How To Cut Military Family Programs


Psst. Hey bub.The drawdown is coming. Betta get'cher family programs now before they cut your funding.

OK, OK.  The message that cuts to Army family programming were on their way was not quite as subtle as a hiss from the alleyway, but it was close. Yet the fact that cuts are coming came from every Army general who stood at the podium at the AUSA conference in Washington DC.

No wonder an administrator from Army Community Services stood up and asked nervously, “What metric will be used to determine which programs will be cut?”

Darn good question. Would cuts be decided by how many people fill out an eval? Would a national survey be hustled out in which, say, nine people bother to respond?  Will the whole thing be based on the best buddy list of the base commander?

The answer from Army Chief of Staff Ray Odierno was vague. I could hardly blame the guy. With so much going on in the Army, exactly how cuts will come to family programs is a little on the small potatoes side. Unless you are one of those Army families who count on one of those programs.

So I thought I would help by thinking up a metric to cut family programming and saving General Odierno a lot of time.  Cuz I’m a helper girl.  Here are the things I think the cutters should keep in mind when it comes to family programming:

Is it local?  As General Odierno pointed out, every post has different demands. If your post is in the middle of nowhere or it is in a foreign country, your families will need a much different set of programs than those families stationed near a large metropolitan area. Does this program suit a need that cannot be provided anywhere else in your community? Does it suit a particularly local need?

Is it deep? The DoD has over 3500 approved websites. More than 40,000 nonprofits claim “military” in their mission statement. Then you have your Army funded programs. Secretly, I am always struck by how many of these things offer the same stuff over and over. How many times do we need to be told to eat right and sleep right and lose weight and save money and stay busy and ‘communicate?’ Show me a deep program with much more than these basics.

How many military spouses do you employ? Joining Forces should not be the only program out there begging Americans to hire military spouses. We should hire our own. Don’t hire spouses out of pity. Hire because military spouses understand the struggles of military life better than outsiders.

How does this program bring the servicemember back to the family? I am all for programs that step in to help out the family when the servicemember is deployed (babysitting, anyone??). But I would also like programs that help servicemembers to hold their place in the family and then help them step back into the family. Our Army families love that one soldier and they need that soldier to come all the way home.

What other things should the Army -- or any service -- keep in mind when cutting programming?

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