Army approves exemption request for 75 child care workers at 2 posts
By JENNIFER H. SVAN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 23, 2017
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Two Army posts facing a shortage of child care workers due to the federal civilian hiring freeze ordered by President Donald Trump have received approval to hire for 75 open positions, Army officials said Thursday.
U.S. Army Garrison-Fort Knox, Ky., was given approval to hire 56 employees, and U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden can hire for 19 positions, said Bill Costlow, spokesman for the Army’s Installation Management Command.
Officials said they did not know when child care services might be restored to former levels since the hiring process can take some time.
Most of the positions at both bases are child and youth program assistants, according to the exemption request approved and signed by Acting Secretary of the Army Robert M. Speer, on Wednesday.
Other positions include cooks, custodial workers, youth program instructors and administrative support assistants. All positions fall under the Army’s Child and Youth Services program, or CYS.
The hasty exemption approval comes two days after reports that the two bases planned to indefinitely suspend some child care programs because of constraints on filling vacant positions imposed by the hiring freeze.
The Pentagon said Tuesday that those service cuts may have been a mistake, according to the Associated Press. A Feb. 1 Defense Department memo spelled out which positions were exempt and included military child care and youth workers.
Army officials said Thursday that those exemptions were not granted quickly enough to avoid tough decisions to reduce some base child care services.
“Just because there’s an exemption doesn’t mean we have the authority to hire without validating,” Costlow said. “This is new, so the first time through the hoop is always a little bit slower.”
Pentagon spokesman Johnny Michael on Thursday attributed the problem to how the Army sought exemptions at the two Army bases and suggested that too many layers were involved in getting that approval.
“The process prevented them from hiring in a timely manner,” he said. “It seems that since the Army has installed new procedures for how to carry out the exemption process, that has alleviated the problem.”
“You didn’t see similar problems with the Navy, with the Air Force or the Marine Corps, because they had different processes in place,” he said.
Michael said the Pentagon did not put pressure on the Army to quickly approve the exemption requests at Fort Knox and Wiesbaden.
“I think, if anything, those offices were just made aware that the current process they were following was causing delays,” he said. “They acted to rectify it.”
How soon child care services might be restored to former levels at Fort Knox and Wiesbaden was not immediately clear.
After receiving exemptions for some child care positions Thursday morning, Wiesbaden base spokesman Jacob Corbin said the base has already begun the hiring process. But hiring child care positions requires background, safety and health checks, he said.
As soon as the base has identified a timeline to bring its part-time child care services back, “we will let our community know,” Corbin said.