Defense Department Opens Door for Nonprofits on Bases

Membership and support groups are cheering a recent decision by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to allow nonprofits better access to military installations. The move eliminates barriers that had previously hindered groups like the National Military Family Association from providing services to troops.

Support organizations for the military haven’t always been shown the red carpet on bases.

Instead, they were usually greeted with red tape—inconsistent standards, limitations on where nonprofit groups could set up shop, and a lengthy decision process that could hinder the organization’s mission.

But new policy directives signed by outgoing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel are setting the stage for nationally recognized military- and veteran-support nonprofits to have an easier time getting their boots on the ground on military bases.

Hagel, who signed the directives in December, emphasized that bases must assist—rather than hinder—the organizations.

“The department must maintain positive relationships with those organizations to facilitate their delivery of services to our personnel who need them,” Hagel wrote in a letter acquired by Military.com this week.

Hagel’s move came after the National Military Family Association (NMFA) met with him and asked for assistance on the issue.

NMFA Executive Director Joyce Raezer welcomed the move, noting that Hagel’s directives help clear the air about when a nonprofit can get on base.

“Some commanders thought they needed permission,” Raezer noted in comments to the Military Times. “This gives them permission to do the right thing. If the process that’s laid out is followed, it should bring more consistency that should make it easier for nonprofits to share information about their programs and services, and connect families to those services.”

The Military Family Advisory Network (MFAN) also appreciated Hagel’s handiwork, but emphasized that the move shouldn’t just benefit larger organizations. The organization said in a recent survey that its members “noted difficulty accessing programming like emergency care, pediatric healthcare, childcare, respite care, military treatment facilities, and mental health for adults and children,” and recommended tighter public-private partnerships.

MFAN Executive Director Shannon Razsadin suggested that the military should expand the policy to include local nonprofit groups.

“Take a look at those nonprofits that are right outside the gates, that military families we know are going to anyway,” Razsadin told Military.com. “Make it easier for them to go on base and promote their services and what they do. … If there are nonprofits that military families are already turning to, why not make it easier for them?”

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered the change after speaking to military support groups last year. (U.S. Department of Defense/Flickr)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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