ARLINGTON, Va., Feb. 3 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama proposed $6.5 billion in programs to stimulate U.S. veteran hiring as first responders and land preservationists.
Obama, during a speech at a firehouse in Arlington, Va., proposed $486 million in incentive grants this year and recommend $6 billion in budgeted items for next year through the Veterans Jobs Corps he announced in his State of the Union speech as ways to help veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan use their military training and skills in civilian life.
"When these men and women come home, they bring unparalleled skills and experience. … They do incredible work. Nobody is more skilled, more precise, more diligent, more disciplined," Obama said. "Our veterans are some of the most highly trained, highly educated, highly skilled workers that we've got. These are Americans that every business should be competing to attract. These are the Americans we want to keep serving here at home as we rebuild this country."
The administration wants to help communities hire more veterans as police officers and firefighters, Obama said.
"So we want to prioritize veterans and we want to help states and local communities hire veterans to firehouses and police stations all across the country."
Second, he said, the administration wants to link to 20,000 veterans with jobs that would rebuild local communities or national parks.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who attended the event, "needs some help," Obama said. "And our veterans are highly qualified to help him. They've already risked their lives defending America. They should have the opportunity to rebuild America."
"We've got roads and bridges in and around our national parks in need of repair," he said. "Let's fix them."
He called on Congress to fund the projects by taking the money no longer spent on war "use half of it to pay down our debt and use the rest to do some nation-building here at home, to improve the quality of life right here in the United States of America and put our veterans to work."
By putting more police on the beat, rangers in the parks and firefighters in firehouses, more veterans will be put back to work, Obama said.
"It's good for our communities, it's good for our economy and it's good for our country," the president said.
The administration also would being offering entrepreneurial training for returning veterans, he said.
"We want service members prepared for battle -- and for professional success when they come home," Obama said. "So we should do all that we can to support our troops and our veterans -- in helping them start a business, in helping them get a foothold in a fire station like this one and start moving up the ranks … ."
In a fact sheet, the White House said $166 million is proposed for Community Oriented Policing Services hiring-incentive grants and $320 million for Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grants. Preference would be given to communities that recruit and hire veterans who started serving after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The administration also proposed $4 billion in COPS funding for next year's budget, the White House said. Next year's budget also includes $1 billion for SAFER grants to encourage firefighter hiring.
The fact sheet indicated a proposed $1 billion would be used to develop a job corps conservation program "that will put up to 20,000 veterans back to work" over five years restoring habitats, eradicating invasive species and "protecting cultural resources."
Obama remarked on the significance of Fire Station No. 5.
On Sept. 11, 2001, "the firefighters of this house were among the first to respond to the attack on the Pentagon," Obama said. "You guys answered this nation's call during its hour of need. And in the years that followed, as Americans went to war, some of you answered that call as well."