George Floyd is murdered by a policeman in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Forty-five thousand more troops are out on American streets, building hospitals, augmenting hospitals, delivering food, running nursing homes. We're at the center of developing the vaccine. It is extraordinary what the U.S. Army is doing. And we're carrying that load, but it is heavy. And it's been an enormous pressure on Soldiers and their families.
And what concerns me is that when you have an OPTEMPO as high now as you did during the surge in 2008, '09, '10, those (inaudible) ratios take their toll, and definitely for 19 years. So we're doing what we can to reduce the OPTEMPO. We're doing what we can to get a better quality of life. But I worry about the stress on all of you. And we're doing everything we can to improve that. But the world is incredibly complex and dangerous right now. And it's extraordinary, the performance. And we'll do what we can to make life a little bit easier for you.
GEN. MCCONVILLE: I -- I worry about the quality of life resources that we provide our Soldiers and families are equal to the quality of service they provide, as the Secretary said, every single day. I mean, we have Soldiers and families making incredible sacrifices to defend this country and way of life. And -- and quite frankly, I'll be straight up -- it just bothers me if we have housing that's not adequate for our families.
There's problems with health care. There's problems with child development centers or there's problems with (inaudible or -- our a spousal employment. Those are all very, very important to me. And, you know, we have over a million Soldiers, and every single one of them deserves high-quality services in those areas. So we're all sitting here, we're all committed to that. And -- and we won't rest until that's all taken care of.
SMA GRINSTON: Sir, (inaudible) it's going to be a little bit more narrow to the last few months, but it's indicative what we've gone through in the last probably 19 years is staying connected to the family.
As you watch this, you know, and I did that. You know, I was in that turn. You know, I deploy, I come back, I go and redeploy. Did I have time to call the parents of my Soldiers? Did I call the -- we tried to do and we talked about family readiness groups. Am I still doing that today?
And we've got this COVID environment. How do I stay -- the families are very -- the American people are important. How do we connect to those families, those parents that, you know, gave their sons and daughters to us? We’ve got to reach out. We’ve got to stay connected even in these times because the more we do things on social media, it feels like we're not as socially connected, even though all these things are happening on the internet.
But I think that physical -- the way you look at people, the way we can see and talk to them -- really worries me, and that's why the Chief's golden triangle on the bottom-left says families. And -- and my big -- you know, all of our big push is to make sure we call and reach out to families, reach out to them during the holidays, and reach out to them. And don't wait until something really bad happens.
I was doing, you know, another forum where we had a life worth living. And one of the guys I asked, I said, "Well, when did you meet the family?" I saw him at the funeral. And that was the first time that that NCO had met the family. So that's -- that's what worries me the most is that we stay connected not only to our Soldiers, and their families, and the parents, and the American people. We don't want to lose that connection because we don't want to be a part of that story. We don't want to meet the family for the first time when something really bad happens. So that's what I worry about the most is just staying connected to our families.
LT. GEN. EVANS: Thank you, gentlemen. Next question is from (Devon?).
GEN. MCCONVILLE: Hey, you want to -- yeah, go ahead, Dr. Wardynski.
DR. WARDYNSKI: As a part of a team here that works for people issues for the senior leaders, I'd say one of the things I'm particularly concerned about is, in this environment, we have something new that we hadn't confronted before and normally wouldn't be in the Army's portfolio, and that is worrying about school-aged children.
We've always cared about our family kids. We all have kids who have grown up in the Army. But now we've got them at home. They may be missing educational opportunities. They may have gaps as they move around. So the Chief and the Secretary have both asked me to look closely at this matter and we do in direct communication with superintendents at places like Fort Polk and Fort Irwin, state superintendents across the United States, the Association of Superintendents, talking to them about what can they do to support our families. What are they going to do?
We're looking closely at what we can do in communication with the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness about what DODEA can do. And we're looking at things like the DODEA grants that are offered to school systems near our installations, and to see if we are getting the services we need and having a voice in the distribution of those grants as a lever to make sure our kids are getting great services that were being considered in our unique operating environment. And we can meet the need in the -- in the pandemic conditions -- until our kids can get back to a more routine environment.
SEC. MCCARTHY: Thank you.
LT. GEN. EVANS: Great. Thank you, Dr. Wardynski.
Back to (Devon?), his question: “Can you please provide more detail about the increased funding for housing?”
SEC. MCCARTHY: So in this case, (Devon ?), we had -- we have to work with banks that help lend money to the -- the RCI companies that manage the portfolios of housing. So they basically get -- either do a bond or a commercial loan and provide the capital for these companies.
And what we've asked Mr. Beehler and Gen. Daly to do is to come back with a series of plans by installation that will -- that will look at whether it's a recapitalization of an existing home or just a complete teardown and put new homes in place. That really gauges the depreciation of the asset, how old it is, how worn down the home is.
The other thing that we're looking hard at is just making the choice between more dollars per square foot so you get higher quality, maybe just slightly less square footage on the home, but to get a much more higher quality home, and then the types of communities that we could look at. Townhouse communities with a pool, and then there are other types of amenities related to that. So this increase of capital -- substantial increase of capital -- is going to help us make fundamental changes to the footprints around the country and, quite frankly, around the locations overseas as well.
Chief, anything you want to add?
GEN. MCCONVILLE: I think as the Secretary said, you know, when we look at our housing I would say about one-third of it we're going to need to replace over the next 10 years, and so we're putting together a strategy of that and we've got to commit money to do that.
The Sergeant Major talked about the barracks. That's housing for us. We want to make sure we have quality barracks and -- and we're putting billions of dollars in into those facilities to make sure that we have -- have that type of quality. It's going to take some time, but we are committed to making that happen.
SEC. MCCARTHY: And correct me if I'm wrong, Mr. Beehler, we also have a Army Family Housing Council, so we're getting direct feedback from Army families for the -- as we show some of the concepts that we're going to have by installation of the types of communities that we're going to recapitalize and build new.
Mr. Beehler, you want to add anything?
MR. BEEHLER: Just quickly, that's absolutely right, Secretary. On top of that we've had many comprehensive surveys of -- of residents of trying to get the most accurate picture possible of what our Soldiers and families really want in effective housing and, therefore, work closely with the private companies to make sure that those wishes are appropriately responded to. So basically, giving the Soldiers and families, as best as possible, what they can -- what they can see.
We also mentioned earlier for the older houses we are now covered through their historic program comment that allows much greater flexibility of what we can do to enhance and improve the quality of those houses, make them efficient, effective and safe, and not be as encumbered as we were with a lot of regulatory and process challenges in those older homes. And that -- that accounts for close to 3,500 of the Army homes on military bases. So a lot of good things headed in the right direction to make sure that the funding -- the dollar funding -- goes as further as possible in getting the quantity and the desired aspect that Soldiers and their families are seeking.
SEC. MCCARTHY: And I have to give credit to the Chief here because as he would constantly remind me, until we signed the executive directive to change the policy, old is not historic.
And by doing so -- we made T-shirts -- but we signed out the directive and changed the policy. Now you can use modern materials in the recapitalization of these homes, which improves -- helps us with cost as well as safety. So that's going to help us dramatically to recapitalize the footprint as well.
LT. GEN. EVANS: Thank you. We will try to go to AMC or IMCOM on this question one more time to see if our audio is fixed.
Hey, Doug, can you -- can you hear us? Over.
SMA GRINSTON: By the end of 2030 there will be no Q4 and Q3 barracks in the Army. You know, one specific area, Fort Carson, but that is the -- the whole goal when AMC said, "Hey, I got the facilities investment plan." And when they explained that to all the -- the senior leaders and myself -- that was the goal, let's get that out.
And we can look at the -- well, the 21 projects at Fort Hood on barracks. There's the -- the projects. I think Second Brigade is going to start their barracks on calendar year '21. They're doing the renovations. I don't know the numbers for Fort Carson, but that's -- that's the whole reason for that 2030 $9 billion.
MR. BEEHLER: So this is Alex Beehler again, and to add on to what the Sergeant Major just said, this is a comprehensive look at all barracks across the entire Army enterprise, $9 billion over 10 years goes to barracks. We've already spent in the preceding fiscal year about $800 million dollars to improve the quality.
Top priority in housing, it goes directly to the quality of life. And we're working closely with the private partners, with the installation leadership, with AMC and IMCOM to make this happen as effectively as possible.
You also once again have used surveys with the profile of the -- the single Soldiers to get a better sense of what they feel is important in a barracks in modernizing it so that we will be much more in tune with their focus. Over.
LT. GEN. EVANS: Great. This has been a wonderful discussion. We are down to our last 10 minutes, so with the closing comments and Patty's closing comments, we -- we've got time for one more question.
And that question is going to come from (Ms. Annie Stewart?). "Spousal employment is so important. I love all the resources, both private and government, but there is -- if there's any effort to streamline all of the support to one site similar to the Army "We Care" app? Additionally, any thought to remove rank off spousal preference, PCS order submitted form?"
LT. GEN. BRITO: Thank you. That is a great question. And the short answer is yes on the number of applications and support forms that our families can use and spouses can use.
And our offer up is a lesson learned from any of the other systems that we have. So looking at some phone-based apps that family members and spouses can use as well, streamlining many of the application processes that we have to apply for jobs and other sources into one. And -- and it doesn't exist at this point, but clearly something we're looking at is to improve the services for our family members and our Soldiers. And I will take on your great issue about erasing rank and do we need it to provide the proper services to our -- to our spouses that are looking for employment at their current location or their future location. Thank you.
LT. GEN. EVANS: Just for all of you out there who have submitted questions, we will get an answer to you on those questions. Now we'll go to closing comments.
Gentlemen, Sergeant Major, we'll start with you, followed by the Chief and then the Secretary. Over.
SMA GRINSTON: Sir, thank you. Thanks to the -- the Secretary and the Chief for allowing me to be on this panel. And most importantly, thank you to all the families in the Army. But I do want to highlight one group is our COMPO 2 and 3 Soldiers and their families. And I look back on, you know, as we watched what was going on with COVID, we had COMPO 1, you know, immediately go out to New York and Washington State, but then we had, you know, the Urban Augmentation Task Force that went out.
And then right after that we had civil unrest, and -- and then we watched our COMPO 3 said, oh, we -- we could do this. And then we -- we also (inaudible) to doing -- you know, doing all these things. But what the brunt of some of the things that were happening when you -- when I looked at from March, April, May, June, and then we throw in the hurricane season. And all of that was going on all of the same time.
And imagine, you know, those families, their dedication to put in the effort of whether that's in the state, sometimes out of the state, sometimes one in the country or the other, it really bodes to how powerful the United States Army is because of all the components of the Army. And I just want to say just really a special thanks to those -- those families of those COMPO 2 and 3 Soldiers because we could not as an -- as an Army and as a country, we could not have done it without them. Thank you.
GEN. MCCONVILLE: I just like -- I'd like to reinforce what the Sergeant Major just said. I've been doing this a little over 39 years now. And I don't think I've seen a more challenging time for our Soldiers and families. They've been deployed around the world. We still have combat operations going on with this thing called "great power competition" with China and -- and Russia. We still have regional miscreants from North Korea to Iran. And we -- and the violent extremist problem has not gone away.
And then we see what's happening at home, as the Sergeant Major said, and we -- we take a look at COVID. And so I could not be more proud of what our Soldiers and families have done over the -- this last year.
And a special shout-out to our Guard and Reserve. I've watched you go into veterans' homes and save lives. I've seen you on the front lines of COVID in every single state. You're out there fighting fires. You just made a great rescue out in California. You're on the front lines of civil unrest.
I was out at a combat training center rotation with the -- with the 134 Red Bulls and, you know, you just come out of COVID and -- and protecting your communities. One -- one of the Soldiers (inaudible) one of those grocery stores and you're still getting after it so you can deploy and do your job. So just want to thank each and every one of you for what you do. We're very fortunate to have you and very proud to serve with you.
SEC. MCCARTHY: The performance and resiliency of our Soldiers and their families has been extraordinary. And we heard you last year. We have put a lot of activity in place, but activity is interesting. Results are compelling. And we're not going to rest until we put more points on the board and get you the quality of life that you deserve.
The stress on this institution is unprecedented. And we'll do everything we can to give you the quality of life you deserve and reduce the stress set wherever possible. Thank you all for joining us today, and we'll see you again soon. Thank you.
Lt. GEN. EVANS: Gentlemen, thank you.
Patty, we're going back to you. Again, thank you for the opportunity. People first. Winning matters. Army Strong.
Back to you, Patty.
MS. BARON: Thank you so very much, Secretary McCarthy, Gen. McConville, Sgt. Major of the Army Grinston, for joining us today. I absolutely hear that you do hear us and that you do literally and very much put people first. Thank you.
To our audience members online and on Facebook, we are honored that you joined us today, especially at these challenging times. And I certainly hope that we can have this meeting in person next year. And hopefully, you'll be joining us as AUSA members. We can't do this without you.
Until then. Stay safe and healthy. Thank you everyone for joining us today.