USA — Official Equates Financial, Military Readiness

WASHINGTON — Through out­reach and a robust sys­tem of edu­cat­ing ser­vice­mem­bers, Defense Depart­ment offi­cials are work­ing to keep troops finan­cial­ly fit to fight and pro­tect­ed from preda­to­ry lenders, a Pen­ta­gon offi­cial said today.

Since the down­ward turn of the cred­it mar­ket in recent years, Defense Depart­ment offi­cials and law­mak­ers have grown more con­cerned with ser­vice­mem­bers falling into bad finan­cial stand­ing, said Mar­cus Beau­re­gard, a senior pro­gram ana­lyst for the Pentagon’s mil­i­tary com­mu­ni­ty and fam­i­ly pol­i­cy office said.

Offi­cials hope Con­gress soon will pass leg­is­la­tion that puts auto deal­ers under the scruti­ny of a pro­posed watch­dog agency that also would over­see banks and lend­ing insti­tu­tions, Beau­re­gard said.

Poor finan­cial sit­u­a­tions among troops can great­ly affect mil­i­tary readi­ness and the abil­i­ty of ser­vice­mem­bers to accom­plish their mis­sion, he not­ed.

“Finan­cial sta­bil­i­ty helps ser­vice­mem­bers [and the Defense Depart­ment],” he said. “If they’re pay­ing more atten­tion to their finan­cial con­cerns, they’re pay­ing atten­tion less to their pri­ma­ry mis­sion and their pri­ma­ry jobs.”

Com­man­ders have voiced con­cerns to defense pol­i­cy mak­ers, mak­ing them more aware of issues troops have had in buy­ing auto­mo­biles and repay­ing short-term loans, Beau­re­gard said. Lead­ers also have learned cer­tain prod­ucts per­pet­u­al­ly have caused prob­lems for their ser­vice­mem­bers, he added, and they hope to pre­vent issues from becom­ing prob­lems, he added.

A Defense Depart­ment study showed that finances are behind only career and mis­sion issues as the top stres­sors among ser­vice­mem­bers, Beau­re­gard said. Not­ing the busy tem­po and numer­ous require­ments placed on the lives of troops today, he said it’s impor­tant to the depart­ment that troops sus­tain good finan­cial stand­ing and learn how to avoid being bur­dened by oblig­a­tions they may not be able to han­dle.

Edu­cat­ing troops is the best way to ensure their readi­ness and finan­cial sit­u­a­tion remain intact, Beau­re­gard said. The Mil­i­tary One­Source web­site, unit advi­sors, instal­la­tion finan­cial coun­selors and legal assis­tance advi­sors are great sources of infor­ma­tion, he said.

“[The Defense Depart­ment] is look­ing for oppor­tu­ni­ties and pro­tec­tion that will sup­port our ser­vice­mem­bers,” he said. “Any­thing that will help a ser­vice­mem­ber to do their job bet­ter and feel more pre­pared for their duty in tak­ing care of their finances is cer­tain­ly ben­e­fi­cial.”

Beau­re­gard urged troops to be wary of com­pa­nies and busi­ness­es that claim to be mil­i­tary-friend­ly. He also stressed that they should­n’t sign doc­u­ments unless they com­plete­ly under­stand the con­tract, and that they avoid short-term loans.

“The most impor­tant thing we can do is to edu­cate ser­vice­mem­bers and their fam­i­lies, make them aware of things they may be a prob­lem, [and] make them aware of how to deal with trans­ac­tions,” he said. “That’s cer­tain­ly their body armor that’s going to keep them in good stand­ing.”

Defense offi­cials work close­ly with finan­cial reg­u­la­tors at the local, state and fed­er­al lev­els to ensure those insti­tu­tions are aware of the needs of ser­vice­mem­bers and what’s going in the mar­ket­place, he said.

“It’s that com­mu­ni­ca­tion, that abil­i­ty to let [reg­u­la­tors] know that ser­vice­mem­bers need to be looked after as part of their com­mu­ni­ty,” he said. “There’s now a greater aware­ness with­in the gen­er­al com­mu­ni­ty that finances are an impor­tant part of the servicemember’s life and can impact that ser­vice­mem­ber in terms of the pre­pared­ness and readi­ness to do their job.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)