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The authors developed a new methodological framework for assessing military personnel and military family needs that fills a gap not currently being met. The framework places personnel and spouse perceptions of problems and needs and the prioritization of those problems and needs at the center of the analysis. This monograph describes the development and testing of a survey tool based on that framework that the Department of Defense and local military commanders can use to gauge the problems and problem-related needs of service members and their families, how well those needs are being met, and the barriers and bridges to accessing services. It discusses how this approach differs from others, the challenges to implementing such a survey, and the value of the survey results to different types of military leaders and support service professionals. The framework could be applied to other types of research questions, such as the problems, needs, and resources for military personnel serving in war zones, and the content of the survey could be modified to address other populations, such as wounded service members. A sample survey is included as an appendix.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction and Study Overview

  • Chapter Two

    Background: DoD's Policy Toward Military Members and Their Families over Time

  • Chapter Three

    Development of the Service Member and Family Needs Survey

  • Chapter Four

    Developing the Service Member and Family Needs Survey Structure

  • Chapter Five

    Testing, Refining, and Assessing the Relative Value of a Prototype Instrument

  • Chapter Six

    Implementation Challenges

  • Chapter Seven

    Potential Contributions of the New Methodology

  • Appendix A

    Sample Survey of Service Member and Family Needs

  • Appendix B

    Focus Group Protocols

The research described in this report was prepared for the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD). The research was conducted within the RAND National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center sponsored by OSD, the Joint Staff, the Unified Combatant Commands, the Navy, the Marine Corps, the defense agencies, and the defense Intelligence Community.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Monograph series. RAND monographs present major research findings that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND monographs undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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