Obama Seeking $5 Billion in Budget for Hiring Veterans

(Corrects date in quote in third paragraph.)

President Barack Obama will renew a request for $5 billion in his 2013 budget to encourage local law enforcement agencies and fire departments to hire military veterans who have served since the Sept. 11 attacks.

The president will make the announcement today during a visit to a fire station in Arlington, Virginia, that was among the first to respond to the Sept. 11 attack on the Pentagon.

“The generation that volunteered after Sept. 11, 2001, has been called ‘the next greatest generation;’ our country owes them a debt of gratitude,” Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki said on a conference call yesterday previewing the announcement. “We must ensure that veterans who come home from Afghanistan and Iraq get the opportunities they deserve.”

The grant money was originally proposed in Obama’s September jobs plan, most of which was rejected by Congress. At the start of an election year in which the economy and jobs will be top issues, Obama is pressing Congress to pass components of the jobs package to highlight differences with Republicans, who control the House of Representatives.

Obama will announce that his fiscal year 2013 budget will include $4 billion for Community Oriented Policing Services grants to encourage police hiring in 2012 and $1 billion for another program for local governments to hire firefighters. The president’s budget is scheduled to be submitted to Congress on Feb. 13.

U.S. military veterans arrive to meet potential employers during a veterans job fair on February 1, 2012 in New York. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images Close

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U.S. military veterans arrive to meet potential employers during a veterans job fair on February 1, 2012 in New York. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

Shifting Funds

The president also plans to shift $486 million in the current fiscal year for those two programs to give preference to local governments that hire post-Sept. 11 veterans, communities that would have had to lay off employees without additional funds and communities that will rehire officers who were recently laid off, according to a White House announcement.

For fiscal 2013, the president also is seeking $1 billion over five years to develop a Veterans Job Corps to hire as many as 20,000 veterans for conservation projects, including repairing roads and trails and leading visitor programs on federal, state, local and tribal lands.

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said on the conference call that he expects approximately 40 percent of employees at his department will retire between now and 2016, which would provide positions for veterans.

Obama will also call for expanding an entrepreneurship program for veterans and their families.

“Investment in military families in addition to all its humanitarian dimensions is an investment in military retention,” said David Segal, director of the Center for Research on Military Organization at the University of Maryland.

“The White House and the Defense Department have recognized that military family satisfaction is a major component of military retention,” Segal said in an interview.

U.S. troops were withdrawn from Iraq at the end of 2011 and the U.S. has about 89,000 troops on the ground in Afghanistan after withdrawing 10,000 last year. It plans to remove at least 23,000 more by September.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kate Andersen Brower in Washington at Kandersen7@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net

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