WASHINGTON — The Army has now staffed more than 70% of its total child development center work force, bringing the service closer to fulfilling its quality-of-life pledge to provide better care for military families, an Army leader said Tuesday.
More incentives for CDC workers led to the spike in the hiring of more Army childcare workers, after sitting at about 63% earlier this year, said Lt. Gen. Kevin Vereen, Army deputy chief of staff for installations.
In October 2022, Army leaders promised to bolster staffing at CDCs to improve the quality of service and to raise enrollment. Vereen said adequate childcare ranks as one of the top concerns of Soldiers and spouses.
“[CDCs] are important because we know families want to have safe, secure childcare facilities for their young ones so they don’t have to worry about what’s happening to them while they’re at work,” said Vereen, speaking during an online broadcast Tuesday.
As part of a 2022 Department of Defense mandate, the Army offered CDC employee applicants 50% off childcare fees at CDCs for their first enrolled child. Former Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael A. Grinston said last year that 100% of CDCs had previously operated understaffed, prompting the service to set a goal of fully staffing 90% of childcare centers.
“We are coming off a pandemic. We have a lack of workers not only across the childcare enterprise, but across almost every enterprise in the U.S.,” Vereen said. “We are in this mad push for talent. We are in the same pool of pulling for young, qualified people who want to serve long term not only in the Army, but in childcare.”
Army leaders said last year that adequate child care also plays a critical role in recruitment and retention. Additionally the service has funded 15 new CDCs over the past four years, Vereen said. Many CDCs across the Army extended their business hours in 2022.
In addition to childcare centers, the Army addressed housing concerns both for residents in the barracks and Army housing. Secretary of the Army Christine E. Wormuth pledged to invest $1.5 billion in Army-owned housing and another $3.1 billion in privatized housing.
To gain a better understanding of housing concerns, Vereen has toured installations across the Army, most recently at posts in Alaska and at Fort Carson, Colorado, in August. There, Vereen met with junior Soldiers and commanders to gather feedback, with most of the conversations centering on housing and barracks conditions.
“Soldiers won’t complain,” Vereen said. “They’re folks on a mission. But we also know as leaders, we want to do everything we can to take care them.”
Barracks at Fort Carson will be renovated for the first time since 2000, with upgrades that include more living space for junior Soldiers and adding kitchenettes for enlisted troops.
Vereen inspected recently renovated Army housing, as well as units that still require more upgrades.
“We’ve been able to invest quite substantially in barracks,” Vereen said. “We’re not done yet. We have a strategy and this is [Wormuth’s] strategy to invest over $1.5 billion over the next 10 years in barracks.”
“I think we’re seeing the [results] and we’re excited where we’re going. We’re in the long game when it comes to infrastructure requirements.”
Finally Vereen praised the efforts of military spouses for not only supporting their military member but advancing their careers. Vereen said many spouses have taken advantage of internships and fellowships, including the 12-week paid DOD College Acquisition Internship Program.
Vereen said adding professional development to spouses’ resumes helps potential employers know that military spouses have extensive training and skills.
“It’s showcasing the talents of our spouses,” Vereen said. “They’re not a hiring risk because they’ve had multiple jobs over a small period of time and in some cases, they couldn’t control it; the Army caused a family to move.”
The Army and DOD has taken measures to help relieve spouses of hefty relicensure fees as spouses can now collect up to $1,000 in reimbursements for license and certification costs during a permanent-change-of-station move. The Army recently changed the application procedure so that spouses can more easily apply for seven different professional license and certification exam registration fees.
The service expanded its noncompetitive hiring authority for spouses with the DOD Military Spouse Employment Partnership, to connect spouses to 610 employers. More than 258,000 spouses have been hired.