Service Secretaries Request State Support for Military Families

Recently, the service secretaries sent a letter to the National Governors Association addressing a number of military family issues. The letter came as governors from all 50 states made one of their regular trips to Washington, D.C., to talk about state priorities and interaction with federal policies and programs.

The secretaries spoke of the long-endured challenges our members and military families face around the globe - challenges that cannot be solved by the services or the federal government alone. Specifically, the secretaries request states find ways to accommodate military children in their extracurricular activities and accept their less-than-standard academic transcripts. They highlight licensing barriers in military spouse employment and ask for mitigation of those barriers.

DoD rightly stood up 14 years ago a Defense State Liaison Office, which educates states about possible legislation to support those serving and their families. Ultimately, however, these issues cannot be resolved simply with legislation. Our local communities must engage to support the uniqueness of living a military life “on demand” - where changing schools, jobs, houses, and friends can come at the request of the federal government whenever it commands, despite the inconvenience or struggles it induces. Freedom is not free.

We know what the ultimate price of freedom is, but on a not so devastating day, freedom costs a military child an opportunity to play basketball on the new school's team because the military moved them too late in the school year. Freedom might also cost a military spouse their job and incur hundreds of dollars in new rounds of professional testing, application fees, and processing, because they will not be employable at the new duty station without proving they have the credentials - again.

These costs, however, decrease when governments provide flexibility not normally in their vernacular. This is not required because military families are “special,” but rather these are required because we should, when possible, try to minimize the cost of freedom, while maximizing its benefits for all of us. An all-volunteer force requires that servicemembers and their families not carry the burden of those costs alone.

The federal government, as we have said before, would be overstepping on state sovereignty to legislate these issues in the U.S. Congress or via executive order. MOAA applauds this step, of service secretaries saying, “Reciprocity on licensure and the quality of education matter.” We look forward to tracking the impact of this engagement on military families.