DOD reduces on-base child care fees for military families

By Joseph Clark, DOD News on February 8, 2024

The Defense Department is focused on making quality child care options affordable for military families as officials continue to prioritize initiatives to take care of those who serve. 

Earlier this month the department implemented its new fee schedule for on-base child care designed to reduce fees for lower income military families while maintaining high quality care at DOD child development centers around the world. 

Chad Sheldon, DOD's associate director for child and youth programs policy, said the driver behind this year's fee change was "to make the child care fees more equitable and more affordable, specifically for those families with the greatest economic need." 

"We wanted to be able to reduce the percentage of income that they're paying for child care and balance that across our fee schedule," he said. 

The reduction in the basic weekly rate for on base child care is applied across several tiers under the new structure, as determined by military families' total family income:

Sheldon said child care can be a major expense for new families who are typically still in the early stages of their careers and not at the peak of their earning potential. 

"By making these adjustments to our fees, our intent is that they're going to have more money in their pocket to cover additional expenses - food, diapers, all those things that come along with being a parent as well," he said. 

President Joe Biden and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden have made reducing child care costs for military families a key focus of the Biden-Harris administration.

The new fee structure follows Biden's executive order in April directing the DOD to improve child care affordability on military installations.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III has prioritized efforts to strengthen support for DOD personnel and family members under his "Taking Care of Our Service Members and Families" initiative.

Improving access to child care is a key part of that effort. 

The DOD operates one of the largest employer-sponsored child care programs in the U.S., serving more than 160,000 children every year, according to 2022 figures. 

"Our service members matter," Sheldon said. "Their families matter. And certainly we have a vested interest in children and youth. Our mission is a really important one and one that we take seriously." 

He said child care providers and child development center staff throughout DOD, take their mission to serve the children of military families to heart. 

"I hope that service members know that their well-being and their family's well-being is something that is critically important to us," he said.