This week U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Rick Scott, R-Fla., continued their efforts to expand childcare facilities for members of the 7th Special Forces Group (7th SFG) based in Crestview.
Back at the start of 2020, the senators and U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., wrote then U.S. Army Sec. Ryan McCarthy on the matter, noting that impacted families and personnel often had to drive four hours a day to the main Eglin Air Force Base for childcare.
Rubio and Scott wrote U.S. Army Sec. Christine Wormuth and U.S. Air Force Sec. Frank Kendall on the matter this week.
“We write to express our continued concern with the ongoing lack of child care for our U.S. Army 7th Special Forces Group operators and families at Camp Bull Simons on Eglin Air Force Base (AFB). We continue to hear from many in the community about the lack of access to a Child Development Center (CDC) due to long distances and lengthy waiting lists. The stories are heart-wrenching, and the impact this is having on both families and readiness is unacceptable,” Rubio and Scott wrote. “Since our February 2020 letter to then U.S. Army Secretary McCarthy, we have engaged the leadership of Eglin AFB and held discussions with others across the U.S. Department of Defense to better understand the problem, make sure the appropriate teams were communicating with one another, and find a path forward. After these discussions, we are concerned with the shortcomings by the Air Force in facilitating an appropriate and timely solution for the impacted soldiers of 7th SFG on Camp Bull Simons.”
Rubio and Scott pointed to problems with the current arrangements.
“While we are grateful for the temporary solution of partnering with two private childcare facilities in Okaloosa and Santa Rosa Counties, one of these facilities will not be operational for some time,” the senators wrote. “The other is nearly an hour drive, each way, from the 7th SFG compound. Further, neither facility has the capacity to meet the demand of the community, many of whom do not put themselves on the waitlist for main base Eglin’s CDC because the cost of gas and time spent traveling is prohibitive. The lack of urgency and failure to understand the depth of the impact this is having on our operators is growing increasingly frustrating for us and for our constituents.”
In the letter, the senators announced they were “pursuing language in the Fiscal Year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act to work toward rectifying this wrong as quickly as possible, but the decision to take care of our operators and their families comes down to the two of you” and called on Wormuth and Kendall to “provide a solution to the acute short-term need, and be forward looking to find a solution capable of accommodating the right number of children at a location that is easily accessible for the operators serving at Camp Bull Simons.”
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