Military Family Readiness Council Moves in New Direction

After several years of looking for a direction, the congressionally-mandated Military Family Readiness Council (MFRC) is steering a new path. Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Jessica Wright chaired the most recent meeting on August 5 that incorporated several innovations and opened opportunities for discussion while still adhering to its charter to provide input to the Secretary of Defense on family support.

In the handouts provided to the council and others attending was an informative side by side chart that described what the council is  and what it is not. During the meeting, council members shared information concerning their roles in the military community and how, in those roles, they collect information and feedback. This directed discussion time will be included in future meetings. Outside organizations had been invited to present information papers but it had previously been unclear what would be done with this information. Secretary Wright announced that now these information papers would be reviewed by staff from the Office of Military Community and Family Policy (MCFP). The concerns will either be addressed by MCFP or brought to the MFRC for discussion. Time will also be available for outside organizations to address the council.

The packed agenda included briefings on: 

Enhancements to TRICARE’s Autism and Applied Behavior Analysis Coverage 

DoD Joint Family Support Assistance Program 

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau 

Exceptional Family Member Program standardization update

The council at the beginning of this year’s session had identified three focus areas to look at in 2013 and incorporate into the recommendations for the Secretary of Defense: 

  1. Improving joint-base services and improving family program integration of Guard and Reserve families 
  2. Coordinate efforts with the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff Cross Functional Teams to: 
    • Assess military family needs, reduce duplication, and enhance program effectiveness 
    • Strengthen the force and enhance resiliency 
    • Address public awareness, transition gaps, and building community capacity 

      3. Exceptional Family Member Program

The council had received briefings on all these areas in previous meetings this year. It was determined, after some discussion, another meeting was necessary to allow the council members to develop the recommendations for the report, based on all the information gathered. There will be no briefings presented at the next meeting and it will be dedicated to discussion. This will be new procedure but was identified by the council members as essential to develop a comprehensive and effective report. The meeting will be held in September or October to accommodate the report’s February deadline.

We appreciate the consistent leadership of Secretary Wright in allowing the council to develop a clearer direction and allowing more input from the members and from other groups representing military family concerns and interests. Every group goes through growing pains, but we feel that the MFRC is on its way to being a more constructive tool in communicating the concerns of military families to policy makers and ultimately, improving military family readiness.

The meetings minutes and handouts will be published soon on the MFRC webpage.

 

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