President Barack Obama's fiscal 2011 budget request called for a record $8.8 billion for military family support programs, representing a 3 percent increase over past spending.
Before they were famous, many truly influential men and women started by serving their country in the US military or grew up in military families.

Larger Budget For Military Family Programs

By: Donna Miles

President Barack Obama's fiscal 2011 budget request called for a record $8.8 billion for military family support programs, representing a 3 percent increase over past spending. The budget request will include $1.3 billion to reduce shortages in military child care and ensure its quality remains high, and also increases funding for youth programs.

Another provision will provide $439 million to build 10 new Department of Defense Education Activity Schools. This measure, directed by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, is part of a major, five-year effort to renovate or replace 103 of the schools by 2015.

Michelle Obama emphasized the challenges military children face, and the need to ensure they're cared for. "We cannot forget that military kids also serve in their own special way," she said. "They're just like any other child in this country - except their lives are turned upside-down every time their mom or dad is gone halfway around the world, risking their lives so that all our children can enjoy the freedoms of our democracy."

As a result, she said, military children often experience higher levels of anxiety and a higher risk of depression than their nonmilitary classmates, and a tougher time focusing at school. "So, we can never forget just how much these wars affect our military kids, and we all have an obligation to ensure they have the support they need at home and at school," she said.

Based on input from military spouses, the fiscal 2011 budget request also will include $84 million for spousal career development, Obama said, including military tuition assistance and a federal internship program.

Another provision will provide $14 million in new funding for Coast Guard housing.

"These are all major investments, and they are the result of military families speaking up and being heard," the first lady said. "They are part of a larger, ongoing commitment to care for our troops and their families after the fighting ends." Obama said her many interactions with military families has deepened her respect and gratitude for them, and her recognition of "the spirit and strength and courage that our military families display every day."

"You put your own priorities aside. You take care of one another. You take care of this nation," she said. "So, as first lady, I can't thank you enough for that sacrifice, and I promise you that I will use every ounce of my energy to make sure that America always takes care of you."

Obama said she recognizes that providing this level of support network will require "active citizens," as well as the government, working hand in hand. She said she will continue making it a priority to keep asking all Americans to join in supporting military families. She noted, for example, the "Mission Serve" network she and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, helped to launch on Veterans Day to bring civilian and military services groups together to help in supporting military members and their families.

"We're asking Americans to engage and support military families any way they can," Obama said, through job opportunities, professional services, or even babysitting or providing a home-cooked meal. "Our men and women in uniform and their families sacrifice for every single one of us, and every single one of us can do something in return, even if it's as simple as saying, `Thank you.'"


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