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Military affairs beat: Obama planning to put vets to work

  • Article by: Mark Brunswick
  • Star Tribune
  • February 7, 2012 - 4:44 PM

The White House announced new details last week of its Veterans Job Corps initiative, which it hopes will help put veterans back to work on a range of projects that leverage skills developed in the military.

Among the plans is a reworking of the old Works Progress Administration from the 1930s to preserve the country's land and resources. President Obama has proposed $1 billion to develop a Veterans Job Corps conservation program to put up to 20,000 veterans to work over the next five years. It's hoped they will work on restoring habitat, eradicating invasive species and rehabilitating trails, levees, and recreation areas on federal, state, local and tribal lands.

Obama also announced plans for $486 million in grants for fire and protection to communities, with a preference that those grants be given to communities that recruit and hire post-9/11 veterans to serve as police officers and firefighters.

Obama also proposed a veteran entrepreneurship program for newly separated service members and veterans. The Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense will work with the Small Business Administration to develop a two-day entrepreneurship program. Once a service member leaves the military, the SBA will offer veterans more in-depth entrepreneurial training through an eight-week online training program to teach the fundamentals of small business ownership to more than 10,000 veterans a year.

The proposals come as the Pentagon is considering plans to cut the military by close to 500,000 service members. A recent survey from the First Command Financial Behaviors Index shows that 70 percent of middle-class military families (senior NCOs and commissioned officers in pay grades E-6 and above with household incomes of at least $50,000) are only "somewhat confident" or "not confident" in employment opportunities for veterans. Only one in four survey respondents believes there will be sufficient jobs in the civilian workforce for unemployed veterans.

mbrunswick@startribune.com • 612-673-4434

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