First lady Michelle Obama announced that President Obama will lead a new 90-day review to develop a coordinated federal government approach for supporting and engaging military families in a speech today at the Georgetown University Conference Center.
“As America asks more of these families, they have a right to expect more of us. This is our moral obligation,” Obama said to about 150 guests at the National Military Family Association’s summit titled When Parents Deploy: Understanding the Experiences of Military Children and Spouses. The National Military Family Association is a private nonprofit organization based in Alexandria, Va., that seeks to improve the family life of military personnel.
The review, conducted by the National Security Staff, will set strategic military family priorities for the next 10 years, identify key concerns and challenges and examine the effectiveness of several existing public and private programs. It will also strengthen existing feedback mechanisms for military families to voice their opinions on federal programs and policies and develop options for federal departments to integrate military family matters into their budgetary priorities. Additionally, it will examine opportunities for federal policies to stimulate state and local efforts to ready families of officers waiting to be deployed and identify further opportunities to integrate the skills of military family members into community life.
Obama recognized the struggles of military families, citing both parents who have to support their children financially as well as care for them at home and children who take on large amounts of household responsibility. She said that progress had been made in helping these families and mentioned measures such as the president’s recent expansion of health care for veterans and the Military Family Life Project, a landmark study of military families that is starting this month.
any legislators and communities have been supportive of these families, Obama said, but relatives still face vital concerns in the areas of education, career options and mental health.
“Even with all of this goodwill, many families are still not receiving the help they need,” she said.
Support for military families is essential so that troops can focus on their mission to protect the United States, she said. Obama contrasted the lack of civilian engagement today, during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, with the widespread participation of civilians during World War II.
“Today, I’m issuing a national challenge,” she said.
Obama argued that the federal government, state and local governments, community-based organizations, and the private sector can all support military families in important ways.
“This is a challenge to all Americans, because everyone can do something,” she said.
The concerns of military families have long been near the top of the first lady’s agenda, but the first concrete result of her advocacy came this January when she announced a 3 percent increase in federal funding in the 2011 fiscal year budget to support military families, according to The Washington Post.
“This will remain one of my defining missions as first lady,” Obama told the summit attendees today.