The Yume Child Developement Center at Yokota Air Base, Japan, seen here March 28, 2024, has improvement projects underway.

The Yume Child Developement Center at Yokota Air Base, Japan, seen here March 28, 2024, has improvement projects underway. (Kelly Agee/Stars and Stripes)

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Embedded in the $1.2 trillion funding package signed by President Joe Biden this month to keep the U.S. government open is $167 million to fully fund Child Development centers at U.S. military installations worldwide.

That includes $30 million for incentives, including a 50% discount on fees for the first children of development center employees, and $20 million to continue renovating and repairing those centers, according to the Senate Appropriations Committee website.

The fee discount is meant to lure qualified employees to those centers, where working parents – Department of Defense civilians and service members alike – send their children during the day. Child Development centers are open to infant and preschool children of eligible families.

At Yokota Air Base in western Tokyo, the fee discount is lifting morale among the 42 staff members at the Yume Child Development Center, according to Air Force Lt. Col. Jordan Hayes, commander of the 374th Force Support Squadron.

“Many of our awesome teachers are benefiting from it,” Hayes said. “This incentive improves our ability to recruit and retain high-quality staff, provide significant cost savings on childcare, and recognize the invaluable contribution of our employees and the support their families give to military children.”

The DOD operates the largest employer-sponsored child care program in the United States, serving approximately 200,000 children of service members and DOD civilians at Army, Navy, Marine and Air Force facilities, according to a Congressional Research Service report in January.

The Air Force has been planning new Child Development center projects since August, according to an Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center news release that month.

New facilities are designated with $205 million at Joint Base San Antonio and Sheppard Air Force Base, both in Texas, Scott Air Force Base, Ill., and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

Another five centers are scheduled with $167 million between now and the next fiscal year. The Pentagon received nearly $2 billion in the fiscal 2023 National Defense Authorization Act to maintain and improve barracks, Child Development centers and training ranges.

At the Yume center at Yokota work was already underway to replace its playgrounds before Biden signed the last-minute bill March 23 that forestalled a government shutdown. Prior funding paid for that work, Hayes said.

“Thanks to the efforts of base Civil Engineers, other projects also in the works include replacing the heating and air conditioning in the Youth Center and the Teen Center,” Hayes said.

“Any additional funding we receive for the improvement of our child development centers will go a long way to help us maintain and enhance our facilities, directly benefiting the children and families we serve,” he said.

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Kelly Agee is a reporter and photographer at Yokota Air Base, Japan, who has served in the U.S. Navy for 10 years. She is a Syracuse Military Photojournalism Program alumna and is working toward her bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Maryland Global Campus. Her previous Navy assignments have taken her to Greece, Okinawa, and aboard the USS Nimitz.

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