President Donald Trump’s civilian hiring freeze is not shutting down military childcare programs, contrary to some news reports.
Trump called for a federal worker hiring freeze on Jan. 23. However, a Pentagon memo dated Feb. 2 gave top defense officials the ability to request exemptions for certain jobs, including “jobs providing childcare for military personnel.”
However, two Army bases sent out memos saying they would temporarily cease some childcare programs due to a staffing shortage caused by the hiring freeze.
Fort Knox in Kentucky announced Feb. 17 that it would temporarily end its hourly care program, part-day programs, and new child development centers beginning Feb. 27.
U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden, Germany, sent out a memo on Feb. 21 that said it would temporarily cease operations of part-day programs at child development centers on March 1.
The memos went viral, and multiple outlets reported that Trump’s order was causing the shutdown of some military childcare programs.
“President Trump’s federal hiring freeze has forced two major Army bases to shutter some child care programs,” reported The Hill on Feb. 22.
On Feb. 22, Acting Army Secretary Robert Speer granted the exemptions of childcare workers.
However, deeper digging by Military.com found that a shortage in Army childcare workers was the real culprit.
As of Jan. 17, the Army’s Child and Youth Services program had 12,000 positions systemwide with 2,657 vacancies, according to the news outlet.
When Speer granted permission to hire childcare workers, only 60 hires were cleared for Fort Knox, and 20 for Wiesbaden — far below the 2,657 needed.
An Army spokesman at the Pentagon Nate Allen told Military.com that “corrective actions have been taken to ensure care continues without interruption.”
But, he said, “Folks need to be CPR trained, have all of those correct medical certificates and vetted — well-vetted — before we let them take care of our kids.”
“Hiring child care professionals is a multistep process to perform the necessary background, safety and health checks required for individuals taking care of our community’s children,” Jacob Corbin, a spokesman for Wiesbaden told Military.com.
“As soon as we have identified a timeline to bring our part-time care services back online, we will be letting our community know,” he said.
Fort Knox officials similarly told Military.com that “selections to fill vacant positions have already been made in many cases, but background checks and pre-employment requirements must still be carried out prior to working at the Child Development Center.”
Marine Corps, Air Force and Navy officials told Military.com they do not anticipate interruptions to their childcare programs due to the hiring freeze.
“The Marine Corps is carefully monitoring the adverse effects of the civilian hiring freeze on operational and family readiness,” Heather Hagan, a Marine Corps spokesperson said in a statement to Military.com.
“To date, we’ve been able to mitigate these effects by carefully prioritizing critical vacancies and requesting selective exemptions via the Secretary of the Navy. We’ll continue to track the effects of the freeze and work to mitigate adverse impacts.”