Boatswain's Mate 3rd Class Alexandria Hall poses for a picture with a camel during the Sunset Safari tour sponsored by USS Dwight D. Eisenhower's (CVN 69) Morale, Welfare and Recreation office. (Photo: U.S. Navy)
The Department of Defense says the service branches aren't spending enough taxpayer dollars to fund their morale, welfare, and recreation (MWR) programs, according to a memo sent to each of the services last month.
Military Times reported this week that Todd Weiler, assistant defense secretary for manpower and reserve affairs, sent the memo to each branch to remind them that they were responsible for using a specific percentage of taxpayer funds to operate MWR programs.
"These standards are not optional and are not subject to Military Department waiver," Weiler wrote.
MWR programs are required to receive a percentage of funding from Congress through either appropriated funds or non-appropriated funds, or a combination of the two.
The DoD requires that programs determined to be "Category A" must receive 85 percent of funding from taxpayer dollars. "Category A" are considered "mission sustaining programs" and "promote the physical and mental well-being of the military member," according to Military One Source.
"Category B" requires 65 percent of operational costs to come from taxpayer dollars. Those programs consist of community support programs like child development centers, which charge families for use and therefore get some funding from customers.
"Category C" are programs that are nearly fully self-funded and include golf courses, base clubs, and recreational lodging. These programs are authorized some limited appropriated funds.
Weiler had previously sent a memo in June to remind the services to return their feedback on MWR funding by August, but both the Army and the Navy missed their deadlines.
Rather, the Army decided to cut $105 million from MWR funds, and the Navy only sent feedback on its Category A funding.
"I thought we needed to up our communication," Weiler said in response to the Army's planned slashing of the MWR budget.
The executive director of The National Military Family Association, Joyce Raezer, told Military Times that, due to budget cuts, sequestration, and changes to various other budgetary items, she believed families didn't expect much from the services. "There are too many other worries," she said.
Of the services, only the Marine Corps did not meet the 85 percent requirement, coming in at 77 percent of Category A program expenses funded by taxpayer dollars.
Every service fell short of utilizing the required percentage of taxpayer funding for Category B programs.
Weiler called out the Air Force specifically for not having met the requirements for four straight years, with no plan in place to correct the issue.
In the memo sent to the Army, Weiler asked Army Secretary Eric Fanning to halt the planned $105 million cut, a plea that was accepted and approved by Fanning. The Army plans to complete an analysis of its MWR programs and funding later this year.
Military.com reported that Colonel James Love told them that the $105 million cut would go into effect once the Pentagon approved the Army's requested changes. He blamed a lack of "good business" practices, such as not raising prices for MWR programs, for the decision to cut the Army MWR budget.
"It's good for families," Love told Military.com. "But it's not sustainable."