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Published: Wednesday, February 22, 2017 @ 8:30 AM
Even as President Donald Trump on Wednesday defended his decision to impose a hiring freeze on the federal government as a way to save taxpayer dollars, that move was being directly blamed by some military officials for a reduction in child care services at two Army bases, but a Pentagon spokesman said those service cuts may have been mistaken and unnecessary.
"This closure is a result of staff shortage due to the Federal Hiring Freeze," read a notice sent to military families at the U.S. Army Garrison in Wiesbaden, Germany, where officials scrapped part-day child care programs for kids, because of staff numbers.
"It is with deep regret that USAG Wisebaden CYS must take this action," wrote Col. Todd Fish, the Garrison Commander.
But the Associated Press reported Wednesday afternoon that Pentagon officials had sent out a memo on February 1 which said that child care workers were not to be impacted by the hiring freeze.
"We are working through the chain of command with these installations to ensure that they are taking advantage of the ability to seek exemptions," a Pentagon spokesman said about the freeze.
Democrats seized on such notices to criticize the impact of the hiring freeze on the military.
"The Hiring Freeze hurts the whole country," Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) said on Twitter.
"President Trump should be embarrassed about the way his actions are impacting our men and women in uniform," said Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, as he released the memo sent to families in Wiesbaden.
"That hiring freeze has hurt military readiness and it is now hurting military families by depriving them of the support they need to do their jobs. This has to stop," Smith said in a statement.
The hiring freeze was also publicly blamed by officials at Fort Knox in Kentucky, where a decision was made to stop taking any new kids in their child care facilities, as a memo sent to families said, "childcare at the Child Development Center (CDC) has been adversely affected."
"It is our hope that Hiring Freeze ends and we are able to bring new employees on board," the memo reads - it was signed by the Garrison Commander at Fort Knox, Col. Stephen K. Aiton.
While the President did not comment directly on this military child care matter, he defended the goal of the hiring freeze as he sat down at the White House with top aides on the budget.
"We've already imposed hiring freezes on non-essential government workers, and part of our commitment is to continue to do that for the American taxpayer," the President told reporters, as he vowed to rein in federal spending, while also bolstering defense.
As for the impact of the hiring freeze on the nation's armed services, the President's January 23 order specifically said it did not apply to the military.
"This order does not include or apply to military personnel," the executive order stated twice - and as the Pentagon said, exemptions are available to deal with civilian employees.