Witness Testimony of BG Margaret Washburn, Assistant Adjutant General, Indiana National Guard
Chairman Stutzman and honorable members of the subcommittee; on behalf of MG R. Martin Umbarger, The Adjutant General of Indiana, I am honored to appear before you today to represent our 14,314 Army and Air National Guard Service members. I would also like to begin by expressing my sincere appreciation to the subcommittee for its tremendous support over the past several years, and for your concern with the well-being of the outstanding men and women serving in our nation’s National Guard.
Indiana National Guard Unemployment Information/Statistics
Indiana also faces the challenge of unemployment and underemployment for our Guardsmen. Indiana has deployed over 17,693 service members since 9/11. Based on the Department of Defense Civilian Employment Information database, it is estimated that nationally 20 percent of returning National Guard Soldiers and Airmen are unemployed. The current rate of unemployed Indiana National Guard members is roughly 23 percent, which is over twice our current state rate of 9 percent unemployment. Thus, we estimate roughly 3,300 Indiana Guardsmen and women are unemployed.
As we conduct more detailed analysis, we find these numbers slightly skewed by the number of service members just completing high school or currently enrolled in higher education. Furthermore, in Indiana, we also chose to track and assist unemployed spouses, when identified, believing that getting at least one of the family members employed significantly improves overall service member household well being and readiness.
Indiana National Guard Initiatives
In 2009, MG Umbarger created the Indiana National Guard Employment Coordination Program. The objectives of this program are to identify, track, and reduce unemployment within the Indiana National Guard. These objectives are accomplished through working directly with each unemployed service member to increase their marketability, collaborate with Indiana employers for the hiring of our members, and quality assurance checks with these businesses on the service members they have already hired. Direct hands on assistance includes Resume writing, active Job Search training, Interview Skills, and Job Preparedness training. Developing a service member’s marketability includes education, skills training, Vocational rehabilitation, and even near term financial assistance for such things as reliable transportation to their new employment.
Our Employment Coordination Program works individually with each identified service member throughout all phases of the deployment cycle. We actually define a service member’s needs while the member is still in theater and are present at the demobilization station when the service member returns so we may initiate actions required to improve their marketability or educational needs. We have now placed over 1000 service members and spouses in jobs. Some of these jobs were Active Duty Operational Support (ADOS), temporary positions, and a combination of education with part time employment. The Employment Coordination Program has also assisted in completion of 2443 resumes, has 484 jobs openings currently posted, and submitted 2050 job applications.
Another initiative is the Indiana National Guard – Business Partnership. We currently have over 125 businesses involved with this partnership. This partnership includes a reciprocal support process designed to provide both the employer and employee with resources and assets to complete successful hiring and sustained job performance. We have placed 172 service members in jobs within these 125 businesses.
Another initiative is MG Umbarger’s Executive Business Meetings. These monthly meetings give key business and community leaders a greater understanding of the National Guard experience and what our service members have to offer the state work force. These leaders are encouraged to consider a veteran for any open position, especially those returning from deployment and those negatively impacted due to economic challenges in their local communities.
Our Adjutant General also created a J9 Civil-Military Affairs Directorate. This Directorate brings all support programs including Family Programs, Yellow Ribbon Reintegration, Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, Transition Assistance Advisors, and Employment Coordination Program under one supervisor. It affords these programs a level of “unity of effort” that did not exist when they were working independently. The J9 Directorate also serves as the community outreach platform creating new relationships with community resources and developing increased service member and family access to these resources.
The Indiana National Guard also participates in all Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve activities, the Job Connection Education Program (JCEP), job fairs, town hall meetings, network and social media programs.
Funding and Manning are needed to allow these programs to maintain success. We believe long term job placement is potentially greater with our holistic approach to the employment process. Thus there is greater value to the National Guard work force by including education, skills training, and improved marketability over just sending in a resume.
Our National Guardsmen have proven themselves to be ready, reliable, and accessible here at home and worldwide. Many of them have answered the call to duty and spent multiple deployments away from their families and employers. The Indiana National Guard is working hard to insure these heroes return to a lifestyle and family wellness deserving of the sacrifices they have made. The strength of the Indiana National Guard rests in its citizen soldiers and airmen. The strength of these citizen soldiers and airmen rests is in their employment and productivity to their communities. Indiana employers are military and veteran friendly and many desire to hire our talented, experienced, and reliable service members. We need to help make that connection possible. Once again, I thank you for recognizing this issue and holding this hearing. I look forward to responding to your questions.