WASHINGTON -- The Defense Department is actively engaged in improving childcare services for military parents, a top Pentagon official said here today.
John M. Molino, Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Military Community and Family Policy, said the largely single, barracks-dwelling military is a thing of the past.
"Today's military is different," Molino said. "A little more than 50 percent of the force is married, and about 44 percent of the force have children ranging in age from infants to college students. Each family has individual needs, and different kinds of needs based on their age group."
"We have to accommodate those needs because we are sending people around the world where they are away from their families, from grandparents and from other traditional means of support," he continued. "We are also deploying more people than in the recent past, and when you do that, you create a single-parent family overnight. More often than not, that single parent has a job, a job they may need to survive," he said.
The DoD is trying both to reinforce programs that have been working successfully and to come up with creative solutions to help with new or anticipated needs, Molino said.
Extended deployments for large elements at an installation place an increased burden on those who have stayed behind, Molino noted. "Work hours are extended, duty days are extended, and we need extended childcare hours because these people are simply at work for a longer day than they were before," he said.
Molino said two military installations, one in Virginia and one in Hawaii, have childcare 24 hours a day, seven days a week. "It's very innovative, very successful and very popular," he said.
Many military parents need childcare for the short term only - parents who are in training, or who just need a few hours to shop, to go out with friends, or simply take a break, Molino noted. "We are providing that in many areas," he said, "as well as going 'beyond the gate' to see what options are available in the community, and how existing services may be subsidized for families who are unable to take advantage of service provided on the installation."
Molino said all of the childcare initiatives available to active duty service members also are available to those in the Guard and Reserve.
"If service members are going to be successful in their careers, if they are going to stay in the military, they need to know that the military is an environment friendly to families, friendly to children, and an environment that will facilitate their career aspirations. That is key," he said.