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Retaining Soldiers Through Their Families

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U.S. Army
Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Retention rates in the Army have spiked above 90%, and the best way to maintain such numbers is to not only take care of soldiers but their families as well, senior Defense Department and Army personnel officials say.

Such high retention rates “have not been evidenced in decades,” James Stewart, the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, said during testimony before the House Armed Services military personnel subcommittee. “We like to say that you recruit the member but retain the family,” he said. “We know that the commitments of the military often entail sacrifices, so we are making every effort to support our military families.”

This is especially important as the services face a tough recruiting environment, including “a robust economy, low unemployment and significant competition from the civilian sector,” Stewart said.

Lt. Gen. Thomas Seamands, the Army deputy chief of staff for personnel, agreed. “Retention of the family is just as important as retention of the soldier,” he said.

DoD and the Army are working on several programs to make life easier for military families, including fewer moves, boosting spouse employment and improving access to child care, Stewart said.

For example, 24% of military spouses are unemployed or underemployed, he said, so DoD is working to provide career counseling and make it easier for spouses to transfer professional licenses and credentials from state to state.

The department also is trying to build new child care facilities, improve existing centers and make it easier for families to enroll their children for care.