Leaders Pledge Continued Quality-of-Life Improvements

Leaders Pledge Continued Quality-of-Life Improvements

Camp Zama Housing
Photo by: U.S. Army/Winifred Brown

The Army is seeking “adequate, sustainable, predictable” funding to continue improving its quality-of-life initiatives for soldiers and their families, a panel of Army leaders told lawmakers.

“At every installation, we endeavor to take care of our soldiers and families by ensuring access to quality facilities, housing and child care,” said Lt. Gen. Jason Evans, deputy Army chief of staff for installations, during the May 12 hearing before the House Appropriations military construction, veterans affairs and related agencies subcommittee. “To do that, we need your continued support by providing adequate, sustainable, predictable funding. Our installations will remain ready and resilient and provide the quality of life our soldiers and families deserve.” 

The Army’s fiscal 2023 budget request includes $8.1 billion for installation infrastructure, including $1.9 billion for military construction and $6.2 billion for facility sustainment, restoration and modernization, Evans said. 

One of the top focus areas for the Army is improving on-post housing. In the coming weeks, the Army will release survey results on soldier and family satisfaction with housing and the tenant bill of rights, created in 2020 to ensure that those living in privatized on-post housing are aware of their rights to quality housing and fair treatment.

“The majority of the families really like the new tenant bill of rights, they like having the authorities,” said Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael Grinston. “But it will take some time for that to come into play.”  

Army leaders also are focused on eliminating sexual assault and harassment and suicide in the ranks. These efforts will continue to require a “whole-of-Army approach,” said Rachel Jacobson, assistant Army secretary for installations, energy and environment. 

“We are investing in soldier support programs and initiatives such as the SHARP fusion center pilot to provide the necessary response for our soldiers,” Grinston said. “My goal remains to have prevention efforts so effective there is less of a need for response.” 

As part of the Army’s Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention program, the Army stood up fusion centers that provide survivor-centered medical, investigative, legal and support services outside of the survivor’s chain of command. The centers also function as an additional mechanism to report sexual assault and harassment. 

Suicide prevention is another priority. Using as an example a recent trip to Alaska, which has seen a spate of soldier suicides, Grinston said the Army is investing in behavioral health. 

“During a recent trip to Alaska, we identified shortfalls affecting overall quality of life that the Army senior leaders are currently addressing,” he said. “We are surging behavioral health professionals, chaplains and military family life counselors to Alaska. It is OK and encouraged to seek behavioral health when concerns arise.”

Grinston also said the Army must improve wait times for getting access to behavioral health care. “We have to do better,” he said.

“If a soldier has an emergency, they should not wait. ... That is inexcusable. We have to get them to the emergency room and get them that care,” he said. “We did see our suicide numbers for the last two years go up, and this year we can say that they’re down. We put a lot of effort into that, but that’s not an excuse to take our foot off of the gas and get us the behavioral health that we need.”