OF THE ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE
4000 DEFENSE PENTAGON WASHINGTON. DC 20301-4000
Honorable Dianne Feinstein United States Senate
750 B Street. Suite 1030 San Diego, CA 92101
'~(j\! LI Iggg
is in response to your recent letter to Ms. Sandra Stuart, the fonner
Assistant SeC';rer:}r~l of Defeflse for Legislative Affairs, on behalf
of your constituent, Mr. Robin J. Rustan. Mr. Rustan is concerned about
the use of recreational facilities on military bases by dlsablt~d veterans.
recreational facilities are an element of the military Morale, Welfare.
Recreation (MWR) program. MWR programs are vital to mission accomplishment
and contribute to readiness and the development of strong, self-reliant
and resilient servicemembers, DoD civilian co-mployees and families,
and support the ever-evolving Defense mission. Moreover, MWR programs
form an integral part of the non-pay compensation package and aid in
recruitment and retention of personnel.
discharged veterans with 100 percent service-connected disabilities
and Medal of Honor recipients, among others, may use MWR facilities.
These individuals are authorjzed unlimited access to all MWR programs
as are active duty servicemembers and th~ir families, mjjitary retirees,
and certain members of the Reserve components.
addition, the Disabled Sportsmen Act ensures access to public outdoor
recreation areas for disabled veterans, military dependents with disabilities,
and other persons with disabilities when access to a military installation
for such persons and other civilians is not otherwise restricted. "fhe
Disabled Sportsmen Act was enacted as section 2813 of the Strom Thurmond
t.Jativli~ ~\";Iei.6C Autiiunzaiion ACt for Fiscal-Ye'.:lI 1999,
Public Law 105-261. It amended section 103 of the Sikes Act, 16 U.S.C.
section 670c, and provides that when '~eveloping facilities and conducting
programs for public outdoor recreation at military installations: consistent
with the primary military mission of the installations, the Secretary
"of Defense shall ensure, to the extent reasonably practicable,
that outdoor recreation opponunities (including fishing, hunting, trapping,
wildlife viewing, boating, and camping) made available to the public
also provide access for i'>ersons [with disabilities] when topographic,
vegetative. and water resources allow access for such persons without
substantial modification to the natural en vironment."
to the Department of Veterans Affairs. the total number of veterans
with service-connected disabilities is 2.3 million as of March 1999.
DoD provides MWR programs for the 163.256 veterans with 100 percent
service-connected disabilities. To provide MWR programs to all disabled
veterans would increase the patron base by 2.1 million. Such an expansion
of MWR program patronage would unduly tax the programs from both a funding
and resource availability perspective as MWR programs develop budgets
and construct facilities based on the active duty population.
you are well aware, both the Department of Defense and Congress exercise
close scrutiny over the patronage ofMW ~ programs to ensure the continuation
of the military benefit and to avoid the need for an increase in appropriated
funds. These programs are vital to the Department's mission and its
commitment to quality of life for servicemen:tbers and their families.
hope this information will be helpful to you in replying to Mr. Rustan.
Principal Director (personnel Support. Families and Education)