A memo to military families stationed overseas reveals that the federal hiring freeze signed into action by former reality TV show host and amateur politician Donald Trump is already affecting military families and undermining readiness.
According to Trump’s hiring freeze, “No vacant positions existing at noon on January 22, 2017, may be filled and no new positions may be created, except in limited circumstances.”
As reported on Tuesday at Military.com, two Army bases have already had to suspend some child care programs, as they are unable to hire new caregivers, thanks to the freeze.
Officials at Fort Knox, Kentucky notified parents on Feb. 17 that the on-base part time child development center (CD) program would be suspended. Signed by garrison commander Col. Stephen Aiton, the letter states:
“Effective immediately, no new children will be enrolled in the CDC. Also, effective 27 February 2017, the CDC will no longer accommodate childcare for our hourly care and part day families until further notice.”
Many military families rely on safe, on-base child care programs that allow military members to attend college classes and their spouses to work. The letter notes the high level of turnover that affects the programs, stating:
“We are prevented from bringing new caregivers on board but are still having our usual staff turnover and illnesses, which creates challenges to maintaining ratios and providing quality childcare.”
Civilian-staffed military services suffer more turnover than those in the private sector, as they often employ military dependents who then move when the military spouse or parent is transferred to another base. Military spouses often find that they are unable to grow in their own careers due to frequent moves. Pacific Standard magazine reports that the unemployment for military spouses in December 2016 was a staggering 20 percent or four times the general unemployment rate. Employment on base in civilian positions not only allows for career growth for military spouses and older children but often fills the income gap that impacts many growing military families. On-base day care not only supports these families with child care services; many provide direct employment, particularly in rural locations.
This conflict is exacerbated when the military member is stationed overseas. Many military spouses and young adult dependents are unable to find employment at all overseas due to language barriers and lack of familiarity with foreign business cultures.
On Tuesday, officials at U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden, Germany, sent out a notice to military parents that all part-time day care services would be suspended on March 1. The letter, signed by garrison commander Col. Todd Fish, states:
“The closure is a result of staff shortage due to the federal hiring freeze.”
VoteVets, an organization of progressive-minded military members and veterans, provided a copy of the notice on Twitter:
“If you don’t think @realDonaldTrump’s #hiringfreeze hurts our military, and military families, think again. This just leaked online.”
— VoteVets (@votevets) February 21, 2017
Military news organization Stars & Stripes spoke to Camp Humphreys, South Korea, commander, Col. Joseph Holland last week. Col. Holland says that the hiring freeze “is having a big impact on us in Korea writ large,” and the long-term impact on community services could prove distracting to soldiers as they will be worrying more about families and other issues. According to Holland, the hiring freeze will affect the garrison’s substance abuse program, sexual-assault response team, and victim advocate..
“There is a direct correlation to an impact on readiness if this goes on for much longer. We are especially vulnerable when it comes to supporting the soldiers and the community in those areas.”
According to Military.com, the freeze is affecting more than day care services:
“The hiring freeze could also have a particular impact on military spouses who had federal jobs near the base where their husband or wife was stationed and then were affected by a permanent change of station.”
One Air Force spouse contacted Military.com to tell them that she had to quit a federal job at her husband’s base when he was transferred out. Although she was placed in priority placement, the freeze has ruined her chances of being rehired at the new location.
The hiring freeze not only affects active duty military families but veterans as well. Veterans often transfer into civilian jobs in government service, filling similar positions as they did in the service. Many veterans have experience in narrow fields that relate only to military use, and the hiring freeze will make it impossible for highly skilled veterans to transition into civilian life without complete career changes requiring education and training. Many of these veterans find themselves starting all over again at the bottom of the ladder in their mid-30’s or 40’s. Hiring trained veterans for civilian positions allows the Department of Defense to access highly specialized experts with a proven track records.
Military families are currently already overextended, and the federal hiring freeze will only exacerbate the problem. CNN Money reported that military families used nearly $104 million worth of food stamps at base commissaries in 2013, and that number doesn’t account for those families cashing in SNAP benefits off base or those using WIC (Women and Infant Children) food subsidies.
Marketplace.org reported that more than 1.5 million military veterans used food stamps in 2012, which equals about 7 percent of all veterans. Again, this number doesn’t account for veterans using WIC.
Cutting civilian jobs at military bases will only negatively affect our military families. Young service members will be unable to attend the college classes necessary to forward their careers due to lack of child care, and highly skilled veterans will be unable to translate those very specific skills into federal jobs that support the mission as well as offer a dignified retirement. Military spouses will be unable to find employment at isolated bases and overseas, putting even more strain on the family budget.
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