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DoD plans no cuts to spouse tuition program, official says

Mar. 6, 2014 - 05:12PM   |  
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Many troops and families may be worried about the future of family support and community programs, but one program that isn’t suffering from budget woes is the military spouse tuition program — Military Spouse Career Advancement Account, or MyCAA.

In fiscal 2013, some 28,875 spouses used MyCAA scholarships.

“I’d like to see those numbers go up. We have a little headroom. We can absorb more folks,” said Rosemary Frietas Williams, deputy assistant secretary of defense for military community and family policy.

According to DoD budget documents, officials have requested $100 million for all spouse employment programs for fiscal 2015, including MyCAA, the same funding level as this year.

“When we’re talking about changes [to MyCAA] in the theme of budget, nothing’s going to change. We’re going to keep that chugging along and make it as successful as possible,” Williams said in a March 5 interview. “The challenge is to get the word out and have more people engaged and using the resource.”

The program pays for tuition costs for education and training courses and examinations leading to a recognized license, certificate, certification or associate degree with a specified concentration or major.

It’s open to spouses of service members on active duty in paygrades E-1 to E-5, W-1, W-2, O-1 and O-2. It’s also open to spouses of reserve component members in those same paygrades who can start and complete their coursework while their military sponsor is on Title 10 orders.

Although spouses of higher-ranking troops aren’t eligible to use MyCAA, all spouses are eligible for the Defense Department’s Spouse Education and Career Opportunities program, which offers searchable information on portable careers, education, résumés and aspects of career planning.

Between the SECO program on Military OneSource and the services’ installation employment readiness programs, more than 873,000 spouses were served in fiscal 2013, Williams said.

“Anyone who doesn’t see that military family programs are directly tied to readiness and retention either doesn’t know any military families, or looks fondly at the Cold War,” she said.

That said, Pentagon officials are scrutinizing every part of every program amid DoD’s budget constraints. It’s not just about “finding efficiencies,” but about changing programs to better meet the needs of service members and families, Williams said.

“Some things are stuck in the Cold War. If 75 percent of families are living off base, then we need to adjust how we deliver some of their services and what we provide,” she said.

A number of new ideas related to quality-of-life programs have been presented in an internal report to DoD officials, Williams said. If approved, the next step will be to develop a business case for each idea, she said.

Many troops and families are concerned about the future of their family support and community programs. But key to the success of this transformation effort, Williams said, is that any efficiencies gained will have “little or no impact” on those who use the services.

Examples she gave were consolidating some information technology functions, or procurement functions, or perhaps changing some repair contracts.

“Is anybody going to know as they use it? No. But will we have provided efficiencies? Absolutely,” Williams said.

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