The first lady told the Joint Armed Forces Officers Wives Club that her husband’s FY2011 budget will include a $8.8 billion for military family support programs, a three percent increase over last year. The money will go toward counseling, support and childcare for spouses and families, along with funding for youth programs and spousal career development.
“These are all major investments. They are the result of military families speaking up and being heard. And they are part of a larger ongoing commitment to care for our troops and their families even after the fighting ends,” Mrs. Obama said.
Aides say the first lady has spent a great deal of time with military spouses and relaying their concerns to the West Wing staff. When pressed to outline exactly what the first lady had done to make this funding happen, an aide stressed it was a “team effort” and that while Mrs. Obama has played a role in conveying the concerns and issues that military families have around the country, she has not been directly involved in any budget negotiations.
The aide said her role was to “close some of the perceived disconnect that may be felt between military families and the broader country” and use her platform “in a unique way.”
Another White House official said that the first lady gets feedback directly on the ground level and comes back with hard questions for the policy teams.
“Why haven’t we done this?” the official said she would ask, “So guess what – we go in and fix those problems.”
“While she is not dictating policy, she does point us in the right direction. She helps influence and allows us to know from her interaction with military family members, with wounded warriors, where the problems lie,” the official said. “She demands that we make progress in these areas.”
The first lady joined the military spouses for their annual luncheon, where she joked they should enjoy the wine. She expressed her respect and admiration for all branches of the military, spoke about her experiences with the military in her first year in Washington, and thanked the group for “the spirit of service that’s defined your entire lives.”
Mrs. Obama said in her first year, on a personal level as a mother, she is most proud of that her daughters have adjusted to their new life in Washington. As first lady, she says she is most proud of the time she has spent highlighting the service of military families, particularly the trips she’s taken to military bases, which she called “one of my greatest privileges.”
She reminded the group that she and Dr. Jill Biden, a Blue Star mom herself, have called on Americans – both at events and through a public service campaign – to volunteer their time to military families and veterans. Last Veteran’s Day the two partnered to help launch Mission Serve, a national network that brings civilian and military service groups together to help support troops and their families.
“We’re asking Americans to engage and support military families any way they can—from business owners helping veterans and military spouses find a job or developing their skills, to professionals in areas such as mental health and the law offering their services pro bono, to ordinary folks doing simple things such as driving a carpool, offering to baby-sit or making a home-cooked meal for a family,” Mrs. Obama said. “Our men and women in uniform and their families sacrifice for every single one of us, and every single one of us can do something in return, even if it’s as simple as saying – thank you.”
FLOTUS Fashion Watch: Mrs. Obama wore a green sleeveless, knee length dress with a black broach.