Two House Oversight and Government Reform committee leaders sent letters to the acting secretaries of the Army, Navy, and Air Force to remind them that military child care workers are exempt from a federal hiring freeze, and to ask what they are doing to prevent any shutdowns in child care services.
“The President’s hiring freeze grants the head of any executive department or agency the authority to exempt from the freeze any positions that it deems necessary to meet national security or public safety. As a result, a memorandum with instructions from the Deputy Secretary of Defense, among other things, explicitly exempted ‘positions providing child care to the children of military personnel’ from the hiring freeze,” said Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and subcommittee Chairman Mark Meadows (R-NC) on Thursday evening.
“As Acting Secretary … you have the authority to exempt childcare positions and other occupations necessary for national security and public safety from the hiring freeze,” they wrote. “Please provide a list of steps your Department is taking to ensure prompt attention to any hiring freeze exemption request under authority provided to you, including childcare exemption requests.”
The letters come after two Army bases — one in Kentucky and one in Germany — issued memos last month saying they were temporarily shutting down some child care programs due to a staffing shortage caused by the hiring freeze. Earlier this week, an Air Force base in Alabama announced it was temporarily suspending some programs “related to the hiring freeze.”
The memos have gone viral, with multiple outlets reporting that Trump’s order was causing the shutdowns.
“President Trump’s federal hiring freeze has forced two major Army bases to shutter some child care programs,” said the headline of a report on Feb. 22.
However, Trump’s order allowed the Defense Department to give military secretaries the authority to exempt “jobs providing childcare for military personnel” — it is not exactly clear why child care services are shutting down due to the hiring freeze.
Trump issued his hiring freeze on Jan. 23. A Pentagon memo dated Feb. 1 gave service secretaries the ability to request exemptions for military child care workers.
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.
Acting Army Secretary Robert Speer granted the exemptions of child care workers on Feb. 22, clearing 60 hires for Fort Knox and 20 for Wiesbaden.
A story by Military.com revealed vast shortages in child care workers across the Army — with 2,657 vacancies out of 12,000 positions systemwide.
The most recent Air Force memo from Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, dated Mar. 1, said its child care center was “experiencing staffing issues related to the hiring freeze” and would begin suspending some programs beginning March 6.
Chaffetz and Meadows addressed their letters to Acting Secretary of the Army Robert Speer, Acting Secretary of the Air Force Lisa Disbrow, and Acting Secretary of the Navy Sean Stackley. All are Obama administration holdovers.
“Our military men and women should be able to protect our country without having to worry about who will care for their children,” they wrote.