Calling active duty spouses: Speak your mind in DOD’s new survey

by Tommy Grant

Each of the U.S. military’s nearly 595,000 active duty spouses can now speak their mind about military life in the latest round of a survey designed to collect their thoughts.

Defense officials will rely on the 2024 survey’s findings to make decisions that best meet spouses’ needs, Patricia Montes Barron, deputy assistant secretary of defense for military community and family policy, said in a release Wednesday. The confidential poll will remain open for about eight weeks.

“We strongly encourage all active duty spouses to take a few minutes from their busy days to complete the 2024 Survey of Active Duty Spouses, so we can hear directly from them about what is and isn’t working,” Barron said.

The biennial survey gathers spouse perspectives on their satisfaction with military life, employment, relocation, child care and the overall health and wellbeing of military families. This year’s poll also expands sections on remote work and financial stability.

Spouses can participate in the survey in one of two ways, Defense Department spokesman Bob Ditchey told Military Times. The first is as part of a scientific study involving about 74,000 randomly selected active duty spouses, who will receive invitations by mail or email to respond to a longer version of the survey. That version of the poll can take up to 20 minutes to complete, the Pentagon said. Invitations will include a QR code to reach the survey online.

A second option offers a shorter version of the survey, which takes about five minutes to complete and is open to people who are not part of the study sample, Ditchey said. All spouses can visit the survey portal at dodsurveys.mil and enter their DOD identification number to find the version that applies to them.

Eligibility is verified through the secure portal, but no personal information will be linked to survey responses.

The Pentagon has periodically surveyed active duty spouses since 1985. In 2021, officials broadened the pool by starting to solicit input from any spouse who is verified, in addition to those invited through traditional scientific sampling.

The questionnaires shed new light on what matters most to military families. For instance, the results of the 2021 spouse survey provided new details on food insecurity among military families. Nearly half of the junior enlisted spouses who responded said they had experienced food insecurity.

While several organizations offer nonscientific surveys of the military community online, official Defense Department surveys collect input that is verified as coming from slices of the military community — in this case, active duty spouses.

DOD also runs separate quality-of-life surveys for active duty and Reserve component troops as well as Reserve component spouses.

Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book “A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families.” She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.

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