The Short End of the Big Stick: Military Families Bear the Brunt of Our Foreign Policy

As the U.S. moves towards increasing its already record-breaking defense budget, many military families are struggling to make ends meet. This summer, reports have emerged of military families suffering from food insecurity, struggling to find affordable housing, and dealing with fallout from environmental exposures — including jet fuel and toxic chemicals. All of these challenges have been exacerbated by inflation, leaving many families to make difficult financial decisions. Are we surprised that the U.S. is struggling to meet its recruitment goals in all of its branches? The challenges our military families are facing do not exist in a vacuum and they hold dramatic ramifications for our national security. How can our service members be mission ready when they are worried about where their family’s next meal will come from? How will we sustain a volunteer force when Americans — including many children in military families — are increasingly medically ineligible or unwilling to serve? The experiences of our military families are directly related to our policy decisions about our defense budget and its allocations and choices around where and when to deploy forces. In turn, the quality of life of our military families impacts our national security capabilities and preparedness. As we consider committing more troops to Europe and more money to weapons, it’s important to hear from the families dedicating their lives to serve our country about how they are faring. Joining us for the long overdue conversation about national security that focuses on people, instead of money or weapons, will be Sarah Streyder of the Secure Families Initiative, Col. Chris Reid of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and Elizabeth Field of the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Afghanistan veteran and Quincy Institute Research Fellow Adam Weinstein will moderate.


Sarah Streyder

Sarah Streyder is an advocate, organizer, and proud military spouse who is committed to helping other military partners and family members raise their voices on policies that affect their lives – especially on national security issues. In 2020 she founded the Secure Families Initiative: a nonpartisan nonprofit that trains and mobilizes military families to be voters and advocates for their communities. She continues to lead the organization as its Executive Director today. Under Sarah’s leadership, SFI has grown to represent tens of thousands of members across the country. She has appeared on CNN, Fox News, CBS, and the New York Times to share military family perspectives on current events.

Elizabeth Field

Elizabeth Field is a Director with GAO’s Defense Capabilities and Management Team, where she leads the team’s work on Department of Defense enterprise management and business operations reform. Prior to joining GAO in September 2017, Ms. Field served as Chief of Staff and Senior Advisor to the Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights. During her tenure at the State Department, Ms. Field created and managed a new planning unit within the under secretariat to advance the capacity of bureaus and offices to make data-informed decisions, collaborate effectively, and effectively assess and demonstrate impact. Ms. Field also previously served as Assistant Inspector General for Audits and Inspections at the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR).

Christopher Reid

Colonel Christopher K. Reid is an active-duty Air Force officer with over 20 years of expertise as a command and control operator, military operational planner, and air battle manager. His flying and operational experience include battle management on the E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System, multiple tours to the Middle East, and the defense of the homeland. He formed an early cadre of air defenders in Washington, D.C., after September 11, 2001, at the Joint Air Defense Operations Center.

Adam Weinstein (Moderator)

Adam Weinstein is a Research Fellow at the Quincy Institute. He previously worked for KPMG’s international trade practice and assisted multinational clients in navigating Asia’s changing trade landscape, incorporating human rights due diligence into supply chains, managing sanctions risk, and utilizing free trade agreements. He also worked as a short-term consultant for the University of Maryland’s Center for Advanced Study of Language and produced a report sponsored by the National Counterproliferation Center that analyzed the cultural and political factors that impact Saudi nuclear policy. Adam’s current research focuses on security, trade, and rule of law in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Adam’s analysis on Afghanistan and Pakistan has been featured in Foreign Policy, War on the Rocks, Lawfare, and The National Interest.