SAN FRANCISCO — The U.S. Army's top financial official thanked credit unions for their service to the military but warned that cuts in the defense budget could reduce their customer base.
Assistant Secretary of the Army Mary Sally Mantilla told NAFCU's Defense Credit Union Summit that credit unions had helped soldiers make better financial decisions.
"Folks want to do the right thing but can't unless what they know what the right thing is. Thank you for showing soldiers how to do the right thing in investing, savings and spending," she said.
But despite the good work of credit unions, they could be hurt by having fewer potential members because of budget cuts, she warned.
Matiella, who is also the Army's comptroller, said that any personnel reductions will be part of an effort to reduce government spending that is needed for the long-term financial health of the country.
Some of the spending proposals could result in a $400 billion cut to the Pentagon's budget over 10 years.
Defense Credit Union Council President/CEO Roland Arteaga said his group is trying to ensure that military officials continue to recommend credit unions to military personnel and their families who are seeking financial education. In addition, he wants the military to keep its policy of limiting access to each military facility to only one bank and one credit union.
The new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau plans to make protecting members of the military from predatory lenders and other others seeking to take advantage of military personnel and their families a priority, said Holly Petraeus, who runs the CFPB's Office of Service Member Affairs.
She said on her visits to military facilities, top concerns include high rates of indebtedness, difficulties selling houses and the long time it takes to get professional licenses renewed when military families move.
Petraeus, whose husband David is a four-star general who was a key architect and implementer of American military strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan, said her eight-person office would also review the content of the military's financial education programs and see if they can be made more effective.
NAFCU President/CEO Fred Becker told attendees that even though credit unions do an outstanding job of serving members of the military and civilians, they need to be vigilant in protecting their reputation. Becker said the changing media landscape, with more outlets run by people with axes to grind, necessitates more aggressive efforts by credit unions to tell their story.