How long will military families feel the chill of the hiring freeze?
Military personnel may be exempt from the recent federal hiring freeze issued last month, but that doesn’t mean they're exempt from the overall impact. In fact, recent confusion has service members and their families concerned about an already hot button issue--childcare. Unfortunately, the DoD’s clarification of exemptions to the freeze left more questions than answers, as we recently saw first-hand when two Army installation commanders blamed the hiring freeze on their inability to hire child care workers.
Some positions will be exempt from the hiring freeze, but they are strictly limited to jobs that are necessary to meet “national security” needs or “public safety responsibilities.” Due to the vague nature of the President’s memo, the Department of Defense (DoD) released its own guidance on February 1st clarifying which positions would be considered exempt from the hiring freeze. Unfortunately, the DoD’s clarification of exemptions to the freeze left more questions than answers.
So what does that mean for the military community?
Think of all of the programs you have utilized over time as a military family--the Family Service Center, Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP), Commissary, Exchange, Child Development Center, Youth Sports, Education Center, and Employment Assistance. All of these programs are staffed with civilian federal workers. If these positions are vacated and the programs aren’t permitted to hire replacements, they will have no choice but to reduce their hours and/or their services altogether.
Some support programs are exempt from the hiring freeze, but we believe additional clarification is still needed. For example, the DoD guidance states that “positions providing child care to the children of military personnel” are exempt from the freeze.
And what of the 168 installation schools serving more than 73,000 military connected students?
When NMFA initially reached out to the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) the school system reported that they were not exempt from the hiring freeze. However, on March 13th DoDEA announced that school-level positions are exempt and they will continue to request exemptions for higher-level positions.
When dual-income military families PCS, spouses don’t always have their choice of employment options. Depending on the location of the duty station, spouses often find themselves seeking employment aboard their new installation. This is especially true in rural areas, where the local community doesn’t have as many job opportunities available. As we begin to see the full impact of this hiring freeze, it’s possible military spouse employment will become an even bigger issue that will need to be addressed.
The number of service members transitioning to civilian life will also find their own employment options begin to dwindle. Federal employment after military service has been a go-to option for veterans. Throughout their Transition Readiness Seminar, separating service members are pushed towards considering federal employment due to their skills and experience. The veteran community already struggles with employment after military service, and this hiring freeze would appear to shrink their opportunities even further.
The DoD guidance also mentions positions directly providing inpatient care and/or acute and emergency outpatient care in Military Treatment Facilities will be exempt from the hiring freeze to the “extent necessary,” as well as any positions involving communicable disease prevention and similar public health activities.
How will this hiring freeze impact access standards and quality medical care for military families? Will there be longer pharmacy wait times? Will it be more difficult to schedule an appointment? What will happen to the Military Health System reform on the horizon?
For so many military families, there are far more questions than answers.
NMFA is working diligently to ensure that military families and local commanders have the most accurate information possible on how to navigate the freeze. Positions listed in the DoD guidance as exempt should be filled WITHOUT cumbersome justification processes. Hiring within the military child care systems and in many other parts of the DoD is slow enough—the hiring freeze should not add to the complexity. We encourage leaders at all levels of the military Services and Department of Defense agencies to monitor capacity of critical support resources and programs and to communicate the need for further exemptions if necessary to the White House. The families of troops currently deployed, preparing to deploy, or otherwise supporting the security of our nation should not bear the burden of cuts to critical support services. Without a ready family, we simply cannot have a ready force.
Are you noticing changes to operating hours of installation facilities, problems getting a health care appointment, spouse employment difficulties, or other issues tied to the hiring freeze? Let us know in the comment section below (please identify your installation). Thank you.
Posted February 7, 2017