Wed, 29 Apr 2009 21:12:45 +0000 – By Brian Wise Executive Director Military Families United
The first 100 days of any new administration offers merely a glimpse of the policies and leadership the new Commander in Chief will provide for America. Many have called it an artificial benchmark, but for our nation's military families, who serve and sacrifice with their loved ones, close attention has been paid to these first months of President Barack Obama's time in office. Even in this short period, there has been much activity that impacts military families and proposals that will take time to evaluate more fully.
We see six areas where the administration has articulated his policy with enough specificity where we can rate the performance to date on issues that affect our military families.
1. The First Lady's Outreach to Military Families
Military Families United, like all groups that work with the extended military family, is pleased that our issues have such a powerful friend in the White House. While there has been some concern that the White House political operation has tightly "managed" Mrs. Obama's activities with families, we are hopeful the first lady will continue reaching out to all military family groups as she travels around the country bringing much needed attention to their needs.
2. Funding Increases for Military Family Programs
The president has called for large increases in spending for military families in the 2010 Department of Defense budget and has announced additional programs to help with homeless veterans, electronic medical records and more funding for post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. These are big changes and funding increases. Moving forward, we encourage the administration to use their political capital to ensure these important programs are funded and are implemented.
3. Lifting the Ban on Photos at Dover Air Force Base
Last month, the president decided to lift the ban on media coverage for returning heroes when they land at the mortuary facility at Dover Air Force Base. Unfortunately, the decision was made with very little consultation with military families and meaningful outreach was not made until after the policy change was announced.
4. Strategy on Iraq
It is vital that our troops have the time and support to finish the job in Iraq. The president gets a high mark for resisting some in his party who desired a precipitous withdrawal from Iraq. He has listened to commanders on the ground and established a phased timeline for the return of our troops, leaving open the possibility that conditions on the ground may necessitate modification of that plan. Additionally, he is keeping more than 50,000 troops in Iraq beyond the 2010 timetable to provide necessary support for the Iraqis during this critical time in the country's development.
5. Plan to Transfer Care of Veterans to Private Insurance Companies
Since the time of Abraham Lincoln, this nation has always upheld a solemn promise to take care of its veterans following their service, especially when war has our loved ones home wounded. Last month the president and his administration floated plans to transfer the care of our wounded servicemen to private insurance companies which would have the effect of increasing monthly premiums. While the plan was beaten back by overwhelming public outrage, military families would do well to keep an eye on any similar future proposal. The fact that this was even considered is cause for serious concern.
6. Reinforcement of Our Efforts in Afghanistan
The president's increases in forces and attention on the Afghanistan mission comes as a welcome change for military families. The mission has been severely under resourced for years. Our military want the mission to succeed and the additional 21,000 troops is more than two-thirds what our commanders believe we need to recapture territory lost to Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters. Military families will watch the president's commitment closely as the demands on our forces will doubtlessly continue to expand, but this was a welcome first step.
An administration cannot be defined in 100 days. Good words must be followed by meaningful actions. While we see mixed messages from the White House on some critical issues, our families are engaged and ready to be supportive of an administration that leads our loved ones in uniform and whose primary responsibility is keeping our great nation safe.
Brian Wise is Executive Director of Military Families United, one of the nation's leading military family advocacy organizations. For more information about Military Families United, visit www.MilitaryFamiliesUnited.org.