WASHINGTON — Hundreds of Soldiers and Family members participated in a Family forum on quality-of-life concerns with Army senior leaders during the last day of the 2023 Association of the United States Army Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington, D.C.
The participants voiced their concerns on a wide range of topics including health care, spouse employment, education, and barracks and housing issues.
“I know that we have a lot of work to do,” said Secretary of the Army Christine E. Wormuth. “We are an enormous organization with an enormous inventory of housing and barracks. We know there is always continuing work to do, but I think we’ve done a lot in the last few years to make sure we are supporting our Soldiers and Families.”
Child Development Centers
The Army is putting an emphasis on expanding its number of child development centers, Wormuth said. The service built six new centers and has at least five more on the way.
The Army is also looking to increase staff at CDCs by increasing wages and providing incentives. The Department of Defense recently adjusted how much service members pay for child care at CDCs for the current school year.
“I know child care is a huge issue,” she said. “For me, as a mom, that was one of the hardest things when my kids were young.”
New Installation App
When Soldiers and Families move to new installations, one of the biggest challenges they face is finding the right resources for the information they need, said Army Chief of Staff Gen. Randy George.
To alleviate the problem, the Army Software Factory is working on a mobile application that will bring information into one place. The team is currently reaching out to Soldiers and Families for ways to tailor the “My Army Post” application for use across the service.
“We are going to make this happen, and we want your feedback on what else you need,” George said. “I think this is important. We have a lot of resources in the Army, and we want to provide them.”
The Army is working on a number of initiatives to increase spouse employment. One example is that military spouses and dependents stationed in Italy can now telework for American companies. This is a big win, Wormuth said.
The Army is looking at increasing direct hiring opportunities for spouses. They are also working to ensure states follow the recently passed Military Spouse Licensing Relief Act that recognizes service member and spouses’ valid professional licenses when they move to another state.
Barracks and Housing
The Army is the service with the largest number of barracks. It spends more than $1 billion annually and has a maintenance backlog of $6.5 billion to bring the quality of barracks up to standard.
“That’s going to take some time, but we are making progress,” Wormuth said. “The chief of staff of the Army and the sergeant major of the Army and I are working to increase the amount we are spending on military construction for barracks.”
Army leadership is working to provide 100% sustainment funding for barracks and to spend more on renovation and construction, Wormuth added.
There is a barracks summit scheduled for the end of October to discuss improvements.
“We are doing a lot in that area to really try to make sure that our Soldiers are living in the kind of accommodations that they deserve to live in,” she added. “Be patient with us.”
As the forum ended, leadership reiterated the importance of these quality-of-life issues for Soldiers and their Families.
“We just want you to leave here today knowing that none of these concerns surprised us,” said Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael Weimer. “We absolutely know they’re important. We absolutely know these are priorities, and we are taking a look at each and every one of them.”