House Plan Would Increase Child Care Capacity at Some Military Bases

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Members from the Child Development Center take children for a stroller ride.
Members from the Child Development Center take children for a stroller ride Sept. 18, 2015, at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph. (U.S. Air Force/Joel Martinez)

The child development center building program would receive more than 10 times its intended budget next year in the House's first draft of the Defense Department's construction funding bill.

Proposed legislation passed Friday by the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee would increase the DoD's funding request for child development centers by $193 million, to $213 million.

The proposed legislation does not say which military installations are slated to get new or expanded child care centers, but Rep. Tony Gonzales, R-Texas, said during consideration of the bill Friday that the increase will help fund a new child development center at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.

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The DoD's fiscal 2022 budget request included funds to build a child development center at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, that would increase capacity by 60 children. Other projects currently in the works include centers that would serve Fort Wainwright, Alaska; Schofield Barracks, Hawaii; and Naval Base Kitsap, Washington.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., the subcommittee chairwoman, and other lawmakers have expressed concern about child care availability -- or lack thereof -- for military families. During a hearing in May, she told Air Force officials they needed to "go back to the drawing board and push to make sure" that child care is a priority.

"It's just incredibly disrespectful of your service members -- and I think this is the case across the board, but it is particularly pronounced in the Air Force -- that your requests have not included child care development centers," Wasserman Schultz said.

Of the child development center funding, $33 million is marked for "planning and design for future facilities," $72 million would go to the Army, $11 million to the Navy and Marine Corps, and $64 million to the Air Force.

In addition to child development centers, the $10.9 billion proposed military construction bill -- more than $1 billion above the administration's budget request -- includes increases for construction or changes to National Guard and Reserve facilities and cleanup of perfluorooctane sulfonate and perfluorooctanoic acid, collectively known as PFAS, contamination at former and active military installations.

Other programs that would see a boost in the House bill are military barracks at various locations -- $237.2 million above the budget request, including new barracks at Fort Hood, Texas. The bill also contains money to shore up installations from the effects of climate change at $100 million above the fiscal 2022 budget request.

Shipyards would receive a boost as well -- $475 million in total, which is $225 million above the administration request.

Family housing would receive $1.4 billion to address issues that came to light in 2018 in the military's privatized housing program, including mold contamination, poor maintenance and upkeep, and pest infestations.

"This bill demonstrates a strong commitment to our service members, their families and our veterans," Wasserman Schultz said during the markup, which included the portion of the proposal that funds the Department of Veterans Affairs in fiscal 2022 and provides advanced funding for the VA in 2023. "The bill specifically targets military housing and child care needs, women's and mental health priorities, and the climate crisis, while responding to threats emanating from Russian and Chinese aggression.

"Of course, I would have done some things differently if I were in your position; however, you have done a good job," the subcommittee's ranking member, Rep. John Carter, R-Texas, told Wasserman Schultz. "But I strongly support the bill."

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to correct the misidentification of a lawmaker.

-- Patricia Kime can be reached at Patricia.Kime@Monster.com. Follow her on Twitter @patriciakime.

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