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Panetta Underscores Importance of Community Partnerships

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  • June 12, 2011
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Prior to his confirmation hearing Thursday to become the next secretary of defense, Leon Panetta was asked by the Senate Armed Services Committee to respond to questions of policy covering 94 subjects; the final document with his answers takes up 79 pages. Only a handful of the questions deal with defense community issues, but in those Panetta makes clear the critical role he believes communities should play in supporting the military.

In response to a question as to how he would address family readiness needs amid the structural changes the military is undergoing — such as BRAC, global rebasing and increases in end strength — the CIA director affirms DOD’s responsibility to provide families with adequate services including health care, education and employment.

But, to fully support families in a changing environment, he adds, the department needs to work with the local community: “It is also critical to DOD’s success to build community partnerships between all federal agencies and with local governments, businesses, and nonprofit organizations that are stakeholders in addressing the stressful aspects of military life.”

When asked how DOD will be able to maintain its support for military families at a time when defense spending is constrained, Panetta again points to the function community partnerships can play.

“The focus should not merely be on more resources, but rather on the efficiency and quality of family support programs along with leveraging community-level organizations and citizens who desire to help their military-connected neighbors,” he states.

To enhance family support, Panetta volunteers that he would like to tap into the “many excellent state programs” that support service members and their families. “If confirmed, I would like to explore these further and see if they can be expanded across all states,” he writes.

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