11bSecretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III on March 22 unveiled a comprehensive plan aimed at improving the lives of our dedicated military force and their families.

The new plan consists of six additional actions that address essential needs in education, childcare, parental leave and career advancement. The Department of Defense is committed to working with Congress and other stakeholders to ensure the successful implementation of these measures.

Secretary Austin is directing the implementation of the following:

Universal Prekindergarten at DoD Education Activity (DoDEA) Schools: The DoD is collaborating with Congress to secure funding for universal prekindergarten at DoDEA schools. The program is set to undergo a phased implementation over a five-year period, providing high-quality early education for military children.

Dependent Care Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) for Service Members: To alleviate financial pressure on service members with dependents, the DoD will enable access to Dependent Care FSAs, allowing them to set aside up to $5,000 in pretax income through payroll deductions for eligible dependent care expenses.

New Military Parental Leave Benefits: The DoD is actively promoting new parental leave benefits that provide 12 weeks of paid, non-chargeable leave to service members welcoming a child into their family through birth, adoption, or long-term foster-care placement. This initiative supports the well-being and work-life balance of our military families.

Improvements to the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP): The DoD is committed to enhancing the EFMP to better support the unique needs of exceptional military families. Further improvements and streamlined processes will ensure that these families receive the necessary resources and assistance.

Expanded Spouse Eligibility for My Career Advancement Account (MyCAA) Financial Assistance: To support career advancement for military spouses, eligibility for MyCAA financial assistance will be expanded to E-6 and O-3 ranks. This program provides up to $4,000 in aid for obtaining a license, certificate, or associate degree.

Portability and Best Practices for Professional Licenses: The DoD will continue efforts to make professional licenses portable for military families, working with states to encourage sharing of licensure best practices and approval of occupational licensure compacts. This initiative aims to reduce barriers to employment for military spouses.

Secretary Austin is dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for our military force and their families through these new measures. The DoD will collaborate with Congress and state partners to ensure the successful implementation and ongoing support of these initiatives.

The memorandum on Strengthening Our Support to Service Members and Their Families can be found at https://media.defense.gov/2023/Mar/22/2003184739/-1/-1/1/strengthening-our-support-to-service-members-and-their-families.PDF.

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