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Witness Testimony of BG Eden J. Murrie, Director of Services, U.S. Air Force

DEPARTMENT OF THE AIR FORCE

PRESENTATION TO THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY

OF THE COMMITTEE ON VETERANS’ AFFAIRS

UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

 

SUBJECT:  EXAMINING THE RE-DESIGN OF THE TRANSITION ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (TAP)

STATEMENT OF:  EDEN J. MURRIE, BRIGIDIER GENERAL DIRECTOR OF SERVICES

UNITED STATES AIR FORCE

 

20 September 2012

 

 

NOT FOR PUBLICATION UNTIL RELEASED

BY THE COMMITTEE ON VETERANS AFFAIRS

UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

 

            The Air Force Transition Assistance Program (TAP) is a continuous partnership with the Department of Defense (DoD), Department of Labor (DOL), the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the Department of Education (DoE), the Small Business Administration (SBA) and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).  The overall goal of the TAP is to provide separating and/or retiring service members and their families the information, skill set, and resources needed for a successful transition to the civilian sector.  The TAP also provides civilian career development, personal and financial wellness plans, and life transition preparation to all separating and/or retiring Airmen. 
            Historically, our program has been successful.  In FY11, the TAP participation rate for retiring and/or separating members exceeded 90 percent.  This success was due in part to our partnerships with DOL, VA, DoE, SBA and OPM.  We also have a long and successful partnership with our Veterans Service Organizations (VSO).  The VSOs have provided multiple forms of transition services (transportation to medical appointments, assistance with completing VA claims, hospital visitation, and so forth) for our Service members for years and continue to be a great partner to the men and women of the Air Force. 

Our partnerships are critical as we embrace the re-directed TAP initiatives outlined by the VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011 (VOW) and Veteran Employment Initiative (VEI).  While our leadership has collaborated with other Agencies in detailing implementation plans and requirements, our Airman and Family Readiness and Education Center professionals are focused on the operational aspects of addressing the VOW and VEI.  Additionally, we will build on our current successes as we expand our TAP with the re-directed VOW/VEI.  In our new and improved TAP, all attendees will have accomplished their pre-separation counseling prior to attending the DOL Employment Workshop.  Day one of the TAP is for the Airman & Family Readiness Center (A&FRC) representatives to provide an overview for the week.  They also present topics for discussion and consideration (family consensus, changes in life skills, role perception and changes, special issues--suicide prevention, alcohol and drug abuse, thrill seeking behavior following deployments, children with special needs, disability issues--and the value of a mentor) to assist our members.  A&FRC representatives will have the attendees begin to think about how their skills and experiences will translate into civilian life.  Each attendee will then begin the development of the Goals, Plans and Success (GPS) for employment and at the end of day one, attendees will have built their GPS for their financial futures.  Attendees then incorporate knowledge gained and decisions made on Day one into their Individual Transition Plan (ITP).  Day two thru day four is the DOL employment workshop.  Over the course of three days, attendees prepare their change management plan, begin developing their job search plan, as well as engage in career exploration and validation, build a resume, navigate the Federal hiring process, practice interview skills and receive a post-interview analysis.  Day five is the VA benefits brief on VA education and benefits.  Following the completion of day five of the training, the attendees select (based on career goals) one of the following as applicable:  Technical Employment track (in development), Entrepreneurial track (for those going into business on their own) or the two-day Education track (should their immediate plans include attending school). 

VOW TO HIRE HEROES ACT OF 2011
            We are on target to be fully compliant with the VOW Act by the 21 November 2012 implementation date.  Transition Assistance program support and services will be completed and verified via a CAPSTONE event (still in development) optimally occurring no later than 90 days prior to separation.
            With the new requirements from the VOW Act, we have leaned forward and trained all of our active duty A&FRC and Education staffs along with the staffs for the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve to execute the requirements.  This training includes the re-designation of the DOL Employment Workshop, completion of the ITP and transition process for Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve personnel.  We have authorized our major commands to advance hire in Fiscal Year 2013 to ensure we are fully staffed by Fiscal Year 2014.    

            We held the first TAP Pilot at Joint Base San Antonio - Randolph in July 2012.  The Pilot program consisted of a new Employment Workshop and VA curriculum.  We had thirty-two attendees from the active duty, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserves completing all blocks of this program.  The blocks of instruction included the Transition Overview, Military Occupation to Civilian Crosswalk, Financial Planning Seminar, Topics for Family Considerations, VA Education Benefits Briefing, VA Benefits Briefing, Value of a Mentor and VA Benefits Sign-Up.  We also hosted members of the OSD, DOL, SBA, VA, and Air National Guard and Reserves as observers during the Pilot.  This Pilot program was evaluated in six dimensions:  (a) curriculum, (b) facilitators, (c) facilities, (d) logistics, (e) compliance and OSD integrated guidelines, and (f) local MOU with partner agencies.  At the end of each day, the team met and discussed the modules covered that day and summarized comments to help ensure every effort was captured to render the best support for our total force members.  Overall, the Pilot program was a tremendous success, with detailed lessons learned and critical recommendations provided to OSD.  The OSD staff compiled, assessed data from the Pilot and provided feedback to our sister Services to help ensure consistent, quality support for our members at every installation as we roll out VOW/VEI.   

            We are also pleased that our Air Force Spouses can participate in the TAP Goals, Plans and Successes (GPS) classes.  Spouses receive the same transition and employment services as the military member.  As we continue to move forward with this program, we will market the opportunity for spouses to attend via the Spouse Employment Program. 

            While we maintain our efforts to meet all requirements for the VOW Act, we also continue to press forward to meet the White House VEI, which requires the implementation of four overarching recommendations to improve the career readiness of members leaving the military.  As of today, we are on-track to meet all the VEI requirements by 1 October 2013 implementation date.  These requirements include developing Career Readiness Standards, GPS Program, Military Life Cycle, and a CAPSTONE Event.   
           

TOTAL FORCE

                        The Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard and active duty are in lock step and focused on ensuring we are all compliant with the VOW act.  The Air Force Reserve Wings, co-located on active duty bases, are collaborating with the active duty A&FRC’s as an equal partner under the Total Force concept.  Those Air Force Reserve members not located at an active duty bases may participate at other service installations (Army, Navy, etc.) or the Reserve hub at Robins AFB Georgia.  Air Force Reserve members will be provided pre-separation counseling, mandatory VA briefings, Military Occupation to Civilian briefings and further TAP briefings and applicable VEI employment, education, or entrepreneurial tracks. 

The Air National Guard estimates 6,000 Guardsmen will qualify for the TAP each Fiscal Year after serving on Title 10 (T10) orders for at least 180 consecutive days or more.  The majority of the Guardsmen will meet exemption requirements (e.g., they already have confirmed employment, education plans or previously attended TAP) and may opt out of the TAP.  The primary requirement for these individuals will be pre-separation counseling prior to T10 orders.  The remainder of the Airmen will complete pre-separation counseling prior to beginning T10 orders and will attend TAP upon completion of T10 orders.  The Airmen located at active duty bases will continue to collaborate as an equal partner under the Total Force concept.  Airmen at stand-alone Air National Guard wings will attend TAP at an active duty base (of any service) closest to them or at one of two Air National Guard wings, Fort Worth, Texas or Phoenix, Arizona; whichever best meets the citizen Airman’s schedule.  Further, once CAPSTONE events are on line, the Air National Guard plans to hold these events within the Airman’s state; preferably as close as possible to their duty location, to ensure each Airman gets the chance to meet and have a “warm handoff” with local representatives (e.g., DOL, VA, etc.). 

            Again, we are committed to Total Force collaboration (active duty, Air Force Reserve, and Air National Guard) for TAP.  This collaboration includes a keen focus on credentialing programs that assist separating Service members in their transition to civilian life and successful reentry into the Nation’s work force. Our enlisted airmen begin to earn college credit from the moment they complete basic training, progressing through advanced technical training, to include professional military education and off-duty education pursuits.  The Community College of the AF, Technical School Training, Voluntary Education, and On-The-Job training supports credentialing that transfers to the civilian sector as the Airman begins their military to civilian transition.  To improve outcomes in the transition to civilian work, DOD is using a military crosswalk, which is essential in detailing how a member’s military specialty/duties translate to civilian job requirements. DOD and the Armed Services, are partnered with multiple private sector credentialing bodies that are working together to ensure that civilian industry benefits immensely by receiving highly trained, qualified, experienced, and disciplined employees while supporting the successful transition of the Airman and their family.

 

Conclusion

            We remain focused on providing our Total Force personnel, who are separating or retiring, with the information, skills, and resources needed for a successful transition to the civilian sector.  We are also committed to providing this support in new and innovative ways.  Our Airmen and families who have sacrificed much for this nation deserve no less.  Again, we thank the subcommittee for the opportunity to share information of Air Force’s approach to implementing the re-directed Transition Assistance Program under the VOW and VEI initiatives.