Q and A: Ed Kringer: April 2012 | STATE LEGISLATURES MAGAZINE

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Soldier with child

Ed Kringer is director of the Office of State Liaison and Education Opportunity in the Department of Defense. He works with state policymakers to improve the lives of service members and their families.

State Legislatures: What are the key policy areas you are working on with the states?

Kringer: Senior leadership in the Office of the Secretary of Defense identify key issues each year that have both the greatest impact on military families and the greatest potential for interest and change in the states. For 2012, these issues are:

  • Facilitating service members receiving licensure and academic credit for military education, training and experience.
  • Facilitating military spouse transition through licensure portability and eligibility for unemployment compensation.
  • Minimizing school disruption for military children during transition and deployment through the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children.
  • Increasing access to quality, affordable childcare for military families.
  • Ensuring deployment separation does not determine child custody decisions.
  • Improving absentee voting for military members and their families.
  • Providing authority for establishing Veteran Treatment Courts.
  • Promoting consumer protections and enforcement of the predatory lending regulation.
  • Comporting state laws with Department of Defense rules on disposition.
  • Coordinating statewide public-private support.

SL: How do you interact and work with state legislatures in these areas?

Kringer: We employ what we call an E.R.A.—Education/Relationship/Assistance— approach. We spend time educating state leaders about the issues that affect military members and their families. We then work to build relationships with state policymakers and offer our expertise, our research and other resources to provide assistance if requested. We have a team of regional liaisons throughout the country who are in the forefront of this ERA approach, and we try to get them, and our headquarters leadership, to as many conferences and meetings of legislators that our budget will reasonably allow.

SL: What trends did you observe in state legislation in 2011?

Kringer: We saw a good deal of support, generally, for our key issues, with legislatures passing or seriously considering a significant number of policy changes. In addition, we continued to see a high level of concern for the fiscal impact of legislation. I am pleased to state that most of the issues we address have quite small, if any, budgetary impact.

SL: What are the topics of most interest to you in 2012?

Kringer: We are actively engaged with the states on all of the 10 Key Issues which I addressed above. But of particular interest in 2012 among lawmakers and the military community are our two issues dealing with occupational licensing and employment. To assist service members, states are facilitating their ability to receive appropriate credit for their military training and experience toward occupational licenses and academic requirements. To assist military spouses, states are smoothing their transition through licensure portability and eligibility for unemployment compensation.

SL: What is a particular success story you would like to share about your efforts in these areas?

Kringer: Many of our issues involve challenges centered on frequent moves. We have had a strong concern about the impact of frequent moves on military children and have been gratified by the strong support we have seen from the 41 states, so far, who have joined the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children. This compact provides for the uniform treatment, at the state and local district level, of military children transferring between schools systems in different states. Eleven states approved the compact in the first year, 13 the second year, 11 the third, four last year and two have already approved it so far this year, for a total 41 states. In fact, the compact became the fastest activated interstate compact in American history.

SL: What else would you like state legislators and legislative staff to know about the work of your office?

Kringer: We’re here to help. We know that many state policymakers really want to help our service members and their families. Still others would help if they knew more about the need, or just how state policy could significantly help. We want to help state policymakers help us. Our office operates on the clear understanding that there are many things that impact our families that the federal government cannot, or should not, do. That’s why we believe in states, and the real help that committed state policymakers can provide – not to make Service members and their families “privileged” above others, but to simply remove the barriers that often present themselves simply because of the nature of a military family’s service to our country. For additional information, please visit our website. www.usa4militaryfamilies.dod.mil