Moral Low Ground

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Trump Hiring Freeze Forces Closure of Military Child Care Programs

Gen. William E. “Kip” Ward, US Africa Command (AFRICOM) commander, takes a moment to engage with children enrolled in the CDC program at Kelley Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany. (US Army photo)

President Donald Trump’s federal hiring freeze — which he promised would not include the military —  has forced at least two US Army bases to indefinitely suspend some important child care programs.

Military.com reports military families with children who are stationed at Fort Knox in Kentucky and US Army Garrison Wiesbaden in Germany were notified last week that child development center (CDC) programs would end and no new enrollment would be accepted. Among the affected programs are part-day preschool.

“Effective immediately, no new children will be enrolled in the CDC,” the letter, signed by Fort Knox garrison commander Col. Stephen Aiton, said. “Also, effective 27 February 2017, the CDC will no longer accommodate childcare for our hourly care and part day families until further notice.”

“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,” the letter explained.

Part-day programs will be suspended at Wiesbaden starting March 1. “The closure is a result of staff shortage due to the federal hiring freeze,” a letter signed by Wiesbaden garrison commander Col. Todd Fish explained. On January 23, President Trump signed an executive order fulfilling a campaign pledge to freeze hiring of federal workers, “except for the military.”

According to Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel Dailey, child care programs make up about half of the Army’s $1.1 billion annual family programs budget. Some 5,500 children are currently on program wait lists at the 230 CDC locations around the world. Wait times to enter day care programs average around four months.

Some military and veterans groups blasted the Trump administration for harming troops and their families. “If you don’t think @realDonaldTrump’s #hiringfreeze hurts our military, and military families, think again. This just leaked online,” tweeted VoteVets, a progressive veteran advocacy group.

“People need to understand that this hiring freeze has a real impact on people’s lives,” Emily Bewley, a Wiesbaden military spouse who received the CDC suspension letter, wrote. “President Trump sees numbers in a budget to be cut. What he doesn’t see is the countless number of military families who are being affected by this. The people who are getting hurt in this situation are the children of our military, who already sacrifice so much for our country. While I don’t think it was ever his intent to hurt military families, the fact is, he has. There was a better way for this to be done, if he would have taken the time to find it.”

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