Written by Lisa Yeoman on January 3, 2020.
In the military, we often speak of "mission readiness" at the organizational level in terms of manpower, resources, job performance and competency. However, for individual service members, "mission readiness" is often directly impacted by factors outside of the workplace. Financial problems, relationship struggles and mental health concerns can become significant distractions for service members which can make it difficult to do their job at the level expected and demanded by leadership. Even one distracted service member can negatively impact an entire unit’s mission readiness.
The Department of Defense has long recognized the need to address the impact of personal problems, particularly in the mental health and financial areas. Each branch of service has adopted a variety of programs designed to address these issues. For the Army, the traditional approach to financial readiness is to offer an eight hour class during Advanced Individual Training (AIT) and mandatory budget training through Army Community Service (ACS) for soldiers reporting to their first duty station. Beyond these mandatory training opportunities, it is up to individual soldiers to seek out additional financial services through ACS. Placing the responsibility on Soldiers to seek out assistance often means financial problems continue to fester until they reach a boiling point and catch the attention of command teams. Under the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), this traditional model for financial readiness has been replaced with a more holistic, recurring approach. The goal is now focused on offering training throughout a soldier’s career and providing more opportunities for Army financial counselors to catch problems early. The NDAA mandates the Army provide mandatory financial training at 16 "touchpoints". On the professional side, there are 10 touchpoints: Initial Entry, First Duty Station, PCS, Promotion, Thrift Savings Plan vesting and Continuation Payment (under new Blended Retirement System), Deployment, Leadership Training, Recurring Training and Transition (retirement, separation). There are four additional touchpoints on the personal side: Marriage, Divorce, Birth of First Child and Disability.
The Army has announced a new slogan for its revamped financial readiness program, "Securing the Financial Frontline", and has also launched a new website, financialfrontline.org, describing the program and offers financial education products and distance learning. This website is currently in its early stages and will gradually be updated with new products and training as the Financial Front Line initiative continues to evolve and grow.
In addition to taking advantage of the new website and its offerings, service members, retirees and their families, in the local Fort Gordon area, are encouraged to call and schedule an appointment with Army Community Service, Financial Readiness. Financial counselors are available to meet one-on-one and to assist with debt management and consolidation, retirement planning, college planning, and money management. ACS also offers monthly financial readiness classes on a variety of subjects, including identity theft, credit score improvement, retirement, home and car buying, budgeting and debt reduction.