Programs exist, just not the one Obama promised
President Barack Obama promised in his 2012 State of the Union address to "create a veterans job corps, so we can put our returning heroes back to work as cops and firefighters in communities that need them."
His administration introduced a bill in 2012 that called for a Veteran Job Corps to employ veterans in "conservation, resource management, and historic preservation projects on public lands and maintenance and improvement projects for cemeteries under the jurisdiction of the National Cemetery Administration"; and as firefighters and law enforcement officers.
In 2014 we rated this promise In the Works, as Obama's budget that year called for a $1 billion program, to "put thousands of veterans back to work over the next five years protecting and rebuilding America."
However, no program ever came into existence.
As Obama's presidency nears its end, bills that would help fulfill both aspects of the promise are idling in Congress.
The measure that would best fit Obama's promise is the Veterans Conservation Corps Act of 2015, introduced by Democratic Colorado Rep. Jared Polis. The corps would train unemployed veterans as firefighters, disaster relief personnel, and police officers, as well as in conservation, resource management, historic preservation, and maintenance and improvement projects for cemeteries under the National Cemetery Administration.
However, that bill was referred to the House Environment Subcommittee in August 2015, with no movement since.
Other legislation is stalled in Congress, such as the National Park Service Centennial Act, which includes criteria favoring youth and veteran employment opportunities for approving project funding, and the Republican-sponsored 21st Century Conservation Service Corps Act of 2016.
The 21st Century Conservation Service Corps began in 2013 as part of Obama's America's Great Outdoors initiative among several federal agencies; however, the legislation would allow for a more formal partnership between the corps and the government.
Despite the gridlocked bills, Congress did pass some measures to help veteran unemployment.
In July 2016, the Army Corps of Engineers received additional federal funding to "hire veterans and members of the Armed Forces to assist the Corps with curation and historic preservation activities and for other purposes."
So how do we rate the progress of this promise? The Obama administration did extend tax credits and allocate funding to the Army Corps of Engineers to help with veteran unemployment. But no program specifically matches Obama's goal of creating a veterans job corps to return troops to work as cops and firefighters, as well as training veterans to work on public lands and cemeteries. We rate this Promise Broken.
Congress.gov, H.R.1978 - Veterans Conservation Corps Act of 2015, Aug. 8, 2015
21st Century Conservation Service Corps, 21CSC-Structure-Chart_FINAL.pdf, accessed Nov. 7, 2016
Office of Management and Budget, Budget of the U.S. Government: Fiscal Year 2017, Feb. 9, 2016
21st Century Conservation Service Corps, 21CSC_Timeline_UPDATED-8.12.14.pdf, Aug. 8, 2014
Congress.gov, H.R.803 - Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, July 22, 2014
Labor Department, Work Opportunity Tax Credit, Oct. 12, 2016
Congress.gov, H.R.3114, July 6, 2016
21st Century Conservation Service Corps, 21CSC Act, accessed Nov. 9, 2016
Interior Department, Federal Agencies Announce National Council to Build 21st Century Conservation Corps, Jan. 10, 2013
Congress.gov, H.R.5114 - 21st Century Conservation Service Corps Act of 2016, June 23, 2016
GovTrack, S. 2257: National Park Service Centennial Act, Nov. 5, 2015
The White House, Remarks by the President in State of the Union Address, Jan. 24, 2012
Office of Management and Budget, Budget of the U.S. Government: Fiscal Year 2015, March 4, 2015
GovTrack, H.R. 6563 (112th): Veterans Jobs Corps Act of 2012, Sept. 25, 2012
GovTrack, S. 3457 (112th): Veterans Jobs Corps Act of 2012, July 30, 2012
Initiative hasn't gone far in Congress, but Obama is still pushing for it
During the 2012 presidential campaign, President Barack Obama promised to "create a veterans job corps, so we can put our returning heroes back to work as cops and firefighters in communities that need them."
When we looked at this pledge in mid-2013, we rated it Stalled, noting that the proposed $1 billion effort had floundered in Congress.
However, with the March 4, 2014, release of Obama's fiscal year 2015 budget proposal, the idea is back.
The fiscal 2014 budget proposal includes $1 billion in "mandatory funding to create the Veterans Job Corps program," which would "put thousands of veterans back to work over the next five years protecting and rebuilding America."
The program would start with $50 million in funding for 2015, then roughly $238 million for each of the following four fiscal years.
Meanwhile, a related proposal would put veterans (and young people) to work under the National Parks Centennial Initiative. This would be a "Works Progress Administration (WPA)-like" effort to upgrade the National Park System for its 100th anniversary in 2016, along with improvements to national forests, refuges, and other public lands.
Because budgets are wish lists that are subject to revision -- and often outright rejection -- by Congress, this is far from a Promise Kept. In fact, recent history suggests that Congress has not inclined to support this particular proposal. Still, the fact that Obama has revived the proposal despite past difficulty in getting it enacted leads us to move the needle to In the Works.
Barack Obama, fiscal year 2015 budget proposal, March 4, 2014
Congress isn't going for Obama's veterans job corps plan
During his first term, President Obama proposed a $1 billion Veterans Job Corps that would have employed veterans on federal public lands projects and provided employment training.
While campaigning in the summer of 2012 he echoed those promises, but the effort died in the Senate before the November elections even occurred.
A similar bill had also been proposed in the House, but was referred to committee and died.
Obama has continued to promote veteran employment through other means, including the creation of a tax credit for employers who hire veterans, online jobs banks and employment counseling. He's also challenged companies to hire veterans through the Joining Forces initiative.
Despite these successes, Obama has made no subsequent attempt to create a program to employ veterans in public conservation work or in police and fire departments.
The most recent congressional incarnation of this proposal — the Veterans Conservation Corps Act of 2013, proposed by Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla. — was introduced last month but is still in committee.
By and large, Obama has upheld his campaign promises to veterans, but the creation of a job corps is one pledge that seems unlikely to be fulfilled any time soon. We rate this promise Stalled.
Los Angeles Times, "Republicans shelve Obama"s proposed Veterans Job Corps,” Sept. 19, 2012
Washington Post, "Bill to create Veterans Job Corps fails to advance,” Sept. 19, 2012
CBS News, "Obama signs bipartisan jobs bill for veterans,” July 10, 2012
The White House Blog, "First Lady Michelle Obama announces new hiring commitments for veterans and military spouses,” April 30, 2013
Govtrack.us, "S. 3457 (112th) Veterans Job Corps Act of 2012,” accessed July 19, 2013.
Govtrack.us, "H.R. 6563 (112th) Veterans Job Corps Act of 2012,” accessed July 19, 2013.
Email interview with Ryan Brown, press secretary of Sen. Bill Nelson, July 22, 2013