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Joint Base Lewis-McChord Looks at the Future of Army Family Programs

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Monday, March 23, 2015

Difficult decisions lie ahead regarding Army Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation (FMWR) programs, said Col. Charles Hodges Jr., Installation Commander at Joint Base Lewis-McChord  (JBLM), Wash., during an onsite family forum hosted by the AUSA Family Readiness Directorate last week. “I am here to talk about what was the Army Family Covenant and now what Army Strong is going to become … I wish I could say definitely here are the answers to all the questions you’re going to have, but we just don’t know,” Hodges said.

Referring to Installation Management Command’s (IMCOM) FMWR Program Prioritization Chart (aka BIN Chart), Hodges added, “When Army Family Covenant was put into place, resources were flowing freely, but over the past three years I’ve been here we’ve seen services go off as funding has gone away. As we move forward, all the programs you see up there [on the BIN Chart] are probably up for potential reduction or elimination based purely on the financial considerations that have to be made. As we move forward from a big Army perspective, what’s getting cut and what’s going away, who knows, because if you go across the bases right now, what is the most important program that we have on Fort X or Base Y, they will tell you something different.”

According to IMCOM officials, the BIN Chart identifies key program elements and categorizes them as high-, moderate- and low-risk to the success of the Army mission. “A high-risk program, which is directly linked to the Ready and Resilient Campaign (R2C), is one that if unfunded and therefore delivered at less than optimal levels could directly impact the Soldier’s mission. As you move into programs in the medium- and low-risk categories, the link to R2C becomes more indirect and should not impact the Soldier’s ability to complete the mission,” the IMCOM Newsletter has reported. The Exceptional Family Member Program, Survivor Outreach Services, and the Army’s Community Service Information and Referral services are examples of programs in the high-risk category, while programs such as the Army Family Action Plan and the Family Readiness Support Assistants are deemed low-risk.

However, reductions or eliminations are not set in stone. According to Hodges, as JBLM has looked at FMWR programs from a Ready and Resilient perspective, he has asked unit commanders to identify the most important programs based on their mission and perspective. On-post gyms and child development centers always seem to make the list, but Hodges said he is always surprised that programs his staff thought would be much higher on the priority list are not mentioned.

“When big Army makes these decisions, I think it’s going to be difficult to say what do we want because we don’t know. Everybody has something different,” Hodges said. “That being said, today and the coming months [are an opportunity] for JBLM’s voice to be heard in terms of what we think needs to stay and what we think are the top priorities.”