The fallout from a federal hiring freeze directed last month by President Donald Trump continued to reverberate across military bases on Friday when officials at Marine Corps Camp Lejeune and Air Station New River in North Carolina announced closures and cut backs.
Officials with Marine Corps Community Services Lejeune-New River announced on their Facebook page that hourly care child care at their child development centers (CDCs) was suspended effective Feb. 23.
Cuts to other services at the locations starting between Feb. 27 and March 6 include several Marine Marts reducing hours, operating hours cuts to Starbucks at the Main Exchange Mall, the closure of New River Recreation Equipment, and the complete closure of the Central Marine mart and gas station, they said.
The closures and staffing shortages caused by the hiring freeze at military installations around the globe have appeared to catch even the services off guard.
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"The Marine Corps is carefully monitoring the adverse effects of the civilian hiring freeze on operational and family readiness," Maj. Garron Garn, a spokesman for Marine Corps Manpower and Reserve Affairs said Feb. 22. "To date we've been able to mitigate these effects by carefully prioritizing critical vacancies and requesting selective exemptions via the Secretary of the Navy. We'll continue to track the effects of the freeze and work to mitigate adverse impacts."
Officials at the Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) told the Army Times Feb. 24 that their stores could face similar hours cuts or closures as a result of the freeze, but they are working to avoid doing so.
Officials with the Navy Exchange and the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) didn't respond to requests for comment by deadline.
The Army and Air Force Exchange cuts follow announcements by two Army bases that child care services would be cut starting Feb. 27 at Fort Knox, Kentucky, and March 1, at U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden in Germany due to the freeze. School aged and teen programs at Naval Air Station Lemoore, California, are also scheduled to have reduced hours starting mid-March, although Navy officials said they still hope to avoid taking that step.
At issue is a Jan. 23 White House directive freezing most hiring at all federal agencies.
Although Exchange, child care workers and other Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) employees are Non-Appropriated Funds (NAF) workers and not funded by taxpayer dollars, the freeze "applies to all executive departments and agencies regardless of the sources of their operational and programmatic funding, excepting military personnel," according to the Executive Order.
While a Feb. 1 Defense Department memo exempts from the freeze 16 categories of civilian workers, including "positions providing child care to the children of military personnel," base commanders are still required to get permission from their service secretary before filling positions, services spokespeople said.
AAFES officials told the Army Times that they have also submitted a request to the Pentagon for a hiring exemption.
-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at email@example.com.