SPEAKERS CONTENTS INSERTS
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[H.A.S.C. No. 1078]
NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT
FOR FISCAL YEAR 2002H.R. 2586
OVERSIGHT OF PREVIOUSLY AUTHORIZED PROGRAMS
COMMITTEE ON ARMED SERVICES
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED SEVENTH CONGRESS
SPECIAL OVERSIGHT PANEL ON MORALE, WELFARE AND RECREATION HEARING
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MORALE, WELFARE AND RECREATION PROGRAMS AND RESALE ACTIVITIES
APRIL 4, 2001
SPECIAL OVERSIGHT PANEL ON MORALE, WELFARE, AND RECREATION
ROSCOE G. BARTLETT, Maryland Chairman
JOHN M. McHUGH, New York
SAXBY CHAMBLISS, Georgia
JOE SCARBOROUGH, Florida
WALTER B. JONES, Jr., North Carolina
BOB RILEY, Alabama
ROBIN HAYES, North Carolina
ANDER CRENSHAW, Florida
MARK STEVEN KIRK, Illinois
EDWARD L. SCHROCK, Virginia
ROBERT A. UNDERWOOD, Guam
NORMAN SISISKY*, Virginia
Page 3 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCSOLOMON P. ORTIZ, Texas
NEIL ABERCROMBIE, Hawaii
MARTIN T. MEEHAN, Massachusetts
SILVESTRE REYES, Texas
ROBERT E. ANDREWS, New Jersey
SUSAN A. DAVIS, California
Thomas E. Hawley, Professional Staff
Dudley Tademy, Professional Staff
Christopher A. Kim, Staff Assistant
* Mr. Sisisky passed away March 29, 2001.
C O N T E N T S
CHRONOLOGICAL LIST OF HEARINGS
Wednesday, April 4, 2001, Fiscal Year 2002 National Defense Authorization ActMWR Programs and Resale Activity Oversight
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Wednesday, April 4, 2001
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 4, 2001
FISCAL YEAR 2002 NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACTMWR PROGRAM AND RESALE ACTIVITY OVERSIGHT
STATEMENTS PRESENTED BY MEMBERS OF CONGRESS
Bartlett, Hon. Roscoe G., a Representative from Maryland, Chairman, Special Oversight Panel On Morale, Welfare and Recreation
Underwood, Hon. Robert A., a Representative from Guam, Ranking Member, Special Oversight Panel on Morale, Welfare and Recreation
Brown, Rear Adm. Annette E., U.S. Navy, Assistant Commander, Navy Personnel Command
McGinn, Gail H., Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense, Force Management Policy
Myers, Arthur, Director, Air Force Services
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Taguba, Brig. Gen. Antonio M., U.S. Army, Commanding General, Community and Family Support Center
Tharrington, Michael, Deputy Director, Personnel and Family Readiness, U.S. Marine Corps
[The Prepared Statements can be viewed in the hard copy.]
Bartlett, Hon. Roscoe G.
Brown, Rear Adm. Annette E.
McGinn, Gail H.
Taguba, Brig. Gen. Antonio M.
DOCUMENTS SUBMITTED FOR THE RECORD
Page 6 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC[The Documents can be viewed in the hard copy.]
Statement of the Military Coalition
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS SUBMITTED FOR THE RECORD
[The Questions and Answers can be viewed in the hard copy.]
FISCAL YEAR 2002 NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACTMWR PROGRAMS AND RESALE ACTIVITY OVERSIGHT
House of Representatives,
Committee on Armed Services,
Special Oversight Panel on Morale,
Welfare and Recreation,
Washington, DC, Wednesday, April 4, 2001.
The panel met, pursuant to call, at 2:03 p.m., in room 2212, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Roscoe Bartlett [chairman of the panel] presiding.
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OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. ROSCOE G. BARTLETT, A REPRESENTATIVE FROM MARYLAND, CHAIRMAN, SPECIAL OVERSIGHT PANEL ON MORALE, WELFARE AND RECREATION
Mr. BARTLETT. Let me call our hearing to order.
I welcome all members to our second hearing in less than a week. We are off to an aggressive start in discharging our responsibility to oversee the Department of Defense and military service Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) programs. I was gratified that so many members attended and participated in last week's hearing and look forward to my colleagues involvement in it today.
I was also impressed by the professionalism and candor of last week's witnesses, some of whom have returned to testify at this hearing. I anticipate similarly informative exchanges today.
At our first meeting, I discussed my commitment to ensuring that MWR programs provide well-stocked commissaries and exchange stores that offer basic necessities and more at very reasonable prices. I believe that this is a crucial benefit for our military personnel and their families.
The focus of today's hearing is an overview of other MWR programs. These include vital programs, such as childcare, fitness facilities and libraries, among others. As always, we are eager to examine the health of military service MWR programs, and we will review each individual services commitment to providing sufficient appropriated funds support.
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We are also eager to hear our progress in establishing standards of service for MWR across each military service, so that military members know what to expect at each installation.
While funding levels are important to measure, any discussion of funding is of little value without a good understanding of the standard of service that should be provided on each base and how that standard of service is determined by each service.
Those who were at our first hearing know of my additional concern about the personal finances of our predominantly young military personnel and their families. Specifically, I am interested in examining to what extent MWR programs may encourage or discourage people to accumulate excessive personal debt while volunteering to serve their country.
It is my personal view that the Federal Government has a special obligation to ensure that the activities and facilities on-base encourage young people starting off in life to behave responsibly. I would welcome any input about this issue from today's witnesses.
We have two distinguished panels of witnesses to hear from today. Before proceeding to our witnesses, let me now recognize our panel's Ranking Member, Robert Underwood of Guam, for any opening remarks he would like to make.
STATEMENT OF HON. ROBERT A. UNDERWOOD, A REPRESENTATIVE FROM GUAM, RANKING MEMBER, SPECIAL OVERSIGHT PANEL ON MORALE, WELFARE AND RECREATION
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Mr. UNDERWOOD. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I also welcome all of our witnesses to this hearing today. For those witnesses and observers who participated in the first MWR hearing last week, I hope that you can count on not staying as long today; I will keep my remarks brief.
As was stated during the resale activities hearing, MWR programs are significant contributors to the sense of community, overall quality of life and to military readiness in many ways. It was interesting to read the prepared testimony and note the diversity and the range and focus of the various programs that services are providing.
I am especially sensitive to those programs focused on the needs of deployed servicemembers in remote locations and on family members of personnel deployed.
I want to reiterate my concern about the need for a strategic MWR planning process. As I stated at the resale activities hearing, there must be a planning process in place that includes funding considerations to address the future needs and demands on MWR activities.
I do want to address one issue that has been the focus of panel attention in the past. That is the funding support for MWR programs.
I understand the progress that has been made by the department in meeting the funding standards for MWR programs. Notwithstanding the progress made, my preference would be for the department to fully fund all Category A MWR programs.
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There is something inherently uncomfortable about relying on profits from the resale activities for military personnel to support mission-essential military activities.
If Category A programs are deemed essential to sustaining the military mission, it would appear appropriate to fully fund them from appropriated funds rather than at the 85 percent level.
If that were the case, some of the perceived pressures on the revenue-generating MWR activities and on the resale activities for dividends could be reduced or eliminated. Both profits could then be used for additional customer support in the form of reduced prices and/or improved facilities.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I look forward to the testimony today.
Mr. BARTLETT. Thank you very much. You will note that again this week we have left Mr. Sisisky's nameplate at his place on the panel. He is really missed, not only as a valuable member of this panel, but as a friend. He probably, as I stated last week, has about half the historical knowledge of all of the people on this combined panel. So he is really going to be missed.
Our first set of witnesses are the Department of Defense's policymakers and operators of the military MWR programs.
Before starting, let me say, if any of the other members of the panel, those here or not here, have opening statements, they will, without objection, be included in the record.
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The members of this panel are: Mrs. Gail McGinn, Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Force Management Policythank you for appearing before us again; Brigadier General Antonio M. Taguba, Commander, U.S. Army Community and Family Support Center; Rear Admiral Annette Brown, Assistant Commander at Navy Personnel Command; Mr. Arthur Myers, Director of Air Force Services; and Mr. Michael Tharrington, Deputy Director of Personnel and Family Readiness, U.S. Marine Corps.
Mrs. McGinn is making a return appearance this week. And of course, Mr. Myers appears before the panel each year.
Secretary McGinn, you may proceed.
STATEMENT OF GAIL MCGINN, ACTING ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE, FORCE MANAGEMENT POLICY
Secretary MCGINN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Chairman and members of the panel, I am pleased to be back this week to discuss the Department of Morale, Welfare and Recreation program.
I would like to start by once again expressing deep regret for the sudden loss of Congressman Sisisky, and acknowledge his important contributions to the success of his valued quality of life program. His guidance and direction will be missed.
Page 12 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. Chairman, today's American military is doing work, literally, around the globe. To support them, there are over 300 military communities that our troops and their families call home.
These communities, first and foremost, provide a necessary support system designed to offer morale and recreation programs, commissaries, exchanges and schools, similar to those found in their home town. But more than that, they contribute substantially to a strong sense of belonging and a sense of community.
Without a doubt, military communities are a wise investment in improving the quality of life of the young people who have chosen to serve their country. Joining the military can never be characterized as just another job because military life offers each servicemember the intangible reward of belonging to this very unique culture.
This committee has been a long-time protector of this military culture and has steadfastly looked out for its troops no matter where they may serve. We thank you for your oversight and guidance.
We are proud to offer an array of robust MWR programs and activities, like fitness centers, libraries, bowling and stores, that enhance off-duty time and provide needed respite during tough assignments for both military members and their families.
And thanks to your support, we have for the first time met our organizational goal for providing the appropriate ratio of taxpayer and troop dollars to support Category A and B activities.
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Category A and B are those most important activities that are designated specifically for taxpayer support, such as fitness centers and childcare.
Our goals, as stated in fiscal year 1995, were 85 percent appropriated support to Category A and 65 percent to Category B. Even though all the services have not individually met these metrics, the aggregate total for the Department of Defense (DOD) in 2000 was 90 percent Appropriated Funds (APF) support for Category A activities and 65 percent for Category B.
We believe this shows a strong commitment to the quality of life of our troops, particularly since the Department was making hard decisions during these years of downsizing.
However, while these funding metrics offer a measure of support to programs as they currently exist, they do not tell us what we need to support programs as they should be. DOD and the military services have developed a series of standards that have begun to define answers to questions of quality, funding, adequacy and efficiency.
We have developed broad standards for fitness, libraries and child development, the most significant MWR programs in terms of both funding and customer importance. The services have continued to refine these standards to measure their program quality and are developing standards for other MWR activities.
In summary, MWR represents far more to the military community than low-cost alternatives for recreation.
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These activities represent the core of the military community. We ask our servicemembers and their families to forego the opportunity to remain in one home town, with established roots and support systems, for a very transient military lifestyle.
The programs we offer through MWR provide a level of familiarity and consistency in every location and give servicemembers and their families an expectation that, wherever they are asked to go, they will feel at home.
The American military community reflects the best of America. This MWR piece of the community is a key component, without which morale would suffer. The special panel on MWR is an essential connection with the Congress and with American communities and has aided the Department in explaining the important role these programs play in national defense.
As always, Mr. Chairman, we thank you for your continued leadership, and that concludes my opening statement.
[The prepared statement of Secretary McGinn can be viewed in the hard copy.]
Mr. BARTLETT. Thank you very much for summarizing your written statement, and I would note that, without objection, all of your written statements in their entirety will be included in the record. And thank you very much for summarizing so that we will have more time for exchange during the question-and-answer period.
Page 15 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC General Taguba.
STATEMENT OF BRIG. GEN. ANTONIO M. TAGUBA, U.S. ARMY, COMMANDING GENERAL, COMMUNITY AND FAMILY SUPPORT CENTER
General TAGUBA. Good afternoon, sir, Mr. Chairman, members of the panel.
First of all, the Army MWR community joins me in extending our condolences to you, your colleagues and the family of Congressman Sisisky on his untimely passing. Mr. Sisisky was an exemplary public servant and a loyal advocate of our programs. And like you, we will miss his counsel and support.
I am honored today to appear before you to discuss our Army MWR programs, and I have submitted my statement for the record and have a few brief comments.
The past year has been both exceptional and exciting as we develop and implement strategies to integrate morale, welfare and recreation programs into the Army vision of people, readiness and transformation. People, not equipment, are the centerpiece of our Army formation.
MWR remains the key component to ensuring a strong, self-reliant force. Consistent quality programs delivered to standard are how we enable and empower soldiers and their families. Readiness and overwhelming success in combat is our nonnegotiable pact with the American people. Readiness is inextricably linked to morale and welfare and couples with MWR programs to support the force in garrison and while deployed.
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Transforming our Army to a lighter, more lethal and deployable war-fighting force for the 21st century also impacts on our MWR programs and our delivery systems.
We are and will continue to be demand-driven, quality-focused and service-based. The Army's well-being plan, which links the individual and institutional aspects of the Army vision, will ensure our people are cared for as we transform the force.
MWR is a critical component, and it is fully integrated, and our people will not be left behind as the Army moves forward. Our Army today is more deployed than it has been since the Korean conflict, with over 34,000 soldiers deployed in over 70 locations and over 123,000 soldiers forward-stationed.
We are committed to keeping Army MWR the force multiplier necessary to sustain the Army vision and support those great Americans who chose to serve in the best Army in the world.
They and their loved ones deserve nothing less than quality, first-class MWR programs. And with your help, we can sustain the value of morale, welfare and recreation for the Army.
Mr. Chairman, I would be happy to answer any of your questions that you may have.
[The prepared statement of General Taguba can be viewed in the hard copy.]
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Mr. BARTLETT. Thank you very much.
STATEMENT OF REAR ADM. ANNETTE E. BROWN, U.S. NAVY, ASSISTANT COMMANDER, NAVY PERSONNEL COMMAND
Admiral BROWN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The Navy shares our already-stated sense of loss with the passing of Congressman Sisisky. He never forgot what it was like to be a sailor, always working hard to improve the quality of life for his shipmates.
In truth, the entire panel has been a strong proponent for improving quality of life for our sailors and their families, so I would like to begin by thanking you for your continuing advocacy.
I also thank you for this opportunity to address the Navy's morale, welfare and recreation programs today. MWR is closely aligned with the Navy's mission and Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) priorities. Everything we do is aimed at improving readiness and encouraging sailors to stay Navy.
We ask our sailors and their families to make a major commitment to the Navy. In return, the Navy is obligated to meet our MWR commitments to them. This translates into ensuring access to quality MWR services, programs and facilities worldwide.
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For example, when the USS Cole was attacked last year, MWR responded immediately. We delivered portable telephones to the USS Cole in Yemen for use by the crewmembers. Stateside, MWR assisted the fleet commander in meeting the needs of the crew's family members. Later, MWR supported ''welcome home'' events for the crew.
Another example is our commitment to sailors' physical readiness. In the past year, Navy MWRs invested $5 million to provide new or refurbished fitness equipment directly to each of our ships and submarines. MWR is also, for the first time ever, placing civilian fitness directors on deployed carrier battle groups.
To help meet the needs of our 18-to 25-year-old sailors, who compose 35 percent of our force, most of our shore installations offer single sailor programs. These programs are generally offered in centers that provide a home-away-from-home atmosphere, a place where our young sailors can get off the ship or out of their barracks and just relax.
In fiscal year 2000, we opened Single Sailor Centers in Naval Station Pearl Harbor, Naval Hospital San Diego, at Naval Air Station Jacksonville and Naval Station Newport.
Earlier this year, we opened an exciting derivative of that concept in Dubai United Arab Emirate, where the ships operating in the Persian Gulf make short port visits.
There are exiting developments, as well, in our youth programs. We hold annual Navywide teen summits, so our teens can help us design the services and activities that they want. We operate before-and after-school programs, and we serve over 50,000 dependent children in summer camps.
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As you can see from just these few examples, MWR programs reflect our customer-driven approach.
We survey our patrons every year to ensure that we continue to stay in touch with their needs. Increasing levels of patron satisfaction that these surveys reflect confirm that sailors and their families view MWR as a positive influence in staying Navy.
In conclusion, thank you very much for this opportunity to share the Navy's MWR program with you. I look forward to answering your questions.
[The prepared statement of Admiral Brown can be viewed in the hard copy.]
Mr. BARTLETT. Thank you very much.
STATEMENT OF ARTHUR MYERS, DIRECTOR, AIR FORCE SERVICES
Mr. MYERS. Mr. Chairman, let me first congratulate you and the ranking member, Mr. Underwood, on your new positions with the MWR panel.
I would also like to thank Mr. McHugh and Mr. Meehan for their many years of leadership in those positions and the solid support of our military communities.
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I look forward to working to with all the new and returning members on the panel.
All of us mourn the untimely passing of Congressman Norm Sisisky. The servicemembers have lost a true friend. He will be missed, but never ever forgotten.
The quality of life in the armed forces has never been more important than it is today. On behalf of the more than 38,000 men and women of the Air Force services, providing vital quality of life programs around the world, I welcome the opportunity to meet with you today. I have respectfully submitted my written statement and look forward to your questions.
Thank you, sir.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Myers can be viewed in the hard copy.]
Mr. BARTLETT. Thank you very much.
STATEMENT OF MICHAEL THARRINGTON, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, PERSONNEL AND FAMILY READINESS, U.S. MARINE CORPS
Mr. THARRINGTON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
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Mr. Chairman, the Marine Corps will also miss the support and guidance from our Congressman Sisisky. He was a true friend of the morale and welfare recreation program and the military resale system.
Mr. Chairman, I am pleased, in fact honored, to appear before you and distinguished members of this panel to report the status of the Marine Corps community services organization and its morale, welfare, recreation programs.
As we reported to you last year, in establishing the Marine Corps Community Services (MCCS) organization, we combined the capabilities of our Marine Corps exchange and our MWR program for voluntary education, childcare, family programs and prevention services all into one single, yet strong, advocate for personal and family readiness.
General Downs put it a little bit differently last week when he appeared before this panel and said that we are charged not only with earning the dividend, but also with executing and distributing that dividend and the quality of life delivery system.
Mr. Chairman, we were a fiscally sound Non Appropriated Fund (NAF) operation. Our balance sheets are healthy. And again, this year, we had a very sound and healthy NAF picture.
We are investing well in our facilities, investing in technology and adopting the best business practices that allows. And perhaps, more importantly, we are investing in our people and enhancing the benefits that they have, our NAF employees, working and serving Marines.
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And Mr. Chairman, rest assured that our organization is much more than a bottom-line organization. Each of our MCCS programs, whether it be an exchange or a club or youth activities or Marine Corps family team building or a Semper Fit program or one of the others, each of them focuses on how we can work together to support and promote healthy lifestyles, family readiness, responsible citizenship, a lifetime of learning, all the while providing value in the goods and services that we offer.
And our customers, indeed, know how to contact us, so we believe that we are very much in tune with their needs. And that would include also our recruiters and other Marines on independent duty away from our bases and stations. And we are doing a better job of addressing their needs also.
Mr. Chairman, by all accounts, we are succeeding in our support for quality of life enhancement for our Marine Corps family like never before. And we have been told this by our commanders, spouses, even the youth are telling us, but most importantly, the marines. It is becoming more and more apparent each day that we are a very capable delivery system and that our focus is properly targeted.
Again, Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to appear and I stand ready for your questions.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Tharrington can be viewed in the hard copy.]
Page 23 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. BARTLETT. Thank you very much.
Let me turn now for comments and questions to our ranking member, Mr. Underwood.
Mr. UNDERWOOD. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And thank you again for your testimonies. They were very interesting.
I am glad to see that at least three of the four services have met the minimum standard for appropriated fund support to the MWR programs. While there is great progressagain, we have three that have finally met the minimum standard.
I believe, in 1998, Mr. Tharrington, that you testified that the MWR would be able to complete this goal for the Marines by the year 2002, and that has shifted to 2004 in your testimony. Would you care to comment on that? We are not going to hear other shifting target?
Mr. THARRINGTON. Oh, that is fine, sir.
We informed the panel last year at this time that we would be meeting those goals in fiscal year 2004. And it still remains the Marine Corps' commitment to make that goal. And I reiterate, it is our commitment even though it continues to get harder.
I was just reading a note from a base commander at Camp Pendleton this morning on the pressures that our west coast commands are receiving for increased utility costs. Our MCCS organization itself is going to be taxed with an increased utility cost out there of $1.7 million just in this year.
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But, nevertheless, sir, our commitment is to make those standards. We have a modest increase this year. We programmed those dollars in 1998. We have a modest increase in 2002, but we will not meet the standards until fiscal year 2004.
Mr. UNDERWOOD. Mrs. McGinn, I know that in your statement, you make a strong statement of support for MWR programs. And while we do not have any specific budget figures yet, in a sense, you know, a lot of these hearings do not quite make a lot of sense if we do not have specific numbers in front of us. But would you care to comment on whether the fiscal year 2002 figures will likely match this commitment?
Secretary MCGINN. The Marine Corps' specific commitment?
Mr. UNDERWOOD. No, just across the board.
Secretary MCGINN. I honestly have not seen the details of the 2002 budget yet. In tracking back through, looking at 1999, 2000, and 2001, you can see some growth in the program, not a lot of growth in the program, and frankly, I think it is from 1999 to 2000, we lost some money in the program as a result of budget execution decisions made by commanders on the ground.
But the trend in funding for MWR overall has been up, and so I would assume that trend would continue or would be leveling off. I would not see that it would be falling. That is projection or conjecture on my part, since I have not seen the actual numbers yet.
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Mr. UNDERWOOD. Just a question on childcare. You know, we hear from time to time, particularly in Europe, that we sometimes have problems hiring people who are qualified in the childcare centers.
Perhaps Mr. Myers and General Taguba would like to respond to this, to see what kind of problems they are experiencing and what we can do to be of assistance.
Mr. MYERS. Sir, in Europe, it is a problem a lot of time getting people that want to work part-time and so forth. And then once they work in childcare, of course, you have to get the investigations done and so forth. What we have done is work with the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), and work ways to expedite those waivers. People can work in there as long as they are supervised by someone who has that waiver.
Overseas, childcare is a key ingredient in the quality of life retention and so forth. We put major focus on meeting the need overseas. In fact, what we are doing overseas, we have even expanded our family daycare programs. Before, we had that in base housing. Now we have expanded it to people who live off the base as long as their homes are certified.
And through those homes, we can give childcare 24 hours a day. If a troop has to work overtime or has to work the weekend or gets deployed, we have that childcare available. It is a tough issue, but we are working closely with OSD, and I think we are making good headway. And I think we are meeting the need.
Mr. UNDERWOOD. General?
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General TAGUBA. Sir, as far as the U.S. Army Europe is concerned, I was there and met with General Meggs in December, and that is one of his top concerns, obviously, childcare.
And likewise, what Mr. Myers said, U.S. Army Europe has looked at alternative plans in exploring other options to at least address that issue. We will not compromise our standards, sir, of just hiring somebody off the street. I mean, we have standards that we have to meet.
Our childcare providers must be trained, must be certified, must have a background check in that regard. We have examined expanding the family childcare program, not just on-post, but also off-post. As you know, Europe does not have a Kindercare kind of program like we have here in the United States.
And they have programs, at least on the Military Construction (MILCON) side, to build additional or renovate some of their family childcare centers. So we are in close touch with Europe, sir, in addressing that problem.
Mr. UNDERWOOD. Mrs. McGinn, would you care to comment on any of this?
Secretary MCGINN. I think the one thing that has not been mentioned is, in 1989 when the Military Child Care Act was passed, there was a provision in there that enabled us to, or required us to, increase the wages of our caregivers.
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And some of what we are hearing anecdotally is that perhaps the wages we pay caregivers are not high enough any longer. We do not have an answer to give you today, but we have stood up a working group to look at those kinds of issues within the childcare community and come up with a plan for us.
Mr. UNDERWOOD. Going back to the Europe situation where I have heard that there have been problems hiring qualified people, is it your impression that what we are paying them is creating the problem?
Secretary MCGINN. Part of it, is what I am hearing anecdotally. Again, I do not have a database for it, but I understand that is an issue that we are looking at right now.
Mr. UNDERWOOD. Well, it is an issue I certainly would like to follow up on and I am paying great attention to. Thank you.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. BARTLETT. Thank you very much.
Following the committee policy of recognizing those who are here at gavel fall in order of their seniority, and those after gavel fall in their order of appearance on the panel, we now recognize Mr. Ortiz.
Page 28 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. ORTIZ. Welcome to this panel hearing today. As you conduct your inventory of facilities, and I know we are starting early, are there any plans to expand or to cut services or facilities?
Secretary MCGINN. I think the services can address that as well, but we continue to forward construction plans. Obviously, we are going to be building more facilities, and I am not aware of any services overall to be cut.
Mr. MYERS. Sir, in the Air Force, we do needs assessment studies at all of our bases to determine the requirements and so forth. However, in the Air Force, we do a lot of our construction based on the Army Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) dividends. So based on that dividend, it really shows us the amount that we can put into our facilities.
But on the appropriated funds side, we have done a master plan for all of our fitness centers throughout the Air Force. We were able to get $183 million of quality of life money for fitness centers. To build that, we did a master plan for fitness. Fortunately, some Members of Congress gave us some inserts for fitness centers.
So I do not think you will find, at least in the Air Force, us downsizing. We are sizing to meet the demand of the troops. And the troops today want fitness, they want childcare, and they want well-rounded recreational programs. Especially with so many of them deploying, they want to make sure that their family is taken care of while they are gone.
Mr. ORTIZ. When you look at the facilities now, not all of them, but most of them are built with nonappropriated funds, am I correct?
Page 29 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The reason I am leading to this question is that we hear rumors about a base closing in the year 2003 and 2005. And my experience on this panel has been that many times those facilities that were built with nonappropriated funding, once we shut down that facility and those are monies from profits from the young men and women who serve, what happens to them? We give them back. And we do not get to utilize the money that they spent. It is their money.
And I know that you will probably say, ''Well, that is the State Department,'' especially in facilities that are built in a foreign country. But are we doing anything about that to ensure that the monies that are spent, that belong to the soldiers and the women and men who serve this country, that are nonappropriated funds, that we keep that money, so that they can be spent in furthering the healthcare services and, you know, daycare centers or whatever will enhance the quality of life?
General TAGUBA. Sir, let me address that issue. We are very fortunate, at least as far as the Army is concerned, that my senior officer here, the Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation, manages my higher headquarters, and resident in that office is the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) office.
And we have continued to examine those requirements that you address on those nonappropriated facilities that may have been turned back to the Army treasury. And we continue to explore that.
So we are in close coordination with that, sir. I will tell you that. And we have gotten some estimates, at least some initial estimates.
Page 30 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I am not prepared to give you the real estimates in that regard, but we might have some changes in policy and, perhaps, some legislation to try and recoup some of those monies lost in order so we could recapitalize those properties and the resources for other purposes, especially as we continue to grow our MWR programs.
Mr. MYERS. Mr. Ortiz and Mr. Chairman, we need your help with this. For instance, in the Air Force, we have identified about $108 million of undepreciated value of commissary exchange in MWR facilities.
Right now, on a Treasury count, there is close to $20 million. We expect about $49 million to be deposited shortly, and there is another $40 million that is going to resolve in the near future.
However, to get money out of this account, it has to be appropriated out of the Treasury reserve account. And then if you take it out, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) scores against the OSD top line, even though it is troop dollars.
So if I have a $2 million project, and I eventually get $2 million out, they are going to take $2 million off the Air Force's top line. So you are actually paying twice.
So we are going to try to come in for some legislative relief, so it does not have to be appropriated and OMB does not score it against the OSD top line. That is the problem, trying to get that money out.
Mr. ORTIZ. And if my old, good friend, Norm Sisisky, was here, he would probably say, ''That sounds like Defense Business Operations Fund (DBOF).''
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Mr. MYERS. Yes, sir.
Mr. ORTIZ. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. But I think this is something we are going to have to look after.
Mr. BARTLETT. Thank you.
Mr. CHAMBLISS. And the next thing he would say was, ''Would somebody tell me what DBOF is?'' [Laughter.]
I do not know how many times I heard that from that great man.
Ms. McGinn and Mr. Myers, we are cutting the ribbon on our new gymnasium fitness facility at Robbins on Friday. We are moving from a World War-II vintage facility to a new facility, most of which was constructed with appropriated funds.
But without your help, we would not be moving into that. And that is, without question, the biggest motivation for our young folks at Robbins that we have down there right now. So we certainly thank you all for your help there.
I am sorry, I did not hear Mr. Underwood's question, but it sounded like, from your answer, that you were talking about childcare facilities in Europe, and I want to talk about what is going on over here with our childcare facilities.
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There is, of course, an old saying out there that daddy is not happy unless mama is happy, and the way to make mamas happy is to make sure the children are taken care of. And if mama is going to work knowing those children are well taken care of, she sure rests a lot easier and makes a better employee, which makes daddy a better employee. So I am curious about where we are with respect to expansion of our childcare facilities to make sure that we are serving as many people on every post, every base, every installation that we have.
And second, what are we doing from the standpoint of making sure that our enlisted personnel who have children, who are the ones that really have the toughest time getting by out there, what are we doing with respect to those young folks to make sure that they have adequate childcare? And I throw that out as a general question and then either one or all of you can address it.
Mr. MYERS. In the Air Force, we need about 80,000 spaces. We have about 50,000. We are meeting about 63 percent of the need, and we have plans to move up to 72 percent. And I believe Congress asked us for a list of our childcare requirements through the Five Year Defense Plan (FYDP), which we have submitted.
We give priority to our military troops, and probably at all of our bases we have waiting lists. So consequently, we now provide childcare in government houses on the base that are certified. And we have even moved it off-base into the local communities as homes are certified, but they are managed by military dependents and so forth.
What we also do for our troops, we work with the Air Force Aid Society. If you go Permanent Change of Station (PCS), we are going to give free childcare the last seven days at your old base at your new base. Sometimes parents just need a break from their kids. We provide free childcare for that, voluntary services and so forth.
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Another program we started for troops who deploy or, you know how it is with the military, sometimes it is four o'clock, something comes in, you have to work later, we actually contract family daycare homes so if Airman Jones finds out he has to work late tonight, that child would be moved to a family daycare home, so that child will be taken care of so he does not have to worry about it.
Or if he gets called to work on the weekend or has to work late at night, we actually contract, and we reduced the cost of that by 50 percent. We pay 50 percent and just charge him a reduced rate to take care of the kids. And they really appreciate it.
However, every base I go to, the commanders say they like childcare. They appreciate it, but they want more. So we just have to work more to get more construction funding for childhood development centers. With our nonappropriated funds, we are building new centers, so we can have before-and after-school facilities to take care of the kids that way.
Admiral BROWN. Sir, in the Navy, we have achieved 57 percent of our goal. We are headed toward the 65 percent target. As of May last year, we began a base-by-base review of our requirements, vis-a-vis our capacity to streamline our efforts.
And so far, we have increased the amount of childcare that we can offer by 17 percent, simply within our own resources. We expect that review of all the bases to be completed by the end of this year, so we are expecting even more by the end of 2001.
With regard to the younger sailors, we provide a preference to younger and unaccompanied sailors first. And we also have preference on cost for childcare based on total family income, which would benefit then the single folks.
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And then after that, for off-duty, we also are increasing, specifically increasing, utility of our child development homes, which are childcare in the homes, either on-base or off-base by providing direct cash supplements to the folks that provide that care in the home.
And then on top of that, we give them another supplement if they will provide care in the home, which a much more conducive setting for off-duty childcare, if they will do it after hours and on the weekends.
General TAGUBA. Sir, for the Army, I want to report to you that nearly 100 percent of our childcare development centers are accredited and certified by the National Association for the Education of our Young Children.
It was also validated by an independent study that was conducted by the National Women's Law Center last year in May of 2000 that basically said that the military childcare program ought to be the model for the nation, as compared to about eight percent of certification for the rest of the Nation in the civilian world.
We are currently funded, as of 2001, up to 62 percent of our requirements. We have submitted our requirements for 2002, a 65 percent requirement for the needs of our soldiers and young families out there.
And we have identified the requirements for an additional 80 percent to meet the requirement that DOD has asked us through the out-years 2003 to 2007. The requirements are good, sir, but as you know, to meet those requirements, we need additional childcare facilities.
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We have on the books today, I believe, four that are currently working. We have identified additional ones for the out-years that we are working through our budgetary requirements and our channels to ensure that we provide the best quality childcare for our young soldiers and their families.
As far as extended hours to ensure that those hardworking young men and women are taken care of, each installation commander has that flexibility. Roughly, it is about 10 hours per day, 50 hours a week, but we can extend that based on the need of the soldier, based on the need of the unit in terms of deployment and employment and what have you. So we maintain vigilance in our childcare program.
Again, we do not want to compromise our standards in that regard, because we think it is a very successful program and at the core of our issue in terms of recruiting and retention.
Mr. THARRINGTON. And sir, for the Marine Corps, we would have to say thanks to this panel and Congress for the great progress that we made over the last several years.
From 1996 to 2002, we built seven new beautiful child development centers. And I might also add during that same period of time, we built seven new wonderful fitness centers. There had done a long dry spell prior to that for taking care of our fitness centers.
We are presently accommodating 63 percent of the identified need against the goal of 65 percent, or a target of 65 percent I should say. And we will meet that in 2002.
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Our capacity to take care of the children went up about 10 percent last year. Some of that came from new centers coming on line, and some of it came through enhancements of our family home care program.
And we, sort of, use that program as, I think, the Air Force, or the Army, just said, that we have 10 hours a day for care in the child development center.
And then the extended hours, we have to use the family home care. And we actually provide a stipend to the family home care provider who is willing to provide hours during non-traditional, non-duty hours. So we give them extra support for that.
Mr. CHAMBLISS. I assume all of you have a schedule or a goal that you are working toward with respect to childcare facilities. Is everybody pretty well meeting that goal for the percentage of service to your respective members?
Secretary MCGINN. Mr. Chairman, corporately, we have two goals actually. We have the immediate goal, which unfortunately has not been as immediate as we would like it to have been, 65 percent of need. I think the scheduled date for meting that is now 2005. And then the longer range goal of 80 percent of the need, which is targeted now to be met in 2007.
There are two things going on. I can add to this. We have a requirement to send a report herenot to this committee, actually, to another committeeregarding how we would add 25,000 childcare spaces through facility construction. And so we are in the process of putting together that kind of a report and plan.
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The other is last year's authorization act gave us some authority to do some innovative things with local communities through partnerships and the like. And we are in the process of putting together pilot programs to see if we can do things, use downtown schools for expanded school-age care and things like that which will also extend our capacity.
Mr. BARTLETT. Thank you very much.
Mr. RILEY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
To follow up on what my good friend from Georgia just said, my wife actually has a plaque hanging in her kitchen that says, ''When mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.'' Not just daddy. And as I look back over the years, I can attest to the accuracy of that.
Which brings me to my point: I believe that we are going to have to do more to help facilitate some of the problems or correct some of the problems that our military spouses have today.
Congresswoman Tauscher and I are drafting a bill, as we speak now, to see if we can do something to help alleviate some of these problems.
But with the number of people that we have today that are married, that are serving, that are asked to transfer to go to different parts of the country, and then for that spouse to have to be able to go out and find a job, find meaningful employment, often in locations that they are not familiar with, often in an area where the job skills are somewhat different from the area that they lived, I hope that we can model something.
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We are going to try to introduce a pilot plan that we can try at some bases in the United States and also overseas to see what type of program we can ultimately expand, I hope, to everyone.
Corporate America today pays an average of about $1,400 to $2,000 per relocation to help facilitate that spouse, whether it is through education, through job placement, through whatever means that they have at their disposal at that time.
But it allows them to take some of this money and use it for job hunting, for a different educational tuition payment at a small college. And while I have this group of experts here, I would like to know first, what would you think of a plan like that?
Second, what type of dollar figure would you recommend that we insert into this bill?
And third, what recommendations could you make to help make it a better bill?
And then finally, on behalf of all of the spouses that are serving out there, how well do you think it would be received, and is that a problem that you have experienced in the past?
General TAGUBA. Sir, let me start off for the Army. And any assistance you could provide, obviously, would be very, very welcome to add some predictability to the lives of our young soldiers and their families.
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I will tell you though, sir, that resident in the Army community services, we have an employment readiness division that does just that. It is a form, an avenue, at every installation, 97 installations, that we have to help out our young spouses seek employment.
We provide them with necessary assistance in filling out applications. We have computers to help them do that. We are on the Web site. We partner with the other services, especially when they have to relocate to another location.
But as you know, there is never enough employment out there, and there is quite a bit of a wait, so to speak. And that is the competition that they have, and it has been addressed at least in DOD. I believe they had a symposium last year to address that issue.
I do not want to speculate in terms of the funding requirements, but I will tell you, sir, I would be more than happy to address that and get back to you in that regard.
Mr. RILEY. Well, I would like for each one of you to get back to us on this. And I know different services may have different requirements, different areas of the country, but I hope we can model it somewhat after the corporate plans that are out there today. So if you would look into those.
Admiral BROWN. Sir, from the Navy's perspective, as my Army buddy said, we can always take more. And it sounds like your program would allow flexibility for the individual spouse to apply the assistance in a manner that that individual would need.
Page 40 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I, too, would rather wait and get back to you on the exact funding aspect of that. But anything you can provide in this area would be very welcome in the Navy.
We are very transient, clearly. And we say in the Navy, ''We recruit sailors, and we retain families.'' And we do not retain families if mamas are not happy.
Mr. RILEY. Well, I think that is the crux of the problem. I think we have to begin thinking out of the box. We offer tremendous opportunities to the soldiers and sailors for educational opportunities. But we do not seem to do anything for their spouse. And I believe that we need to start treating these enlisted people more as a family unit.
Maybe, what we do is, if the soldier cannot take advantage of some of the educational monies that are available to him, let's give her the opportunity to go and use his. Maybe, we can have some transferability on some of these programs.
I honestly believe if we are going to keep a force happy, then we have to expand the opportunities for the spouse and we have to start looking at these family units rather than individual soldiers.
Mr. THARRINGTON. Sir, I have to say, I believe your assessment is correct. And it is clearly difficult for a spouse to establish a career when they are uprooting themselves more often than every 3 years.
And so any help that could be provided, certainly, I think all of our quality of life advocates would appreciate it.
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We are very pleased, though, that our MWR program and our resale systems, about one-third of our employees are military spouses. And we try to give preference as we can for our relocating spouses to come into those job.
Mr. MYERS. Sir, I also agree with you from the Air Force point of view. In the Air Force, we give spouse preference. When people go PCS, when the job comes open, the spouse does get the preference.
Especially in child development, they can move from base to base and begin their career. But it is the people that do not work within our system or they go to a base overseas where there are no jobs available.
Some of the things you mentioned are just perfect for them, or when their spouse goes to a deployed location, to a remote location, and they are left in the states, that would be a perfect thing, I think, which be welcomed by all the members.
Mr. RILEY. Well, again, I think we have to do something to expand the ability for some of these people. Childcare is very, very important. But there are so many spouses out there that may not have children. And there are limited opportunities for them.
And I am not too sure that we should pick winners and losers out of a family unit. I think there should be, at least for the service men and women that are beginning their careers, when there are so many other adjustments to make, I think anything that we can do to help support that family unit would be appreciated.
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Sir, if you would, stay in touch with our office. And any suggestions that you might have would be greatly appreciated.
General TAGUBA. Sir, if I could add, inasmuch as trying to find spouse employment, employment for our spouses I should say, the Army also has a program providing tuition assistance for some of our spouses who want to continue with their education in order for them to develop themselves so they can get better jobs.
So we have that, and I would be happy to include that as one of our suggestions to you.
Mr. RILEY. Take me one step further. I was not aware that the Army had that today. Is that a transferability of the soldier's benefits?
General TAGUBA. No, sir. It is not. This is through our Army emergency relief process, Army community services process, that we can provide for them. But that has nothing to do with the other issue that you raised.
Mr. RILEY. Well, I am not sure. It may. Do any of the other services have anything comparable to what the Army has?
Mr. MYERS. We provide educational opportunities for those family members who actually work, you know, within MWR or our services. But they would have to be part of our workforce.
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Mr. RILEY. Is that yours?
General TAGUBA. Yes, sir, similar.
Mr. RILEY. So you have to be a part of MWR before you can participate?
General TAGUBA. Yes, sir, part of that professional development and educational training.
Mr. RILEY. Is there a dollar figure that is assigned to that educational benefit today?
General TAGUBA. I do not have that figure, sir. I would be more than happy to get that for you.
Mr. MYERS. There is an amount budgeted. I do not have the exact figure, but we can get it to you. But I have heard so many spouses say, you know, their spouse goes PCS and they say, ''Well, I have taken two steps forward, now I have to take a step back and start all over again.''
And in today's workforce, you know, I do not know what the percent is, but the majority is husband and wife both work, and it is two careers.
Page 44 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. RILEY. Well, in today's military, we can give pay raises. And I will vote for every one that I can, because I think we still underpay.
But on the other hand, I think, again, you have to look at what the family is able to provide. That is what we need to do.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. BARTLETT. Thank you very much. As you heard the bells, we have a vote on. We will recess briefly for that. There may be very short intervening business and then the final vote to kill the death tax. So we will return as soon as we can. We will be in recess until then.
Mr. BARTLETT. We will reconvene the panel. There will be a 10-minute debate, which with all of the down-time will be more than 10 minutes. And then there will be a 15-minute vote. So that gives us 20 minutes or so.
And I thought we would try to be as economical as possible with your time. So we returned. We have to recess when they call the next vote. By that time, we should be able to convene the next panel.
I would like to return to some things that my colleagues have mentioned: educational benefits and whether or not they should be transferable.
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I do not know if you are familiar with the proposal of Senator Cleland, who the last couple of congresses has tried to get this into our authorization bill. The idea is that the educational benefit is a part of the remuneration of the service person, that they ought to be able to determine what they are going to do with that. Many of them need it themselves; others do not.
Senator Cleland believes that this would be a major tool for retention, that someone who is in for 10, 12 years could very well decide to stay in if his wife, who is going to be disadvantaged because she does not have a salable skill, could acquire that salable skill for work through his transferring his educational benefit to her.
Or he may decide to stay in rather than go outside and make more money so they can put their kids in college. And he believes that the retention benefits would far exceed the cost of this program.
That will, I am sure, come up again this year. So I hope that you will weigh in with your opinion as to whether or not this is a desirable thing.
I will tell you that I have not heard all of the arguments, but I am reasonably persuaded by Max Cleland's argument that this belongs to the service personnel, and they ought to have the opportunity of doing with it as they wish.
Do you have specific reactions to that?
Page 46 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mrs. McGinn.
Secretary MCGINN. Mr. Chairman, I am afraid I just cannot comment at this point on it. It has been an open issue of debate, I think, between the Department and the Congress over the course of the last year. And I would just have to defer and get back to you.
Mr. BARTLETT. Do others have a comment?
General TAGUBA. Sir, from our perspective, anything that we could do to assist our spouses, obviously, would be welcomed in that regard. And we will certainly take a look at that and explore and get back to you in regards to the potential for spouses.
Mr. BARTLETT. Yes. He has had a couple of years now to research this, and if you would contact his office, I am sure they will be able to give you a summary of his proposed legislation.
We would very much appreciate your input before this comes before us, either in the House, or it may not come to us until conference. We would appreciate your input.
I would like to ask what recommendations you have for how we can do a better job of working with young people so that they develop good credit card habits. I know we have our own card, the Star card.
I was a little disappointed to learn that those who get into trouble financially and end up having to be counseled, that only three percent of their debt is our Star card. That means that we do not have a whole lot of leverage with those people. And I am wondering what we can do so that we can be more effective in helping our young people develop good credit card habits.
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These are 18-, 19-year-old young people that are coming to us. They are going to be deluged with credit cards. They walk outside the gate, and they see on the used car placeI just saw one the other day; had to smile when I saw it''No Credit, No Problem.'' They will sell them a car anyhow.
What we can do to help our young people develop credit card habits? I know you have some counseling when they come. I know that you have really intense counseling when they get into trouble. But is there something more we can do?
Mr. MYERS. Sir, in the Air Force, we start right out in basic training. A lot of people come in the Air Force who never had a checkbook in their life, never had a budget and so forth. So right in basic training, we cover savings, checking accounts, automated tellers, debit cards, so forth and so on.
And immediately when they go to tech school, they are trained again. And also when they get to the base, our family support centers have financial management programs for the troops and their families, and they talk about loans, any kind of schemes off the base, so forth and so on.
But what we have done in our program as part of our Club Card Program, when a person becomes a member of an Air Force club, they are issued a credit card. We started this about four or five years ago, and it is a MasterCard. Those that do not have the credit built up, we give them a proprietary card, and we set the limits on that.
Page 48 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC For instance, we get a young person come in, becomes a member of a club. We will give them a proprietary card where we will have a set limit of like $250, and we will work with them on how to manage their credit along with the squadron.
Those that do have a credit history will get a MasterCard, and, again, there is a ceiling on that, and it has worked extremely well.
MasterCard, across the country, has about a five percent debt 60 days or more. In the Air Force, we are below three percent and probably would be lower if our troops did not deploy.
On our proprietary cards, people that do not have credit, I think in the last year overall, only about $15,000 of accounts have ever been written off. So the troops pay their money.
So it is a good way for them to learn, get their foot in the door and then get credit they can use, on-base in the club and off-base, and they build up a good credit history and so forth.
So I think we continue to work hard at that, and I think overall we have a good credit program and education program in the Air Force.
Mr. BARTLETT. Let me ask a question. Not everything that our service personnel need to buy or want to buy can they find on-base, so they may need some credit off-base.
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What kind of opportunities are there for us to ask local merchants to recognize our card so that we can encourage our young people to have just one credit card so that we have better knowledge of what is happening and better control?
Mr. MYERS. Well, you know, on the Star card, I do not know what percent have that. I guess they would have to set up something with all the merchants off-base that would want to accept that. But on the card we give in our clubs, they can use on-base and off-base in an accepted
Mr. BARTLETT. Because you are using a standard, recognized card.
Mr. MYERS. Yes, sir.
Mr. BARTLETT. Okay. Rather than the Star card.
Mr. MYERS. Right.
Mr. BARTLETT. Do the other services do that? Or do you all just use the Star card?
Admiral BROWN. Navy does not; we use the Star card.
Mr. BARTLETT. Okay. Have you ever tried to get the local merchants to recognize the Star card for charging? Are there problems with doing that, reasons we could not do it?
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Admiral BROWN. I really do not have a good answer for you on that. I do know that on a local, regional basis, the regional commanders will in fact engage in conversations with the merchants outside the gates when they determine that there may be an unnecessarily high number of our sailors going in and getting things at usury rates.
But that does not answer your question about using the Star card. I have to get back to you on that one, sir.
General TAGUBA. Sir, we are not aware of any situation in regards to the Star card, as far as the Army's concerned.
But to address the issue of credit cards, my 16-year-old son occasionally receives mail that says, ''You have been pre-approved for $1,000 worth of credit,'' and he is 16 years old.
My daughter continues to receive that today, and she is a freshman in college. This is just from my own personal standpoint. I am not so sure how to go about stopping that.
But as far as the Army's financial readiness program, we think it is a very successful program, because last year alone we provided about $16,000 worth of classes to over 350,000 troops. About 80 percent of them are initial-termers, are E1s to E4s. That is the initial status of both the combat training, like Art mentioned.
Page 51 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Also, it is sustained at their vast individual training. It goes from about two to four hours at a cycle. And it is further sustained at the installation on their follow-on assignments. And we have staffing there at over 97 of our installations.
And then we have other programs, as we do in forces command, where it is command-directed, where the units have what we call a command financial specialist that are resident in each of the battalion level, to help them go through financial management, financial counseling, financial assistance and sustainment training.
And that is an ongoing cycle, only because of the interest that we have to ensure that our soldiers and family members are learning how to manage their finances, because it is the core of our readiness issue. Pay, of course, and allowance is a core issue with them, and we do the best in maintaining vigilance when it comes to financial management.
Mr. BARTLETT. Personal debt, I think, is now at an all-time high in our society. Addiction to credit cards is a growing disease, and I was just hoping that we could be effective in helping our young people to establish good credit card habits so that they are not going to be a part of this increasing problem in our country.
You had a comment? Yes, sir.
Mr. THARRINGTON. Might I just say, Mr. Chairman, we would like to at least thank you for your interest in this issue. All of the services have been addressing this issue for a long time. We have good programs in place to give what training we think that we can.
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But we feel, like you do, that, actually, we can do more. And you mentioned about shopping on bases and using the Star card. When the Star card was developed, it was only developed for its use in internal exchange. I am not sure if we ever asked the question.
Of course, generally, you have a merchant's fee that is tied to a credit card, which is not tied on for the Star card. So I think the exchanges could take that question back and see if it is possible for expanding the Star card.
But, clearly, shopping on our bases, having the exchanges and our bases authorized to carry the merchandise that our servicemembers want and desire, such as what was discussed here last week, certainly benefits or makes it more likely that the patron could use the Star card on-base.
Mr. BARTLETT. Thank you very much.
If I were a merchant off-base, I would be delighted to honor the Star card, because I know how hard the military works to make sure that their personnel pay their debts. And I would rather accept that card than any other card.
And then we have the advantage, I suspect, that we know what the balances are on that card all the time, do we not? So we have the advantage of being able to tell when somebody is about to get in trouble.
If they have 14 credit cards from the big wild world out there, we have no idea when they are getting in trouble. We do not know it until somebody is calling the commanding officer saying, ''You know, Joe has not paid for two months, and he is way behind.''
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So we would appreciate you looking at the possibilities of expanding the Star card, because I would think that they would be very well accepted by merchants. And I would think, then, that you could encourage our young people to not get other cards, because they can buy what they need anywhere with that card. And I think that would be a good tool.
Did I understand correctly that we hope in the near term to be able to meet 50 percent of the childcare needs and by 2007, 80 percent of childcare needs? Those are the numbers I heard?
Secretary MCGINN. Oh, no, it was 65 percent of the childcare needs.
Mr. BARTLETT. Oh, 65 percent in the short term?
Secretary MCGINN. In the short term is targeted for 2005.
Mr. BARTLETT. Then 80 percent, okay.
Secretary MCGINN. Eighty percent in 2007.
Mr. BARTLETT. Sixty-five is not as bad as 50, but it is certainly not good. I would think that meeting the childcare needs is a very high priority for quality of life.
Page 54 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC General TAGUBA. Yes, sir.
Mr. BARTLETT. It would be hard for me to imagine anything that would be a higher priority for quality of life. So you need to let us know what we need to do, and the Department needs to put in its budget monies to make sure that we can meet very quickly 100 percent of these needs, because I would think this would be an enormous morale factor and quality of life factor.
General TAGUBA. Yes, sir.
Mr. BARTLETT. I noticed that the goal for appropriated funds for Category A is 85 percent, and I think that these are essential. And I agree with my colleague, if it is essential, it is essential. And why are we not providing 100 percent?
And I would encourage the Department and the services to put 100 percent in their budget and to challenge us not to meet these essential needs. If they are really essential, then we need to meet those needs, because there are plenty of other things that we can use the nonappropriated funds for to improve the quality of life.
Just a couple of specific questions. The Army is now preparing itself to be more flexible and mobile and to move more quickly. What are we doing with our MWR programs to make sure we can keep up with an Army that is transforming to a more flexible, mobile force?
General TAGUBA. Sir, I am glad you asked that question. We are in close coordination with the rest of the Army staff, and I mentioned to you about being relevant with the Army vision of readiness, personnel and transformation. So we closely monitor, based on requirements through my higher headquarters, the assistant chief of staff for installation management on facilities, re-basing, things of that nature.
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So we are tracking that, sir, as far as the total Army analysis process, and we maintain, again, close coordination with the Army agency in that regard. We do not want to be left behind, so to speak. We have to keep pace with that requirement.
Mr. BARTLETT. Yes, I would think so. Quality of life, I think, would require that.
Mr. Tharrington, I have a question, just of interest to me. The Marines are obviously considerably smaller than the Navy, and yet you make more money in your exchanges. How do you do that? Do you charge too much? Are you better managers?
Mr. THARRINGTON. Sir, I am not sure that we make more money than the
Mr. BARTLETT. That is what the figures show that I was given, that you make more money than the Navy.
Mr. THARRINGTON. Well, a couple of reasons. We have a smaller overhead in that our MWR and the exchange share an overhead. So from that standpoint, we are a little more efficient.
Aside from that, the way we report our profitability isremember in my opening statement I said that our organization is combined, MWR and exchange and the rest of the service, so when we allocate the overhead to get the profitability so you can compare the exchanges to the exchanges and the MWR to the MWR, we have to split out the overhead.
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Now, we agreed on how to split that overhead out in 1992, and we still do it the same way. And we believe it is a fair allocation. But when you split it out, I mean, you could argue that maybe we give not enough overhead to the exchange, and therefore it makes their profitability too high or the other way.
And we would certainly be happy for anyone that wanted to look at that to review that. It was not a Marine Corps decision. As a matter of fact, it was group-led, I believe, by DOD and the other exchange services of how we could report so that we were looking at apples and apples.
Our gross margin for our exchange operations, retail merchandise, is almost identical to the Navy exchange.
So, sir, I cannot answer.
Our pricing is competitive. The last two surveys, we were offering a significant savings to our Marine patrons, up to the 20 percent range. And we will be doing that again this summer. And if it comes out that we are off-base, then we would have to adjust quickly. We do not believe that we are overcharging our marines.
The Marine Corps is an expeditionary force. When I came to work for the Marine Corps nine years ago from a background in the Army, I recognized very quickly that Marines like to take that penny and pinch it until it gets split, because they just do not like to spend that money.
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Now, I have to say, in this past yearand I mentioned it in my opening statementthat we are doing a better job of taking care of peopleand I am talking about our nonappropriated funds peoplethan we did in past years.
We have spent almost $5 million enhancing their benefits in just this past year, so that our employees are being compensated, or at least their benefits are on par with that of appropriated-fund benefits.
On the other side, I think you might find that the salary structure in the Marine Corps is less expensive than that of the other exchange services.
So it probably boils down to sharing overhead and not having that overhead that some of the other services have, or exchange services, and, maybe, our reduced salary structure.
Mr. BARTLETT. Thank you very much.
Mrs. McGinn, if there is something that the Marines are doing that the other services ought to be mimicking, maybe the department could take a look at why their profits are higher and share what they are doing with the other services.
Secretary MCGINN. We would be happy to do that.
Mr. BARTLETT. Let me ask now my colleague if he has any questions or comments.
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And let me do something that I hope is okay. Staff will tell if it is not. What I would like to do is recognize him for questions and comments, and then I would like to adjourn this panel at the end of his questions.
And then, when I return from these two votes, we will convene the next panel.
If I might do that, this panel is dismissed, and we are recessed at the end of his questions and comments.
Mr. UNDERWOOD. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I just wanted to ask two quick questions. Well, one comment and one question.
On the issue of credit, as I advised the other panel last week, if you would find your way to researching and trying to make a comparison between the number of credit problems our people have in uniform as compared to their age cohorts in civilian life, I think it would provide a clear picture as to whether this problem is as serious as it is in the civilian world.
And also, it would be very useful to see that credit data, in terms of whether they are junior enlisted, whether they are people who are career people and a number of other characteristics which you find important to that issue.
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Just briefly on the question of standards, I know that you have developed standards for fitness centers and for libraries, and this is an ongoing issue.
I also know that in certain overseas areas where you have host nation support, I was struck, I think, and maybe my memory is a little deceiving in this instance, I remember going to Okinawa, and they were completing the fitness center and gym that the Japanese government had built.
And one of the issues there was that the Japanese government refused to air-condition it. For some reason, they thought air-conditioning went a little too far in providing host nation support.
Being from the tropics in Okinawa, it is kind of subtropical. Air-conditioning can go a long ways toward your morale, welfare and recreation.
So I just want to know whether this is an ongoing issue, that if we have standards that are being developed for these various MWR activities and where we have issues of host nation supportI noticed that there was a facility built in Saudi Arabia recentlyis there any conflict?
And if there is, how are they resolved between those facilities that are built primarily on host nation support and standards that we have outlined?
Mr. MYERS. Sir, your recollection is right about the government of Japan. They have given us a lot of quality of life programs. But what you have to do is you have to give your requirements up front. Sometimes they get nervous when you add things later on.
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They built several fitness centers for us. In fact, they built a brand new club exchange facilities, and we have been pretty fortunate to give them our requirements up front and to get it air-conditioned.
I know at Guam, when we built and renovated that fitness center, we made sure there was air-conditioning. And the ones over in Saudi Arabia are definitely air-conditioned.
General TAGUBA. Sir, same for the Army.
I mean, you have to be up front in identifying the requirements for your heating, ventilation, air-conditioning. Add-ons typically do not work, because those are cost-drivers.
We have identified our requirements for the out-years, because fitness centers are included in our Army facility strategy, our 30-year plan. And it is included in the first 10-year increment. So that is a necessity that is also required in Army lives, whether it is in the tropics or here in the Continental United States (CONUS).
Admiral BROWN. Sir, we have a much smaller footprint overseas to begin with, but in Naples, Italy, we have had no problems getting our MWR facilities built from the ground up with cooperation of the local government.
The same in Bahrain, where we are building new and hardening our MWR facilities. We have also seen on occasion, specifically in Guam, where we needed to go in and back-fit some air-conditioning. We have done that just recently in one of the gyms.
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In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), that was a NAF construction project or a NAF project that we worked hand-in-glove with the local community. Vis-a-vis the standards, with those in placeand we are working diligently in the Navy to get those done by the end of this yearthose will be folded in, in the natural course with all of our MWR facilities, not just the gyms.
So we look forward to improving on our past record, which is good, to make that even better for our sailors.
Mr. UNDERWOOD. Thank you.
Mr. THARRINGTON. Mr. Chairman, I am not sure if we have some fitness facilities in Okinawa or Japan that were not air-conditioned. And I would suspect if we do, it may have been that we did not identify the requirements, and we would have had to go in and rectify that ourselves. Clearly, the government of Japan has built some marvelous quality of life facilities for us over there.
The one discouraging part about that is, it looks like they have also built some business activities, exchange and club-type activities for us in the past, and it looks like that is going to cease. So now our central funding mechanism of nonappropriated funds is going to have to take up any of that shortfall in the future.
Page 62 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. UNDERWOOD. So Japan is going back on some of these earlier commitments, or are they just changing?
Mr. THARRINGTON. I do not think they are going back on their commitments, but they are not accepting new commitments for business activities, nonappropriated fund business activities, facilities.
Mr. UNDERWOOD. Okay. For the record, is there any comment that any one of you would like to make before
Mr. MYERS. Yes, sir, I would like to make two comments. I know at the last panel, Mr. McHugh asked about funding for the armed forces entertainment program. This is the program where we provide entertainment for the troops around the world.
When we took over that program, the baseline was $3.1 million. And Mr. McHugh felt that we should meet all of the requirements. So we have been going with a baseline of $3.1 million, but we have been getting contingency money to supplement that.
So in 2000, we were at $8.2 million. This year, we are at $8.5 million. In the Air Force, we are going to raise that $3.1 million, out of our own funds, to $5.4 million, so we will reach the magic number of $10 million, and we want to thank Mr. McHugh for his assistance on that.
And one other issue: Last year, we talked to the committee about
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Mr. UNDERWOOD. Before we get to the other issue, I hope that accounts for a couple of stops in Guam as well.
Mr. MYERS. Sir, you know, recently, we had some unique entertainment that went to Guam, and I think there were thousands of people there, troops, and it was professional wrestling. That is what the troops want. And all the
Mr. UNDERWOOD. If you can get the Rock, the whole island will show up. [Laughter.]
Mr. MYERS. I believe it.
On the other issue, last year we talked to the committee about our clubs. Our clubs have changed in nature. Before, in the Air Force, we used to have recreation centers where the troops had social programs and so forth.
We no longer have recreation programs. We have community centers. So we have moved that recreation program into the club. The troops today are not really interested in a lot of drinking and so forth, but they use that club for camaraderie, sense of community. We build up unit cohesion and identity and so forth.
So the way the policy of the committee works right now is, if I have a club and I am using the ballroom just for commander's calls, military functions and so forth, if they use that room for an hour, the troops do not pay utilities for one hour. But to maintain that room, they pay utilities the rest of the time.
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So what we asked the committee last year was, ''Let's look at these rules and have the troops only pay utilities when they use a part of the club to generate revenue.'' And we have worked with OSD and have given them a report on that.
This is a key thing in the Air Force for our troops and the commanders to build that camaraderie and esprit de corps and so forth. So we just ask that once that gets over here, you give us a favorable review.
This is a good way to put money back into troops' pockets. The troops should not pay twice. The troops pay taxes, but they also have their MWR money, so we should not have them pay something that should be with taxpayers' money and have them pay with their own funds again. I appreciate your help.
Mr. UNDERWOOD. Very good, very good.
General TAGUBA. Sir, for the Army, I want to thank the panel and yourself, as well, for your continued support, which is absolutely essential. As you know and as you mentioned to me in my meeting with you yesterday, MWR is at the core of our recruiting and retention requirements.
And our soldiers, families, civilians and retirees, you probably will agree with this, deserve the very best, because they do the very best. And they are entitled to the same quality of life, probably better, as the society they have pledged to defend and, sometimes, pay the ultimate sacrifice. We need these programs to add predictability to their lives and also enable their quality of life as well.
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So we want to ensure that we provide them the best MWR programs that we can provide for them, we can afford for them, because they deserve nothing less than first-class MWR programs. And we want to thank you, sir, for having us today.
Mr. UNDERWOOD. Thank you, General.
Secretary MCGINN. I would echo that, sir, and just say thank you for your oversight, your guidance and your helpfrom you and the panel over the past few years.
The improvements you have seen, the things we have done, we could not have done without the panel, and we really do appreciate it.
Mr. UNDERWOOD. Thank you.
Admiral BROWN. Yes, sir. For the Navy, we would also like to thank you for your leadership. In MWR, quality of life is clearly a critical element in our retaining the sailors and their families. Thank you.
Mr. UNDERWOOD. Mr. Tharrington.
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Mr. THARRINGTON. Yes, sir.
Mr. Chairman, Mr. Underwood and the panel also, we, the Marine Corps, would just like to thank you for your support and guidance and oversight.
You asked me about the appropriated funds support that we give the program, and it is not quite there yet. We are working hard to make that happen. We have come a long way from where we were five years ago in that appropriated funds support. And as a result of that, our programs are far superior than they were seven or eight years ago.
So maybe we are not there yet. We think we can do a lot with those few dollars that we do have in the Marine Corps. And so we are very proud of our programs, and, clearly, our programs and our facilities are much better than they have been, probably, in our history. And much of the credit is due to this panel and its oversight.
Mr. UNDERWOOD. Thank you very much.
I just wanted to make a comment on the clubs, because the clubs are an issue, and it is very refreshing to note that some of our younger people in the service now do not identify group cohesion with drinking and carousing. And it is very refreshing to note that. And, also, even in some recent port visits where people, you know, sailors get off and they want to go bike riding, which for some of the older sailors is an amazing phenomenon.
But just to remind you that there are some retirees who remember that that is part of their unit cohesion. So they are part of the customer base as well. And I know it is a tough balance, but I certainly agree with the general direction of your comments.
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Mr. BARTLETT. And with that, the panel is dismissed.
Mr. BARTLETT. Our subcommittee will reconvene.
I would like to welcome our second panel. This is the most important panel. This is the panel representing the military families, both active and retired: Mr. Joseph Barnes, Fleet Reserve Association; and Ms. Joyce Raezer, National Military Family Association.
Mr. Barnes is returning from last week's successful appearance before the panel. We appreciate your willingness to come back after a long afternoon.
I want to now recognize before your testimony, my colleague, who must leave at 4 o'clock, for any comments or questions that he may have. And then we will turn to your testimony.
Mr. UNDERWOOD. I have no specific questions at this time, and I just look forward to your continuing support and input into the process.
Page 68 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. BARTLETT. Well, thank you very much.
Mr. Barnes, you have the floor.
STATEMENT OF JOSEPH L. BARNES, DIRECTOR OF LEGISLATIVE PROGRAMS, FLEET RESERVE ASSOCIATION
Mr. BARNES. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Chairman, Congressman Underwood and distinguished members of the panel, on behalf of the Military Coalition, we thank you for the opportunity to express our views concerning military morale, welfare and recreation programs.
I am director of legislative programs for the Fleet Reserve Association and co-chair of the coalition's Military Personnel, Compensation and Commissaries Committee. I am also a member of the coalition's MWR and Military Construction Committee.
For 31 military and veterans' organizations which comprise the Military Coalition, we are most grateful to this panel for its strong leadership and effective oversight of military MWR programs.
At the outset, and just as we did at last week's hearing on the commissary and exchange programs, the coalition wishes to reaffirm its strong commitment to maintaining a vibrant MWR program, which substantially impacts military quality of life in many positive ways.
Page 69 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I will briefly summarize several issues. Then Joyce Raezer from the National Military Family Association will discuss childcare, youth programs and other family-related issues.
MWR programs bolster a strong sense of community, provide recreational opportunities, promote esprit de corps, enhance education and offer much needed support to all its beneficiaries.
This is especially important in remote duty locations and during current high operational tempo periods, which impose added stress and increase job demands on active duty personnel and their families.
MWR programs benefit all active duty personnel, Guard and Reserve members, military families and retirees, and consistently rank high on quality of life program surveys. The coalition applauds DOD and the individual services' attention to the importance of MWR programs and their dynamic and flexible approach to meeting the recreational, educational and morale needs of all beneficiaries.
MWR programs are essential to maintaining good morale, adequate retention levels and a high quality of life threshold. And they are directly linked to military readiness. A visit to the individual services' MWR Web sites offers a glimpse of the broad range of current MWR programs and services, along with detailed information on each program.
The coalition strongly supports adequate funding to construct, improve, equip, and operate fitness centers in compliance with DOD and service standards. In addition, the coalition strongly supports initiatives to streamline the recruitment of nonappropriated funds from the disposal of commissary, exchange and MWR facilities at BRAC sites. We appreciate your focus on that and the discussions on that issue.
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In the words of the master chief petty officer of the Navy: ''These facilities are integral to the morale for our sailors serving outside the continental United States who may not otherwise have these recreation opportunities.'' They are cornerstones in the Navy's ''Right Spirit'' campaign that de-glamorizes alcohol usage.
The coalition is pleased that special programs are being offered for single servicemembers that encompass recreation, education and special activities. Examples include the Army's Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers (BOSS), program, and the Navy's Single Sailor program.
With regard to deployed servicemembers and their families, the coalition notes the outstanding job the services have done in providing a wide array of MWR programs supporting forward-deployed units.
However, in Europe, there have been cutbacks in MWR services at installations with tight budgets, resulting in staff reductions and unpredictable or shortened hours at bowling alleys, swimming pools and other recreation facilities. Discrepancies have also been noted between services offered at high-profile duty locations, such as Bosnia, and other remote and/or unaccompanied duty sites.
Again, thank you for the opportunity to present the coalition's views.
Joyce Raezer will now discuss other aspects of our MWR programs.
Page 71 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC [The prepared statement of Mr. Barnes can be viewed in the hard copy.]
Mr. BARTLETT. Thank you.
STATEMENT OF JOYCE RAEZER, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR OF GOVERNMENT RELATIONS, NATIONAL MILITARY FAMILY ASSOCIATION
Ms. RAEZER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Mr. Underwood.
I, too, would like to thank you for the invitation to discuss the importance of MWR programs to the military community. I am co-chair with Mr. Barnes on the coalition's Personnel, Compensation and Commissaries Committee, and also serve on the MWR-MILCON Committee.
The coalition thanks this panel for its oversight, its emphasis on quality standards and its realization that MWR activities are a vital quality of life component for today's force.
Your attention to the importance of the broad spectrum of MWR programs was especially important in halting, a few years ago, the closure of some installation libraries. The military force is an educated force, and the availability of both print and technological resources make libraries centers of activities for military communities.
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The coalition is also grateful for the invitation to address military childcare and youth programs. I saw on an Air Force press release last night that April has been designated the month of the military child.
There are 1.2 million military children under the age of 18, and 240,000 military children under age three. The military force, often asked to go in harm's way, needs to be able to go to work and not worry about what is happening to their children.
In just slightly over ten years, the military has transformed its childcare system from one of the nation's worst to what has been called a model for the nation. We thank the Congress for construction funding, for additional military child development centers each year, for the funding needed to maintain such a high-quality program and for the oversight to ensure that high standards are met.
The Military Coalition (TMC) does believe that DOD and the services face a difficult challenge in trying to meet the childcare of the force without breaking the bank or compromising quality. The services are now, as we have heard, able to meet about 58 percent of the reported childcare need with appropriated funds, supplying about one-half of the cost of operating the system.
Although DOD child development center personnel are generally paid more than the very low wages paid in many civilian communities, some centers do report difficulties in finding or retaining the staff necessary to run centers at full capacity.
Page 73 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Because the TMC member organizations hear that this problem is especially acute in Europe, we were especially pleased today to hear that the services are making efforts to address these problems.
Access to childcare is a greater of quality of life issue overseas because of the lack of other options outside the gate. TMC encourages DOD and the services to examine what special strategies will be needed to meet the demand for childcare and to address the staffing shortages in overseas communities.
We also hope that efforts to meet this demand for full-day childcare, as well as before-and after-school care, will include multiple strategies: continuing to build more child development centers; recruiting and training more family care providers, both on and off the installation; and expanding partnerships with nonprofits, schools and other civilian childcare providers.
The coalition also applauds the very beneficial partnerships established by DOD and the services to bring additional resources to their youth programs. Programs offered by installation youth services, boys and girls clubs, the 4-H program and military chaplains, provide meaningful activities for many military youth, especially in those vulnerable, pre-adolescent years.
Although installation recreation facilities, like the youth programs, are most convenient to families living on the base, we find that they also draw servicemembers, retirees, survivors and families who live off-base back to the installation, thus reinforcing the cohesion of the military community as a whole.
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Families have especially welcomed recent family-friendly renovations of bowling alleys and other facilities and the promotional activities that lower their cost of using these facilities.
The coalition applauds efforts by the services to identify community members' concerns and to adjust programs to fit the needs identified. The Army, for example, will soon send surveys to 20,000 military Army spouses in an effort to evaluate the effectiveness of current MWR and family support programs and to identify the trends for future programs and activities.
One such emerging issue on many installations is the demand for handicapped-accessible MWR facilities and programs. Because of limited program resources, partnerships with other organizations may help provide the needed activities.
At several Marine Corps installations, for example, exceptional family member staff and MWR staff have worked with the armed services' Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) to obtain handicapped-accessible playgrounds and scholarships for special programs, such as day camp and therapeutic horseback riding. The coalition encourages this outreach to include all members of the military community in MWR programs and their design.
Mr. Chairman, the Military Coalition is grateful to this panel for its support of MWR programs for servicemembers, military retirees, families and survivors around the world. True communities are not made up just of houses and places of work. They also include the support facilities to provide community interaction and wholesome, safe activities.
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MWR programs bring a touch of home and provide opportunities for recreation and education for deployed servicemembers. On installations, they provide a focal point, improving quality of life of the entire military community.
Thank you very much.
Mr. BARTLETT. Thank you.
And I would note that prepared statements, without objection, will be made a part of the permanent record.
And thank you very much for summarizing your observations.
Mr. Barnes, you mentioned BRAC bases and the problem of nonappropriated funds there. Do you know if this is a legislative problem or an executive problem that those funds go back so that they have to be appropriated?
Why should the appropriators and Congress be deciding how the nonappropriated funds should be used? I am having a lot of trouble understanding that.
Mr. BARNES. We have a great deal of trouble understanding that also, Mr. Chairman. That is our understanding, that the appropriators
Mr. BARTLETT. But did we do it with bad legislation or did the executive do it with a misinterpretation of our legislation? Which is it?
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Mr. BARNES. I am not well-versed to answer that.
Mr. BARTLETT. I am informed that we are the bad guys, so we need to fix that. I mentioned, last week, that I have a personal problem with that.
They built a brand new, very nice commissary at Fort Ritchie and then summarily closed it. And most of our people went there, even from Frederick. Now they have to go to really very inadequate facilities at Fort Detrick.
And there was a lot of money that did not belong to our Appropriations Committeenone of it belongs to them anyhow; it is all the taxpayers' money, but they do not see it that waybut this particularly was money that did not belong to them, and now, you know, here our people are stuck with a very inadequate facility for both the commissary and the exchange in Frederick and Fort Detrick, and all of that money, though it should be available to them, is not available to them.
So thank you for bringing that up, and we will see if we cannot fix that in this year's legislation.
We must, by the way, get the approval of the appropriators to do that, but I think that they will do that. Everybody understands quality of life and how important our military is to that.
I would like to note that Admiral Brown and Mr. Myers are still here.
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Thank you very much for staying by to listen to this most important panel, our families.
Ms. Raezer, you mentioned childcare overseas and how important that was to our personnel there. Are we doing better there than the 65 percent in the near-term future and the 80 percent down the road by 2007? Are we doing better than that overseas where the problem is really much more critical?
Ms. RAEZER. I am probably not the person to ask on the capacity. I hear from the families, and a lot of other TMC organizations hear from the families as well. And what we hear is that the capacity is there. The problem, as was indicated in the panel before us, is the staffing.
Mr. BARTLETT. Hiring personnel?
Ms. RAEZER. It is the hiring of the personnel, that there are some issues in terms of just what the centers have to go through to hire staff in terms of their procedures.
I think Mr. Myers or General Taguba mentioned the background checks. There is also just the civilian personnel system that is a problem, maybe some compensation rates.
We hear of some competition with the DOD schools, for example, where sometimes DOD schools come out on top at grabbing some of the talented staff. We have applauded the DOD schools for their new spouse-friendly hiring practices, but there may be some things that have to be examined in a package to look at hiring procedures, and wage rates, so that we do not have two very beneficial quality of life programs competing with each other for the same people.
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But we just hear that capacity is there. Sometimes there are rooms closed because there is not enough staff. We hear not only full-time childcare but also access to drop-in, hourly care for medical appointments, volunteer opportunities, other things, is a continuing problem. And it is made worse overseas, because there are no other options.
Mr. BARTLETT. I think I was told that about half of all of the personnel in our daycare centers are spouses. If that is true, I would think that with the reduced opportunities for employment off the base overseas, that there ought to be relatively more of our spouses available for staffing.
Ms. RAEZER. There are some. Some spouses, though, say that the process is longer.
I mean, there are also opportunities in other MWR facilities. There are opportunities in commissaries, exchanges, as I mentioned, DOD schools.
And our communities in Europe are a lot smaller than they used to be too, and so you have several types of facilities competing out of the same personnel pool.
Mr. BARTLETT. We will check to see what the problems are, because I would think that childcare, as I mentioned before, is probably the most important quality of life issue.
If the children are not taken care of in a manner that gives security to the parents, if you are worried on the job about how your children are being taken care of, you are not going to be a very good employee.
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And so that is very important for us and particularly important overseas. So we will see if there is something that we can do to help alleviate that.
Ms. Raezer, you mentioned the cohesion. I think you mentioned that with relationship to retired people coming back into the facilities and the sense of community.
I am particularly sensitive to that, which is the reason I fought so hard to make sure that our retired military personnel, after they are 65, could still get healthcare in our military hospitals.
When I first raised that question, I was told that in spite of the fact that we appeared to have promised them that when we recruited them 25, 30 years ago, that that was not legally binding. And so I quoted my grandmother who says that ''All that is legal is not moral.'' And I felt that we needed to keep that promise.
I think that it will be one of the cheapest ways to meet our recruitment goals. I think we can spend a lot less money on recruitment, because then we will have a lot of built-in recruiters out there, in terms of our retired people who are not now telling young people that they probably ought to go into the military, because we have not kept our promises to them, and therefore why should the young people believe we are going to keep our promises that we are making to them? So I think that this is very important for the sense of community, this cohesion that you mentioned.
You also mentioned handicapped accessibility, and I was reminded of my emotional experience when I went to a paralyzed veterans reception here. That was really a very moving experience for me. And of all of the places in our country that we need to have handicapped accessibility, I think that it is for our military personnel.
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I remember when I first came to Congress I went to the National Fire Academy up at Emmitsburg, which is in the district that I have the honor of representing, and it is the only one in the country. And they were spending $25 million there putting in elevators.
Now, I asked the question: When was the last time you saw a firefighter in a wheelchair? I thought that if there was any place in our country that we could have waived these requirements for handicapped accessibility, it would be in a training facility for firefighters, would not you think so?
So there was $25 million that we could have very well spent to provide handicapped access for our military personnel who really need it, and I do not think firemenwhen was the last time you saw a fireman in a wheelchair?
They just do not exist. And why would you need an elevator in a training facility for firefighters? This is just another indication of the mindless application of laws that get applied in ways thatwe do some dumb things in Congress, but they are not as dumb as would appear from the way our laws are frequently implemented by the regulators.
You mentioned also that theI forget how you phrased that, Ms. Raezerthat the sense of family or cohesion went beyond single issues and included a whole lot more, that it was kind of an atmosphere rather than an overt thing.
And that reminded me of when I was the first church member on the site when our local church burned. And I was there before the firefighters rolled our their hoses. And a reporter, who came later, said, ''Too bad your church burned.'' And I said, ''No, the church did not burn. That was just a building that burned. The church is all the people, and we are still here. Thank you.'' That got picked up and reported in the national press.
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And I think that what you said is very true, that this institution is more than just brick and mortar, that it is the esprit de corps, that it is the cohesiveness that these MWR programs are so important in establishing and maintaining.
You sat and listened to the testimony of the previous panel, and I would like now to give you an opportunity to make any comments that you wish or to have us ask the previous panel members any questions that you would like to ask, and they can respond in writing. Do you have comments or questions relative to the testimony you heard from the previous panel?
Mr. BARNES. I will start. Just an observation about the military construction appropriations, which were alluded to, that touch on some of these facilities and what have you.
There is a consistent challenge with underfunding those requests, and the coalition strongly supports adequately funding these military construction projects. This spills over into the housing facilities and barracks and what have you, the privatization issue.
We would caution, with regard to the privatization initiatives, that rights not be considered, the transferability of rights to operate retail operations in these privatized areas. It is an area of a great deal of concern with regard to MWR funding and maintaining the commissary benefits and what have you.
And that issue has surfaced in recent years, and we understand, we have heard some discussion to that effect, again, with regard to privatized housing. So I just wanted to draw your attention to that issue.
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The second issue is the education transferability with regard to the discussion of the education benefits that Senator Cleland, his proposal on that. The coalition has not taken a position on that. The Fleet Reserve Association's position on the transferability is that we would support that, but only after 20 years of service.
There is a great deal of concern about retention and the scope of benefits, including education benefits, that are being offered to new recruits. And we have a major challenge with retaining personnel at the 8, 10, 12, 15 year level, when they look at these personnel that are coming in, these junior folks, and they are getting up to $50,000 for the college fund in addition to opportunities, tuition aid and if they sign up for the Montgomery GI bill and what have you.
With regard to that, we are also strongly supporting that Montgomery GI bill benefits be indexed, increased to the average cost of a 4-year, state-run education. There was a press conference to that effect, regarding the legislation that was introduced yesterday, I believe, here on the House side.
So the education issue is a major issue, and we appreciate your attention to that. And I just wanted to draw your attention to those aspects of that.
Mr. BARTLETT. Thank you.
Ms. RAEZER. I would like to echo Mr. Barnes' thoughts on the construction. We always look, at the National Military Family Association, at the DOD request for child development center construction and what finally comes out, because we always depend on Congress to add child development center constructions to the DOD request to meet that demand.
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And so we appreciate the actions by Congress, but it would be really nice to have a higher number coming from the department.
Mr. BARTLETT. You know, that is quite important now. When you have a president of the other party, it is easy to tell him, ''Gee, you have not done it right. We are going to add some money.''
That is tougher to do when he is your guy. And so we hope that you can use whatever influence you have to make sure that this gets in the budget that comes to us. It is going to be harder for us to do plus-ups.
Ms. RAEZER. And that is why getting the number right the first time is so important.
Mr. BARTLETT. Yes.
Ms. RAEZER. And so that is one thing.
I would like to add a little bit to the discussion on spouse employment. This is an important issue because so many of our spouses work and because the retention decision is tied to the family.
And an ingredient of that retention decision now and the decision that happens whenever a military member gets the PCS orders is, ''Do we want to jeopardize our family income again,'' by having the spouse start over, by losing that spouse's income.
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If a spouse has found a good job through a lot of effort, do we want to lose that? Would it better, maybe, just to get out of the military and stay put? So addressing those spouse employment issues are important.
The flexibility is also important. Do we have some spouses who need to get their General Equivalency Diploma (GED) or help getting into that first course at the community college, which can be a struggle if they are required to pay out-of-state tuition rates?
We have other spouses who need help working transfer of professional certification, to be able to continue in a career. And so there are spouses with varying needs.
Mr. BARTLETT. Let me ask a question. Do our community colleges require the spouses of military personnel to pay out-of-state? If they do, shame.
Ms. RAEZER. It depends on the state, Mr. Bartlett.
Mr. BARTLETT. Well, let us know, and we will use a little moral authority. These people are in there putting their lives on the line to protect them. The least they can do is give them in-state tuition when they are spouses of military personnel. Wouldn't you think?
Ms. RAEZER. Well, I would, but some states are very, very flexible about this, and others, frankly, put up roadblocks to spouses and military children.
Mr. BARTLETT. If you will let us know which ones, we will see if we can do anything.
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Ms. RAEZER. And sometimes it depends on the actual institution in the state. There are different rules. It is a very, very complicated issue.
Another issue, with regard to states, is unemployment compensation. There are very few states that pay unemployment compensation to a military spouse following the military member on PCS orders.
So at a time when you are asking a family to spend money to move because they are not reimbursed for their relocation expenses, you have also asked the family to take a significant hit in terms of family income from the spouse's job. So this is another issue that has caused a lot of problems for families.
DOD did a relocation survey last year that found that people were only reimbursed at about $0.60 on the dollar, average, and that is reimbursable expenses. So we are asking our young families, especially, we are moving young families early, often, and we are expecting them to pay out-of-pocket significant expenses.
So this is an issue that also gets in with the spouse employment, because if the spouse is not getting the unemployment compensation, that is just one more financial hit against the family.
Folks who are concerned about young families' financial considerations, the relocation is a big part of that, what we are asking these folks to do.
Page 86 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC General Motors is not moving the factory worker, that young factory worker. We are moving our youngest employees the most, in some cases. And so there is a severe financial repercussion to that.
Mr. BARTLETT. Thank you.
Mr. Andrews, what we are doing now with the second panel is asking them to make comments on the testimony of the first panel and to convey to us any questions they might have to members of the first panel.
The second panel, of course, are representatives of military families and, in a very real sense, the most important people who testify here. The others told us what a good job they are trying to do, and this panel tells us the quality of the job that they are doing.
We are pleased that you are able to join us. Do you have questions or comments?
Mr. ANDREWS. I do, Mr. Chairman. Thank you for your courtesy.
I apologize for the first panel for missing their testimony, but I have had a chance to review it, and I appreciate the fact that it was offered.
I had two questions for each of our panelists, and let me preface the first question by saying that I understand that the people in the military who have been charged with administering these programs are under-resourced. And I take it as a given that any critical comment is not meant to be critical of the individuals involved. I want to get that out on the record.
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But I am very interested in military childcare. And I wonder if your members were asked to give a grade to military childcare, A to F, A being excellent and F being a failure, what grade do you think they would give it?
Ms. RAEZER. As someone who speaks to military family members about this on a regular basis, quality is an A. Access in some places is a lower grade because, as we have discussed in earlier panels, there are some places where there is not enough available to meet the need, and that is a problem.
In some places, for some folks, cost is a problem, although when we ask family membersand we do ask themto compare on the outside for the quality available in the military centers, most will say that they cannot do better outside the military.
Mr. ANDREWS. I would hope so.
Ms. RAEZER. This is very high quality, and the sliding scale based on family income does help. So quality is an A, access varies, you know, the access grade varies just on where you are.
Mr. ANDREWS. What about capital facilities?
Ms. RAEZER. Facilities are wonderful.
Mr. BARNES. There have been major improvements in the last about 10 years on this.
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Mr. ANDREWS. If we were to say we are like the United Way thermometer they put in getting to the top, how far are we to the 100 percent goal of getting all of the military childcare facilities to be excellent? How far along are we?
Ms. RAEZER. We may not be the best judges of that, I mean, in terms of the actual goal, meeting the standard. I think, you know, every year we get closer and closer. I think some of the figures cited by the first panel on meeting the need, I would hope that takes into account facilities as well. And so we are definitely over halfway there.
Mr. ANDREWS. That is excellent news. As someone who has a couple of second cousins in military childcare in Missouri, I hear very good things from their mom and dad, and it is good to hear you reflect that.
The second question I have is about the issue of immigration services. I have had an uncommonly high number of inquiries at my district office from military families who have issues with the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
Maybe it is an in-law or someone else, they are trying to deal with an immigration issuesometimes a spouse. And one of the unique problems military people seem to have is, because they are moved around a lot, their case gets moved from one immigration center to another, to another, to another, and they are, sort of, like Sisyphus pushing the rock up the hill, starting all over again each time.
I have two questions for you. One is, are the examples that I am hearing an aberration in your experience, or is that a common problem?
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And then, second, I would be interested in you evaluating a proposal I am interested in, which would be to direct the INS to, in effect, maintain a separate division or field office just for the families of military personnel, perhaps maintained at one place, so your file could start and finish with the same division of the INS and not be scrambled as it goes along. Would you care to comment on that?
Ms. RAEZER. We do hear from families where this is a problem, sometimes in the case of a spouse, because a spouse has been out of the country accompanying the military member, that puts them behind the curve on the residency issues to become citizens, for example. And we sense that these families are getting some support from the services, but there is really not a whole lot the services can do to help support them.
But I think, from what I hear from families, there should be some way to work this out-of-country issue accompanying the military member, that that should not be held as time against the person. That should count as time in residence in the United States.
If you are living on a military installation in Germany while your servicemember spouse is in Bosnia, but you are in that military community, that should be considered time in residence in the United States.
Mr. ANDREWS. Mr. Chairman, I think the situation that we have is that some of our military families are treated disadvantageously when it comes to immigration law with respect to their civilian peers.
Page 90 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC If anything, I would think there should be some advantageous treatment, because of the issues of service that are involved. But it strikes me that we have an imbalance against the military families that I would like to try to work with the panel to try to remedy.
I thank you for the time.
Mr. BARTLETT. Thank you very much.
To the extent that a military spouse has trouble getting their five year residency so they can become a citizen, because we keep moving the military person overseas, I do not know that we need legislation to correct that. It is a Judiciary Committee problem. But I am sure they will be very sympathetic to that.
I think that whether they are in this country or out of the country, if they are a military spouse, they ought to be counted toward that five year period. We should not disadvantage them because they have chosen to serve their country.
Well, thank you very much for your comments. If you have no further comments, our witnesses?
Ms. RAEZER. I just have one thing that I did not mention in the employment, and that is problems with the DOD civilian personnel system. We hear from familiesand we talked about it with the childcarethat some of the problem may be some bureaucratic issues.
Page 91 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I would refer you, Mr. Chairman, to the statement of the chief of the Army nurses in testimony before the Senate Defense Appropriations Committee in February. He talked about his system's difficulties with the DOD civilian personnel system.
And it was kind of wonderful to hear from him, because if he is having problems, then we now understand why military spouses are having problems. So I think this is another thing that needs to be worked in terms of spouse employment. And we can get you that statement, or I am sure your staffers can.
Mr. BARTLETT. Thank you very much.
As we were listening and writing down the challenges to make the system better, I was reminded of the counsel that a major professor in graduate schools gives his students who do not know what they should do for their research for their masters or doctorate.
He says, ''Just go to the library, find an experiment that interests you and go to the laboratory and repeat it, and you will certainly find opportunities for a thesis in repeating that.''
And so we are pleased that we have found opportunities for making the system better as a result of this hearing.
Thank you very much for your input, and we will stand in adjournment.
[Whereupon, at 4:28 p.m., the panel was adjourned.]
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