17 November 2003


The Honorable Donald Rumsfeld
Secretary, Department of Defense
The Pentagon 3E880
Washington, D.C. 20301

Dear Mr. Secretary:

The Fleet Reserve Association (FRA) is strongly opposed to any means employed by the Administration or your Department to close dependent schools on military installations. Such a plan is certainly a one-way street to further damage the morale of our men and women in the Armed Services who have school-aged children.

This idea has been discussed and studied in years past by congressional committees. Transferring military-sponsored children to outside community schools by closing on-base facilities would not only be costly but unwise. What Federal agency would assume the responsibility of funding local school districts for educating children of military personnel and eligible federal employees? Surely not the Department of Education (DOE). For example, in the FY 2000 authorization for Section 2007 funds that were to be divided evenly between Military Impacted Schools (MIS) and Indian Schools, DOE offered all the grants to the latter, while MIS came in with a big, fat zero. For FY 2002/2003 the score was a bit better; seventeen for Indian Schools, one for MIS. Can DOE be trusted to perform better if DOD closes its CONUS schools and forces those students to seek future enrollment in civilian community schools?

It is hard to believe that the Administration would allow the Department, charged with protecting the well-being and morale of our uniformed service members, to continue to oppose or negatively change their entitlements and benefits - particularly for those laying their lives and limbs on the line each day. This and other initiatives by the Department appear to be a duplication of earlier failed attempts by previous Administrations. The publicity surrounding such attacks on pay and other emoluments offer our Nationís active and reserve personnel a bitter pill to swallow and is difficult to understand. Military personnel are best served if Defense remembers that one of our service membersí primary concern is that their families are well cared for while they are deployed for combat or otherwise.

It is the Associationís hope that the Department will remember its commitment to provide the students - "the children of United States military service members - with the best environment in which to grow and be challenged academically, and to pursue activities which make their school years a special time in their lives. It is (the Departmentís) goal to provide learning opportunities which will prepare our students to be responsible and productive citizens in the 21st century."

That environment, that challenge, and those activities and opportunities rest within the Departmentís purview, not with the Department of Education or most of the Nationís school districts. The latter two do not provide the excellence in education enjoyed by our service membersí children. FRA believes it is not worth a few dollars to deprive many of their dependent children of a "world-class" school system.

Sincerely,

JOSEPH L. BARNES
National Executive Secretary

JLB:mm:teg