During three decades of federal service, Charles Milam has devoted his career to improving the lives of millions of military members and their families.
As principal director for military, community and family policy at the Department of Defense (DOD), Milam has created or overseen a huge portfolio of services, ranging from helping soldiers stationed overseas stay in contact with family members and assisting military spouses seeking good-paying jobs to improving combat readiness through a Healthy Base Initiative that features anti-obesity initiatives and health and fitness programs.
“All of Chuck’s work is cutting-edge and cost-effective, with a laser-sharp focus on the well-being of troops and their families,” said Rosemary Williams, the DOD deputy assistant secretary for military community and family policy. “He has impacted the military community so positively and so globally.”
Milam was a leading advocate within DOD for establishing ways for service members deployed thousands of miles from home to remain connected with their families and loved ones, including helping secure funding to support 1,000 Internet cafes overseas.
In 2011, Milam successfully implemented the Military Spouse Employment Partnership across the services, an initiative backed by the White House. Due in large measure to frequent relocations, the unemployment rate of military spouses has been about 25 percent, and once employed, they earn on average 25 percent less than their civilian counterparts. To date, some 65,000 military spouses have been hired by 266 partners throughout industry, nonprofits, the federal government and academia as a result of the program.
Milam also led the DOD’s Healthy Base Initiative, a pilot project at 14 defense locations to support improved nutritional choices, increased physical activity, obesity reduction and tobacco cessation. Some of the initiatives begun in 2013 include making available healthy commissary offerings, providing more exercise options and fitness programs on bases, offering more choices for healthy meals and healthier snacks in vending machines, holding weight loss competitions and running informational campaigns.
DOD officials have pointed out that one of the main causes for the release of personnel from active duty is failure to meet height and weight standards, and that good health and fitness are critical to combat readiness.
Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), a major proponent on Capitol Hill of the Healthy Base Initiative, said Milam was “the architect” of the program and the individual responsible for “getting it up and running.”
“That was no easy feat when we’re talking about developing, implementing and successfully ensuring adoption of a revolutionary new health-focused initiative across the Department of Defense,” said Mikulski.
“Thanks to Mr. Milam’s vision and diligence, he has been able to shepherd this initiative from a great idea into an actual demonstration project taking place on 14 military installations nationwide,” the senator said. “And he isn’t stopping there. The hope is to take lessons learned and best practices from the demonstration project and eventually apply them to all military bases – nationwide and overseas.”
Milam also led a successful effort to restructure the way DOD supports the evacuation of U.S. citizens and personnel from threatened areas overseas. Working closely with key defense organizations, the State Department and other federal agencies, he revised guidance in 2011 to reflect current world conditions and operational concepts. He also led the consolidation of four separate offices that oversaw evacuations into one, eliminating some of the past problems with communication, lines of responsibility and cohesion.
In addition, Milam championed a 2011 initiative to enhance support of the families of deceased service members, following an independent review of the Dover Port Mortuary that found multiple instances of mishandled remains. As a key leader on the department’s Mortuary Affairs Executive Steering Committee, Milam crafted solutions to ensure dignified transfers for fallen service members.
Milam is the son of an Air Force military policeman, and his first job—at the age of 7, was mowing lawns on military bases. He also has lived the life of a military spouse—his wife Jessica, now a retired lieutenant colonel in the Air Force, was deployed in 2008 and 2011. All of these life experiences have given him keen insight into the issues facing military families.
Milam said his work “is not just a job. It’s a passion. It’s in my heart.”
“It’s a lifelong mission for me, to give back to the military,” he said. “I think about what service members and their families have now and what they could have tomorrow. I’m in a job where I can help affect change.”