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.
“After a decade of war, our nation needs to do some building right here,” Obama said today during a visit to a fire station in Arlington, Virginia, that was among the first to respond to the 2001 attack on the Pentagon.
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 take up components of the jobs package to highlight differences with Republicans, who control the House of Representatives.
Obama’s fiscal year 2013 budget will include $4 billion for Community Oriented Policing Services grants to encourage police hiring in 2012 and $1 billion for a program for local governments to hire firefighters. The president’s budget is scheduled to be submitted to Congress on Feb. 13.
“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 yesterday during a conference call previewing the announcement. “We must ensure that veterans who come home from Afghanistan and Iraq get the opportunities they deserve.”
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 up to 20,000 veterans for conservation projects, including repairing roads and trails and leading visitor programs on federal, state, local and tribal lands.
U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said on the conference call that he expects the retirement of about 40 percent of his department’s employees between now and 2016, opening positions for veterans.
Obama also is proposing 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 left 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.