Senator Murray at Army Budget Hearing: Our Servicemembers Need Safe, Affordable Child Care and Housing


***WATCH: Senator Murray’s questioning of Secretary Wormuth***


Washington, D.C. — Today—at a Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee hearing on the fiscal year 2025 budget request for the Army—U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, stressed the importance of both delivering the resources the Army needs to keep us safe and take care of servicemembers and their families—and of adequately funding agencies across government that keep Americans safe and help them thrive. In opening comments, she said:


“It's great to be here today to talk about what resources the Army needs in the coming year and to make sure we're supporting the men and women in uniform who keep all of us safe.

“I want to be sure that we deliver the investments your service needs, and it's critical we also provide adequate funding for agencies across government because as we talked about with Secretary Austin, the Department of Defense does not operate in a vacuum.

“If we fail to properly fund State and other departments, then our nation is less secure, and we will end up having to spend more money on the Pentagon. Not to mention we leave families more vulnerable to threats like wildfires, and pandemics, and fentanyl, and other crises.”


Senator Murray asked Army Secretary Christine Wormuth about the ongoing staffing challenges at military child care centers and what can be done to address them to ensure families can get the care they need, stating: “One of the main challenges I hear from Joint Base Lewis McChord [JBLM], in my home state of Washington is that maintaining adequate staff for its Child Development Centers is a problem. If you don't have staff, they can't provide child care. And without safe quality child care, it's really difficult for our service members to accomplish their mission requirements. Women service members in particular report that lack of child care jeopardizes their career opportunities. In FY24, Senator Tester and I secured $167 million to fully fund the Department of Defense's child care initiatives, and I'm glad you were able to reopen a CDC at JBLM in January. However, staffing constraints are still preventing it from operating at full capacity. Secretary Wormuth have the benefits DOD offers for child care workers shown to be an effective tool for recruitment and retention?”


Secretary Wormuth replied, in part: “I think the incentives are helping us, absolutely, Chair Murray. You know, we offer a recruiting bonus. And we also have retention incentives. We have been offering a 50% discount on a worker's first child, you know, attending the CDC as well. We’ve also had a pilot opening up commissary benefits to our CDC workers.” Senator Murray asked about whether there’s more Congress should do, and Secretary Wormuth noted that faster hiring processes for civilian workers could help speed things along, stating: “I think one of the things that is a big challenge for us, is the time it takes to hire civilian workers.”


Senator Murray also raised the housing shortage and unacceptable challenges servicemembers continue to face in finding adequate housing, stating: “That’s the other thing I hear about all the time. We’re still seeing issues with mold, with rodents, with the availability of suitable and affordable housing—especially at JBLM. I’ve heard as many as 650 service members and their families are spending anywhere from three to 12 months in a hotel, or other accommodation while they wait for a home on base or become available. These service members and their families need to have a safe, reliable, affordable place to live, period. So talk to me, Secretary Wormuth, about what you're doing to ensure housing needs are met both on and off base.”


Secretary Wormuth replied: “We’re doing a few things. In this year's budget, for example, we have investment for 138 new homes, 250 renovations of homes, and $400 million for sustainment of existing Army-owned family housing. In addition to all of the money, the $2.1 billion that we're putting into barracks for unaccompanied soldiers. We also continue to work extremely closely with our five privatized housing partners to make sure that they are providing quality housing to make sure that they have enough maintenance workers, you know, to make sure that they are taking care of the privatized homes. So we absolutely still have challenges Chair, but I think we are trying very hard to reduce the problems with mold and long waits for maintenance.”