CROWNSVILLE, Md. — The U.S. Army is addressing longstanding challenges to quality of life on its installations by engaging community partners, helping remove burdens to spouse employment, and adopting creative solutions to meet the demand for child care, said Lt. Gen. Kevin Vereen, the Army’s deputy chief of staff for Installations (G-9), at the March 13 meeting of the Maryland Military Installation Council.
Army families have a great need for child care, and the service is on a multiyear effort to build new child development centers. Yet there is a widespread shortage of staff to provide that care.
“There is a competition for talent” across the country, Vereen said in his keynote address. “It exists with our child care providers as well.”
To address the shortage, the Army has begun offering bonuses of $1,000 to new and renewing providers, with double that amount for providers in Alaska.
The Army is also building new CDCs — five in progress and another 10 through fiscal 2025, he noted.
“Our CDC infrastructure is pretty solid; the problem we are having is the manning,” Vereen said.
To compensate for a growing need for child care, the service is also recruiting more Army spouses to offer in-home care through the Family Child Care program. As of this year, the Army has 110 FCC providers.
Staff at some CDCs have another valuable benefit: access to the commissaries and exchanges, which provides an opportunity for household savings in a time of rising prices on many necessities, he said. A group of 17 CDCs is currently offering this benefit, with an expansion to all CDCs planned for the near future.
Family housing — whether owned by the Army or a private company — is another area of steady improvement, Vereen said. The Army has been investing heavily.
“Since FY 2020 we have executed over $900 million in privatized housing,” he noted. The Army has also committed to investing $1 billion annually to repair, modernize and build barracks over the next 10 years.
Across all of its installations, the Army has implemented all 18 rights in the Tenant Bill of Rights, he added.
“Working with our RCI partners in conjunction with our Installation Management Command, we will be able to address and resolve these concerns where they arise,” he said.
The Army’s work to improve its installations goes beyond housing. For long-term projects like road maintenance or stormwater management, the Army continues to work with community and industry partners to provide services at a lower cost, through intergovernmental service agreements.
Vereen added that the Army has saved about $40 million in just eight years through such partnerships, including four IGSAs with the state of Maryland, which together save the American taxpayer over $10 million annually. In fact, the Army’s 100th IGSA was at Maryland’s Fort George G. Meade, which in May 2022 partnered with Howard County to manage its stormwater runoff.
Helping Army spouses gain and keep employment was the third topic of Vereen’s address.
He noted that many married Soldiers have spouses who work and have careers. Today, “most of them have degrees, and they want to pursue their own career paths.”
To make this easier, the Army is offering reimbursement of up to $1,000 for spouses to become relicensed in a trade or profession, said Vereen. He noted that his own spouse is a federal civilian employee and that he understands the challenges of PCS moves and spouses trying to re-establish their careers at new locations.
“Our spouses are what make our families strong, and we also understand they often want a career,” he said.
These things are crucial to helping the Army recruit more young people to join the service, said Vereen, whose previous position was commanding general of U.S. Army Recruiting Command.
“We enlist Soldiers, but we re-enlist families,” he said.
Finally, Vereen addressed the recruiting challenge facing the Army by asking the community to “help the Army grow and continue to make it the best Army in the world.”
“We are in a fight for talent, and we solicit your help,” he said. “This is America’s Army.”