|By Lt. Gen. Rick Lynch, Commanding General,
Installation Management Command
Army Families deal with unique
challenges associated with military life, especially when it comes to
relocation. Not only do Families have to find a new place to call home,
they also have to find new health care and child care providers, enroll
children in new schools and activities and build new networks of friends
and support. These challenges are not easy for any Army Family, but for
Families with special needs, they are magnified.
Families with members requiring special educational and medical
services often have to rebuild a complex system of providers and
services to support the health and development of their Family members.
Families can put an incredible amount of time and effort into creating a
network that enables their Family members to flourish, and then, when it
comes time to relocate, they have to start again.
The Army does not intend for these Families to go it alone. The
Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP), managed through Family and
Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command, is a comprehensive, coordinated
program that provides community support and educational, medical,
housing and personnel services to Families with special needs. Families
who have questions or need EFMP support are encouraged to go to the
garrison Army Community Service and speak with the EFMP manager.
Soldiers with Family members who have special needs are required to
enroll in EFMP so that the needs can be considered during the nominative
phase of the military personnel assignment process. Some Soldiers may be
reluctant to identify Family members for this program.
They may feel that identifying with the program adversely will affect
their career. This is simply not true. Army leaders at all levels must
help dispel this misconception.
It also is important for Soldiers and their Families to know that the
Army’s EFMP does much more than provide information for assignment
decisions. The EFMP is one way we can keep some of the most important
promises articulated in the Army Family Covenant: providing access to
high-quality medical care, educational opportunities and Family programs
that foster an environment in which Families can thrive.
EFMP currently is serving 16 percent of all Army Families, or more than
70,000 registered Family members. The program has provided critical
support to Families since its start in 1979. Over the last 30 years,
through initiatives such as the Army Family Covenant, the Army’s
commitment and promises to Families have become more defined. At the
same time, the number of on- and off-post programs and services
available to Families with special needs has increased and become more
diverse. As a result of the Army Family Covenant promises and the
greater array of programs to manage or coordinate with, we are committed
to continually seek new ways to enhance our EFMP support to Families.
The No. 1 request I hear from EFMP Families during my installation
visits is for assistance in navigating the variety of services and
programs available through the Department of Defense, Department of the
Army and other federal, local and state agencies. When Soldiers and
their Families move to a new location, they need to know what is
available on and off the installation and how to access and coordinate
all the services.
The 2010 National Defense Authorization Act requires all of the Armed
Services to provide additional support for Families with special needs.
As a part of the Army’s response, Installation Management Command will
add 44 System Navigators to the existing EFMP staff at 26 garrisons
stateside and overseas. The System Navigators will help Families connect
to the local, state and federal resources they need. The 26 garrisons
include Fort Hood, Fort Lewis, Fort Bragg, Fort Campbell and Schofield
Barracks, the five installations with the highest number of EFMP
Families. The System Navigators will be trained and in place within the
first quarter of FY11.
System navigation is just one of the areas we are looking at through the
Army EFMP Strategic Action Plan, which grew out of EFMP Summits held in
February 2009 and February 2010. For all of the issues we are looking at
— Family member evaluation, enrollment eligibility, information
management, coordination of services, new programs and others — our
efforts are guided by the concerns of our Families and a focus on
improving Soldier and Family well-being and readiness.
One way Families with special needs can communicate their concerns and
recommendations is through the Army Family Action Plan (AFAP). AFAP is
the Army’s grass-roots effort through which members of the Army
community can identify and elevate significant quality-of-life issues
affecting the community to senior leaders for action.
EFMP also is one of the programs that the Services and Infrastructure
Core Enterprise (SICE) is studying to bring about improvements for Army
Families. SICE is a collaborative and cross-functional team of more than
15 commands, organizations and staff offices formed to develop solutions
to Army-wide challenges. SICE will determine how we can resource
installations with the appropriate number of EFMP staff for the
most-effective and responsive program.
EFMP has provided and continues to provide invaluable service, but this
is an area in which we must always seek innovative ways to enhance
support to Families with special needs. Soldiers and Families need to
know before they depart for a new installation that they will be able to
find the services necessary for the health and well-being of all their
Family members. This is part of our promise to Families, for the
sacrifices they make, and our commitment to Soldiers, whose strength and
readiness is rooted in the strength of their Families.
Support and Defend.