USDA and the Department of Defense have launched a partnership to support military service members and their families. It’s the USDA/DoD Military Extension Partnership and according to Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics Catherine Woteki, it will give the established civilian network of extension offices a greater ability to help service members and their loved ones.
"USDA and DoD have worked together for more than 25 years to serve the needs of military families. This latest expansion will give the established civilian network of extension offices a greater ability to help our service members and their loved ones," said Woteki. "Our extension system is woven into the fabric of communities across the country where our military families live in order to make this partnership with DoD an efficient and effective proposition for everyone involved."
According to USDA the partnership is aimed at meeting three primary goals to address the emerging needs of military families. The objectives include increasing and strengthening community capacity in support of military families, increasing professional and workforce development opportunities for those working with military families and expanding and strengthening family, childcare and youth development programs.
A proclamation announcing the partnership was signed Wednesday at the 2011 USDA/DoD Family Resilience Conference in Chicago, the first joint conference offered by USDA and Department of Defense to address the needs of today’s service members. Nearly two thousand military personnel, cooperative extension educators and others serving military families came together to identify ways to provide military families with what they need where they live.
Earlier this month, First Lady Michelle Obama and Jill Biden launched the "Joining Forces" initiative to address the concerns and challenges of our military families. This military-extension partnership is part of that initiative and leverages the resources of the Cooperative Extension Service, which is supported by USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
With headquarters at America's 111 land-grant universities, extension reaches clients in every county of the nation. The extension infrastructure has been the mechanism for delivering research-based information and technology to farmers, ranchers and foresters for generations, and in more recent years, has been used to assist urban dwellers, business owners and other government agencies. Extension also is the organizational home for 4-H, one of the premier youth development programs in the nation. The military already partners with 4-H in its "Operation: Military Kids" program; this new partnership will build on that work.