To help military families adapt and function effectively in military life, the Department of Defense (DOD) funds a wide variety of personnel and family support programs. These programs use a combination of direct assistance and information and referral to help with crises, deployments, moves, child care, personal financial management, parenting, and transition out of the service. To efficiently distribute funds to those with the greatest need, DOD requires each service to assess the needs of military personnel and their families and their use of family support programs. This report examines (1) how the Air Force determines the needs of its military families, (2) what type of information about military family needs the Air Force obtains, and (3) how information from needs assessments affects the allocation of funding for Air Force family support programs. GAO found that the Air Force assesses the needs of its personnel every two years using a random sample survey. However, the Air Force process does not meet other DOD criteria generally recognized as important for needs assessments, including the use of benchmarks to determine if needs have changed or emerged. Additionally, the Air Force assessments cover needs related to deployments and mobility, family advocacy, family life education, child care, parenting education, family members' employment, transitions and relocations, financial management, and dependents with special needs. Finally, GAO found that the Air Force has inconsistently used assessment data to budget for family programs.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Department of Defense||1. In light of DOD policy, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Air Force to require the use of benchmarks to define when needs have increased or decreased.|
|Department of Defense||2. In light of DOD policy, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Air Force to require the use of a plan to determine how needs assessment results will be prioritized in supporting resource allocation decisions.|
|Department of Defense||3. In light of DOD policy, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Air Force to require the use and integration of information in its needs assessments on the type and capacity of off base family support resources.|
|Department of Defense||4. In light of DOD policy, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Air Force to require a consistent and defined role for the results of the needs assessment process in supporting family programs' budget development and resource allocations.|