July 11, 2012
The second White Oak Summit (White Oak II) was held February 24-26, 2012. Conveners included Blue Star Families, The Chamber of Commerce, Points of Light Institute, Armed Forces Services Corporation, with advisors from the White House and Department of Defense. The objective of this second Summit was to identify strategies and recommendations (long and short term) to address the remaining gaps in support for military families and highlight where the private sector can have the greatest impact. This Summit provided opportunities to review current research, policy initiatives, and responses to the challenges facing military families. Since White Oak I, a number of well-coordinated efforts and initiatives have been launched to support military families. Although many of these initiatives provide excellent resources, there are still areas where support needs to be initiated or re-directedAs Part of White Oak II, participants acknowledged the unique role of military service and the joint obligation of both government agency and the larger society's obligation to assist with the many challenges that arise from that service. Cooperation across the public and private sectors, however, has been difficult and, often, services and advocacy for military members, their families, and transitioning veterans lies in disparate places -- from various federal and state government agencies to the military services themselves, to an array of hundreds (if not thousands) of non-profit and private sector organizations. Both government and nongovernmental representatives cited miscommunication, confusing messaging, and on-going barriers to accessing military community populations as the main hurdles to collaboration across sectors. White Oak II aimed to identify concrete actions to address these problems. The overall recommendations and next steps include developing a comprehensive list of services available to military families in education, employment and wellness, and forming an umbrella group or association for NGOs as a vetting body (a key problem inhibiting public-private collaboration) that would track lessons learned and efficient practices, coordinate messaging, and incubate new organizations.