In an effort to employ veterans, U.S. President Barack Obama has requested $6 billion to fund a 2013 program that would allow for thousands of service members to be retrained as police officers, firefighters and park rangers.
This new veteran job initiative, recently highlighted in President Obama’s State of the Union Address, will launch in the next few weeks and Congress will be instrumental in moving the process forward. With plans to cut $500 billion in defense spending over the next decade and the Defense Department preparing to shed more than 100,000 troops in an effort to save money, it could be hard for lawmakers to justify this expenditure.
Obama has since gone on to say veterans’ skills and experience should make them valuable employees and every business should be competing to attract them. He has also stressed that veterans should have the opportunity to rebuild America, stating that roads and bridges in and around national parks are in need of repair.
Two hiring grant programs are being designed to boost public safety employee numbers, effectively increasing the police and firefighter jobs. Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki said nearly $500 million will be made available this year for departments that give hiring preference to post-Sept. 11 veterans.
The White House is counting on an extension of the Community Oriented Policing Services grant program, a $4 billion increase that would extend veterans-preference grants through 2013.
Under these new programs, veterans would also be able to find work as park rangers and visitor guides at national park lands, preservation specialists at historic sites, outreach workers at inner-city parks programs, and maintenance and construction contractors for public land improvements. The cost would be $1 billion, but would allow nearly 20,000 veterans to work in nationwide conservation programs for the next five years.
The initiative will also include an expansion of entrepreneurship training opportunities for active-duty troops and veterans, including a voluntary two-day seminar on small business start-ups for separating service members through the services’ transition assistance programs.
Under the plan, the Small Business Administration would offer an eight-week online training program teaching “the fundamentals of small business ownership” to 10,000 veterans annually, along with other entrepreneurial training tools for military spouses and veterans.
Administration officials said they are confident that lawmakers will support the efforts and make the necessary funding available this year.