May 03, 2017

At Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing, Gillibrand Pushes for Flexible Measures to Support Troops and Military Families

**WATCH Senator Gillibrand’s Remarks at Senate Armed Services Committee HERE**

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today at the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel hearing on the Bipartisan Policy Center report “Building a F.A.S.T. Force: A Flexible Personnel System for a Modern Military” pushed for flexible measures to help recruit and retain service members and their families in the 21st century.

Today’s all-volunteer force has changed significantly since it was introduced more than forty years ago, as have the challenges confronting our country, and we must ensure that we have the policies in place to support our modern force and their families.

Below are Senator Gillibrand’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

Thank you, Senator Tillis. I join with you today in welcoming our witnesses as we learn more about the report and recommendations of the Bipartisan Policy Center Task Force on Defense Personnel.

I agree that it is important for us to carefully examine the Department of Defense’s military and civilian personnel systems to ensure that they meet the needs of our 21st century workforce.

For more than forty years, we have depended on volunteers to defend our nation. Those who are serving in our military today and their families are serving because they chose to do so, not because they were required to serve. In that time, our country, our economy, and the nature of the threats we face have all changed significantly. 

The military personnel system that supports this all-volunteer force has served us well, but it has not kept pace with changes in our society. We don’t need to completely replace the current system, but we should, and we will, carefully examine it to see where it can be updated and improved. It is essential that our all-volunteer force is recruited, managed, and retained with 21st century tools and addresses the needs of this generation of service members and families. 

The Task Force produced a series of analytical papers that examined the strengths and shortcomings of current personnel policies and practices, and made 39 specific recommendations to improve the personnel system. While all 39 recommendations warrant careful study and analysis, there are a few areas that I would like to address today at this hearing.

I am particularly interested in how we can best serve our military families. We all know that families play a critical part in a service member’s readiness and his or her decision to stay in or leave the military. I would like to hear more from you today about making it easier for military spouses to find and sustain a career, especially when relocating; improving access to and quality of Defense Department-provided child-care services; and creating on-base child-care coordinators to advocate for military families in the local community and to build private-public child-care partnerships.

Another area I am very interested in hearing more about is how to build and support a flexible cyber workforce with the highly specialized skills to handle our growing cyber mission. I would like to hear about the continuum of service that would make it easier to repeatedly transition between active, guard, and reserve components; expansion of lateral-entry authority to allow midcareer civilians to enter the military at higher ranks; and the expansion of the Reserve Officer Training Corps program to all levels of higher education to include postgraduate and community college students. 

Finally, I am curious about your recommendation that encourages creation of a technical, non-command career track for certain officers. In last year’s NDAA, I worked on developing military justice expertise among our judge advocates. One area that I asked the Department to look at was additional O4 to O6 positions that would allow officers to specialize, be it in military justice or cyber.

Again, I thank the witnesses and I look forward to learning more about the Task Force’s recommendations to improve the DOD personnel system.