On Wednesday, the base commander informed parents that all part-day Child and Youth Services (CYS) programs at the garrison would end March 1 because they couldn’t replenish employees.
That night, the Pentagon granted exemptions from the freeze, according to a Defense Department spokesman. But the exemptions come with disruptions.
“This closure is a result of staff shortages due to the Federal Hiring Freeze,” said the Wiesbaden memo from Col. Todd J. Fish. “This hiring freeze prevents CYS from replacing staff who depart for any reason to include normal rotation.”
All-day day-care programs will remain open. “The Part-Day programs are being closed to sustain Full-Day programs that are essential for military readiness,” Fish added.
Col. Stephen K. Aiton issued a similar memo last week for parents at Fort Knox in Kentucky. “It is our hope the Hiring Freeze ends and we are able to bring new employees on board,” he wrote. “When we return to a steady state, these services will be restored.”
A “steady state” under Trump? Haven’t seen it yet.
Before the waivers were granted, Common Defense said the day-care cuts “directly damage military readiness, and place an unacceptable burden upon service members and their families, who are already sacrificing so much for our country,” and “undermine the military’s efforts to support military spouses building sustainable careers of their own.”
Common Defense identifies itself as “a diverse, grassroots organization of thousands of U.S. veterans and military family members” serving “on the front lines for social, economic, and environmental justice, and to champion a truly equitable and representative democracy.”
A Pentagon spokesman said an exception allowing the Fort Knox day-care program to hire was granted along with the Wiesbaden waiver.
Friday morning, Emily Bewley, Lainey’s mother, was informed that hiring would resume, but not without interrupting service for the estimated 100 families, some with more than one child, using Wiesbaden’s program.
“Hiring and training child care providers can be a lengthy process,” according to information posted on the garrison’s Facebook page. “Each child care provider requires numerous background, safety and health checks to ensure they are the right person to take care of our community’s children.”
One of three Wiesbaden CYS programs hit by the freeze is scheduled to resume April 3. No reopening date has been set for Lainey’s Part-Time Toddler Care.
The Fort Knox announcement also demonstrates why it takes time for the programs to regain full operation and the uncertainty the disruption brings:
“Fort Knox officials are working in earnest with their servicing Civilian Personnel Advisory Center to on board childcare workers for the exceptions granted. 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. It is therefore too early to know at this time when the full range of childcare programs will resume, but it will be as soon as staffing levels allow for all associated services to be performed at the proper standards.”
Exemptions for “positions providing child care to the children of military personnel” and other categories were allowed in a Feb. 1 memo from Deputy Defense Secretary Robert O. Work.
But it’s not as simple as it sounds.
Commanders must request exemptions, which go through layers of Pentagon bureaucracy before being granted “sparingly, consistent with the President’s objectives,” according to the Work memo.
It makes clear there needs to be a good reason for each, individual waiver: “Officials to whom exemption authority has been granted must be prepared to justify their exemption decisions to me on a position-by-position basis.”
Meanwhile, Mom Bewley is worried about Lainey losing out on a program that is good for her.
Bewley likes Lainey’s socialization with children of various cultures and the curriculum covering art, the alphabet, numbers and other lessons on things such as fire safety.
“I love it,” Bewley said in an interview. “Her teacher is wonderful, and my daughter is happy.”
What more could a parent ask?
How about less confusion and more clarity?
Speaking of hiring-freeze confusion, nine senators (including one Democrat, so it’s officially bipartisan) sent a letter to the Office of Personnel Management to complain that the Pentagon’s implementation of the hiring freeze doesn’t comply with “practical concerns about our national security.”
The senators urged across-the-board exemptions to the Defense Department freeze instead of “waivers for civilian hiring at military depots, shipyards, plants and arsenals . . . being issued by service secretaries on a job-by-job basis. This practice is extremely inefficient, impractical, and should be changed immediately . . . to adapt to the constantly fluctuating demands of the warfighter.”