Emily Fertitta is a Marine Corps spouse, a busy mom and a member of the Department of Defense Military Family Readiness Council. The council includes representatives from the DOD, military family organizations, active duty members and military family members.
“The family members bring a wide range of expertise and experiences to the table,” Emily said. “The spouses have been pushing for the council to increase the frequency of meetings … To me it’s very important that we meet as there is a lot of information to be shared and this helps us guide our recommendations.”
I had a series of questions for Emily about what the council accomplished in its most recent meeting May 1, and how the panel benefits military families.
Here’s our conversation:
Spouse Calls: What is the purpose of the council? To whom, or to what agency does it directly report?
Emily Fertitta: As per our charter, the purpose of the council is to review and make recommendations to the Secretary of Defense regarding policy and plans, monitor requirements for the support of military family readiness by the DOD, and to evaluate and assess the effectiveness of the military family readiness programs and activities of the DOD. The committee is required to submit an annual report to the Secretary of Defense and the congressional defense committees.
SC: What actions or decisions or actions came out of the May 1 meeting?
EF: The council reviewed Family Policy changes since our last meeting, reviewed our 2012 Council Recommendations and received clarification on the 170 Family Program Data Call. The council also heard more information on The Task Force on Common Services, Quality of Life Working Group, Army Healthy Promotion Risk Reduction, Portfolio Capabilities, Assessment and the Exceptional Family Member Program Standardization. The council asked for a chart to make it clear what the council is, and what the council is not. I think this will help answer a lot of questions that come from us new members in the council, and the military families watching the council. I think this will help level-set expectations. During the next meeting (Aug. 5 at the Pentagon) the council will make its recommendations for the 2013 Annual Report.
SC: That sounds complicated. How would you explain these actions to someone unfamiliar with all these titles? How will these things affect everyday military life?
EF: To summarize, the council was briefed on a lot of information so that we could make better informed recommendations. Our recommendations in the Annual Report reflect areas that we believe need attention. The effect on everyday military family life is not immediate but could help determine overall strategy vs the actual program a military family would see.
SC: How are decisions made? For example do they have to be put to a vote or does the body decide by consensus?
EF: Recommendations are put forth to vote after a motion is raised. Only appointed council members, not their designees, can vote.
SC: How often do appointed council members send designees to a meeting? Often enough to cause any delay in the council's ability to have a quorum to vote?
EF: I do not know how often council members send designees to meetings. At every meeting I have attended (since September 2012) we have had a quorum to vote.
SC: What power do those decisions have? What mechanism is in place to see that the decisions are carried out?
EF: To my understanding the council makes recommendations, which to me differs from decisions since we are not actively carrying out or enforcing decisions. I do believe it is the responsibility of the council to follow through and make sure our recommendations are carried forward.
SC: How were you and the other military spouse representatives chosen to serve on the council?
EF: I am not sure how the other branches selected their spouse representatives. I know for the (Marine Corps) they were asked to provide a representative from the reserves. For information on the USMC process please contact Ms. Heather Hagan, Public Affairs officer, at email@example.com.
On my side, I received information about the council from my husband’s colonel and the Family Readiness Officer who was assigned during my husband’s deployment. I submitted a bio and resume and completed a phone interview. Through my husband’s service, I experienced many areas of the USMC, which is why I believe I was selected for the council. My husband was enlisted for 13 years before becoming a commissioned officer so we had seen both sides, and he has spent plenty of time activated. I have been with my husband through three combat deployments, another involuntary recall, reserve drill weekends and numerous lengthy schools. We have spent most of our time away from a base, but were able to live very close to base for certain assignments to experience that side of the military.
I appreciate what it means to be a military spouse, and I am very proud to be married to my Marine. The military life has been so good to us, and hope for others to have the same positive experience.
SC: What subjects would you like to see the council address?
EF: I would like to see the council address National Guard and Reserve Component family programs. I would like to improve the programs, and improve the access to the programs as I feel they will be even more critical in the time to come. I believe the council plans to be briefed on this in the near future. I also want to make information easier to access as there are a lot of programs available to the military and their families, but it is not always easy to find the programs.
SC: How can military members and families can give input to the council?
EF: Military members and families can submit statements to: FamilyReadinessCouncil@osd.mil. The council meetings are also open to the public. Although only council members can contribute to the discussions, it’s nice to see it all in action.
SC: The 2012 bylaws (link on the MFRC website) state that the "chairman may decide in advance to exclude oral public comment during a meeting" indicating that public comment could be allowed. Do you know why the chairman has decided not to allow public attendees to comment? Also, several organizations did submit written contributions to the May meeting, and they said they were disappointed their submissions were not discussed at all in the meeting. How does public input help if it is not covered in the council meetings?
EF: I believe we have a lot of information to cover during our meetings. I think the limited number of contributors allows the council to hear the information which we had requested to hear. Although the statements were not read at the council meeting all members on the council received copies of the statements prior to the meeting. I read the statements in advance and considered the ideas presented. I think submitting the statements provides addition information for the council members to consider and increasing the knowledge sharing is always positive.
SC: How can we get information about the time and location of future meetings, as well as the activities and progress made by the council?
EF: (Information is available on the Federal Register, and also) The council just unveiled our website. The website is hosted on the Military One Source page, and is listed as MFRC under the “Those Who Support” tab. http://www.militaryonesource.mil/those-who-support-mfrc
I am excited that this page is hosted on Military One Source because I like when the information is stored in one place and is easy to find without exercising Google too much. I am glad that the website has been established to lend greater transparency to the council process and to allow the military families to see who is serving them on the council.
The website lists the policies, regulations, governance and acts the council is under, shares bios of all the MFRC members, as well as links to all of our reports and meeting minutes. Upcoming meeting information will be shared on the page as well.
Many thanks to Emily Fertitta, Marine Corps spouse representative to the DOD Military Family Readiness Council, for taking the time to answer these questions for Spouse Calls.