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Research Questions

  1. What support programs and services are available to national security families?
  2. How does the portfolio of resources available to national security families compare with the portfolio of resources provided to military families by the Department of Defense, the military departments, and the service branches?

The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has a robust set of programs and services to support the health and well-being of military families and to address issues related to spouse employment and financial well-being, child education, mental health, and general quality of life. Indeed, this portfolio of resources is designed to promote the readiness and resilience of the force so that service members can protect the safety and security of the United States. However, military families are not the only families who support national security. National security families are defined in this report as families with at least one member whose career is tied to a federal agency—other than DoD—that is dedicated to protecting the interests and security of the United States. In many ways, the experiences of these families mirror those of their military peers; for example, national security families may relocate frequently, deploy to hostile zones, or experience accompanied tours to international locations. Yet unlike military families, who are centralized under one overarching federal agency, national security families do not have a centralized management system or a comprehensive list of programs and services, so it is unclear what is available to them in terms of support. In this report, RAND researchers review the programs and services that are available to nonmilitary national security families and assess how the portfolio of resources for them compares with that of military families. The findings help identify gaps where additional programs and services might be needed.

Key Findings

  • Overall, the portfolio for military families appears to be larger, covering more domains and having more offerings, than the portfolio for national security families. However, similar types of services exist in both portfolios (e.g., consultation, referrals, coaching, and training).
  • Spouse employment support efforts feature more prominently in the military family portfolio than in the national security portfolio, as do child- and youth-oriented programs and services; however, child care is common in both.
  • For both national security and military families, most programs and services are targeted not only at the employee or service member but at the entire family (i.e., employee or service member, spouse, and dependent child).
  • Among non-DoD national security agencies, the Department of Homeland Security, especially the Coast Guard, and the Department of State have the most offerings for national security employees and families. This might not be surprising because these two organizations most closely resemble DoD and its lifestyle for both employees and families (e.g., overseas living, deployments).
  • National security families are more likely than military families to have access to general employee assistance programs, perhaps because of a federal contract with the organization that manages WorkLife4You programs.

Recommendations

  • A better understanding of the demographic profiles and experiences of national security families would allow a more robust assessment of the portfolio that would compare the types of support programs and services that national security families may actually need based on their characteristics with what is currently offered.
  • The national security agencies that the researchers identified should consider conducting formal needs assessments of their populations to better understand what issues these families face and what support programs and services could be provided to alleviate these issues.
  • National security agencies might wish to conduct program evaluations of their offerings.

This research was sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense and conducted within the Forces and Resources Policy Center of the RAND National Security Research Division (NSRD).

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

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