Report from Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families and Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism argues for a National Veterans Strategy

Policy recommendations build from examination of more than 1,300 federal and state policies, executive orders and agency directives impacting veterans and their families; highlights benefits of a coordinated national approach

The Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) and the Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism (INSCT) at Syracuse University today released a policy report that details what the authors describe as a “historic opportunity” related to the potential for public and private sector collaboration in support of veterans and their families. The report, “A National Veterans Strategy: The Economic, Social and Security Imperative,”  brings together academic research with contributions from a broad cross-section of public and private sector stakeholders, to develop a logical and researched case for the social, economic and security-based interests served by a whole-of-the-nation National Veterans Strategy.

The call to action suggested by the report comes at a pivotal moment in the U.S. The approaching end of a decade of war and the associated military force reduction of more than one million individuals-when considered in the context of a challenged economy, uncertain fiscal environment and dynamic global security situation-serve to focus politicians and policymakers alike on opportunities and challenges associated with advancing the post-service life course of veterans and their families.

Both the IVMF and INSCT work in support of national security, military members, veterans and their families. The research effort that informed this report included identifying and cataloguing what turned out to be more than 1,300 different federal and state policies (which include only the five states with the largest veteran populations), executive orders and agency directives focused directly, or indirectly, on veterans and their families. The report illustrates how and why the current policy environment makes it difficult to properly allocate limited resources and leverage the many private and non-profit sector efforts in support of veterans. It suggests why a National Veterans Strategy may be best positioned to mitigate policy and structural barriers to collaboration, program and expertise redundancy, under-utilization and confusion.

“One of the most interesting findings of this effort is actually somewhat counter-intuitive. The truth is, over the past decade there has been real and meaningful progress made in both the public and private sectors, focused on supports and resources for veterans and their families. However, there hasn’t been a means to harness and coordinate this overwhelming good will in a way that lends itself to efficient and effective policymaking, resource allocation and program development and assessment,” says co-author Mike Haynie, IVMF executive director and founder. “This report highlights the potential to do better and more for the nation’s veterans-today and in the future-by establishing a National Veterans Strategy in a way that is institutionalized and enduring.”

The report illustrates the logic supporting action toward a National Veterans Strategy based on a series of assumptions that have historically informed the relationship between the nation and its military veterans. These assumptions highlight social/cultural, economic and security-based arguments for action to craft and institutionalize a National Veterans Strategy.  The report does not detail or attempt to prioritize issue-based concerns that would presumably compose the focus of the effort, nor does the report identify specific agencies, individuals or institutions with regard to roles and responsibilities related to developing, implementing or governing a unified strategy.

The authors do make, however, a series of recommendations related to how the process of crafting and implementation a National Veterans Strategy might proceed:

  • Create a presidentially-directed Veterans’ Public Engagement and Collaborative Governance Commission responsible for engaging a broad base of stakeholders in a dialogue on veterans’ issues.
  • Establish an Interagency Policy Committee responsible for crafting a National Veterans Strategy.
  • Establish a single point of federal authority responsible for coordinating and implementing a National Veterans Strategy.
  • Establish a standing National Veterans Advisory Board responsible for providing strategic advice and counsel to the president, Congress and implementing agencies related to the implemented National Veterans Strategy.
  • Create and institutionalize a forward-looking, periodic review process to assess evolving veterans’ policy and programs across federal government.
  • Launch a voluntary coalition of veteran-serving organizations, philanthropic associations and other private sector stakeholders responsible for cultivating and formalizing a model of collaborative engagement (public-private, private-private and national-state-community) that best aligns resources of government, corporate, foundation and community partners in support of veterans and their families.

“A national strategy will help ensure that our nation continues to uphold our promise to veterans and their families, while reaping the broader social benefits from our great investment in their long-term success,” says co-author Nick Armstrong, INSCT research fellow and Army veteran. “Significant work still lies ahead in translating these recommendations into a meaningful and constructive planning process, but with strong leadership from policymakers and the private sector, backed by overwhelming public support throughout our communities, now is the time to act.

The publication was grounded in analysis of policy and legislation as it currently exists, as viewed through the lens of multiple academic disciplines and historical research focused on the social and cultural traditions that link the citizenry to those who serve in the nation’s defense.  Importantly, the report also benefited from the advice and input of a wide array of academic experts, policy analysts, public sector leaders, military and security experts, members of Congress and their staffs, non-profit and corporate leaders, and others who will potentially be part of building the proposed National Strategy for Veterans.

“This is a timely publication that importantly lays the groundwork for how our government and the private sector can work together to improve how they care for our nation’s veterans and military families,” says INSCT Deputy Director Vice Admiral Robert Murrett (Ret.). “In addition to the clear argument that a true whole-of-nation approach to our veterans and their families is needed today more than ever, it lays out a strategy to engage with hundreds of divergent efforts in government and literally thousands of good hearted American non-profit and corporate leaders. Seizing this crucial moment in American history will have far reaching benefits for our nation, our veterans and the future of the all-volunteer military.”

Principal authors of the report are Nicholas J. Armstrong, M.P.A., Ph.D. Candidate (INSCT) and Dr. J. Michael Haynie, Ph.D. (IVMF). Contributing authors include Daniel Savage, M.P.P. (IVMF); James Schmeling, J.D. (IVMF); William Banks, J.D., M.A. (INSCT); and VADM (Ret.) Robert Murrett, M.A. (INSCT).

To view the report in its entirety, or to download an electronic copy, visit http://vets.syr.edu/research/a-national-veterans-strategy.

Follow the conversation on social media by Tweeting with @IVMFSyracuseU and @INSCT and using the hash tag #VetStrategy.

Leaders of the study and directors of IVMF and INSCT are available upon request to discuss this report and the proposals put forth.  Contact Jaime Alvarez, IVMF director of communications, at 315.443.0177 or jlwinne@syr.edu.