By Elizabeth M. CollinsOctober 11, 2011
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Oct. 11, 2011) -- Family programs remain important and their budgets will not be used to fund other initiatives, the secretary and chief of staff of the Army pledged Monday.
Secretary of the Army John McHugh and Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno assured family members and family readiness group leaders who were gathered at the first family forum of the Association of the United States Army annual meeting that family programs remain as important as ever, despite DOD budget cuts and drawdowns in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"We don't talk enough about our families, about what we've gone through," Odierno said. "We sometimes don't know the impact it's had on our children, and I do worry about that. What are we doing for our children? Wherever I go, I talk about (how) our children are the strength of our nation, our children are the strength of our Army, and how we help them to get through these numerous deployments and how we help them to cope with issues of missing dad or mom."
"And of course one of the things that I think we need to take a hard look at -- and this won't end the day we come out of Afghanistan -- we're going to have a lot of work to do after that as well, because we'll have to continue to deal with family issues, family programs for years to come. We have to ensure that we're invested in them and we have to ensure we understand what those issues are," he said.
And he does understand, Odierno assured the audience. His wife makes sure of it.
Odierno and McHugh said they can't say exactly what will happen until they have an exact budget to work with, but they will have to consider ending underutilized programs, and direct resources at programs that are the most popular and useful.
"I want to make a commitment to you," McHugh said, " to let you know that while we're going to look at ways in which we can do things more efficiently -- we owe that to ourselves, we owe it to the taxpayers of this nation -- we will try and make decisions as to how you feel what is working and what is not. We may change some things. I'd like to think those changes will be for the better. But we will not make Army family programs the bill payer for other kinds of initiatives. That's a place we've been in the past and it's a place I don't want to help take us back to."
"We've got folks under our jurisdiction who are looking at these things, but we're going to be heavily dependent -- and it's not just the family programs, quite honestly, it's a lot of facilities-based initiatives -- as to what folks like you think works and what doesn't to keep us absolutely on point," he explained. "We're not going to cut budgets just to cut budgets, but we have put an enormous amount of money -- over $1.2 billion -- in family programs and we've got to make sure that we're not funding something with a lot of money that you folks either don't know about, are confused about or you don't take advantage of it."
McHugh added that Army family members should also contact their congressional representatives about their concerns, and the need to keep funding family programs.
They then renewed their commitment to Army families by re-signing the Army Family Covenant with Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III.