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Army approves exemptions for two bases to hire childcare workers

Army approves exemptions for two bases to hire childcare workers
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Two Army bases that planned on curtailing childcare services because of a federal hiring freeze have been given approval to fill 75 open jobs, Army Installation Management Command said Thursday.

Fort Knox, Texas, will be allowed to hire 56 employees, while U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden, Germany, can hire 19, according to an approval signed by Acting Secretary of the Army Robert Speer.

News surfaced Wednesday that Fort Knox and Wiesbaden were planning to suspend part-day childcare programs until further notice. Hourly programs and new enrollment at Fort Knox were also to be suspended.

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Memos from both bases cited a federal hiring freeze ordered by President Trump as the reason for the changes.

During his first week as president, Trump signed an order that freezes federal hiring. Military personnel are exempt from the freeze, but civilian employees at the Pentagon are not.

Wednesday’s news prompted some backlash, with the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee saying Trump “should be embarrassed.”

But the Pentagon had issued further guidance about the order earlier this month, saying that 16 categories of civilians, deemed necessary to meet national security or public safety responsibilities by Defense Secretary James Mattis, can be exempted from the freeze on a case-by-case basis. One of the categories is jobs “providing childcare to the children of military personnel.”

Both Fort Knox and Wiesbaden had requested exemptions to the hiring freeze for their childcare programs prior to issuing their memos, said Nate Allen, a spokesman at Army Installation Management Command. But the garrison commanders “foresaw the possibility of a shortfall” as they waited for the exemptions to be approved, he added.

The reaction to the memos was understandable, Allen said.

“When folks are used to getting a service, and then all of a sudden that service gets shut off, they throw up a red flag and say, ‘Hey what’s going on?’” he said.

Most of the jobs approved for Fort Knox and Wiesbaden are child and youth program assistants, though there were also approvals for administrative assistants, cooks, custodians and other positions.

At Fort Knox, the suspension in new enrollments was effective immediately, while the end to hourly and part-time care was to take effect this coming Monday. At Wiesbaden, the suspension of part-time care was to take effect this coming Wednesday.

Despite the exemptions being approved, childcare services might still be affected because those hired still have to go through other certifications, such as CPR, Allen said.

“I can’t positively say that there won’t be any disruptions,” he said, “because they were just told they’d be able to hire.”