Overhaul Coming to DoD's Spouse Employment Preference Program

(Stock image)
(Stock image)

A big change is coming soon to the Defense Department's military spouse federal hiring preference, officials confirmed to Military.com last week.

The Priority Placement Program for Spouses, known as PPP-S, allows military spouses to receive hiring preference for Defense Department jobs after a permanent change-of-station (PCS) move. Spouses currently must register for the program at each new duty station.

But PPP-S has long been a source of frustration for military spouses. Accepting a job out of desperation to use the preference is counterproductive if the job is a bad fit, some say. Others say base hiring managers are poorly trained and don't understand the program or the separate executive order that allows direct hiring authority for qualified military spouse applicants.

The change, Pentagon officials said, will streamline the program to give spouses more flexibility and clarity in landing a DoD job. The new system will bring the program in line with other hiring preferences managed through the government's job site, USAJOBS.

"Spouses will be transitioned out of the PPP to application-based procedures established for all applicants applying through USAJOBS," said Air Force Maj. Carla Gleason, a Pentagon spokesperson. "This change will empower military spouses to choose which jobs they want to exercise their military spouse preference."

PPP-S has remained largely unchanged since its 1989 inception, with one major exception: A measure in the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act ordered officials to remove a time cap on the program that required spouses to use it within two years of their PCS move. Spouses had complained that two years was not long enough to utilize the benefit and unnecessarily locked out many potential applicants.

But the law, signed in late 2016, did not specify whether the cap removal was retroactive. That left some hiring managers allowing spouses whose two years had ended prior to the new law back into the program, while others said it could not be used in that way and barred re-entry.

The Defense Department ruled in September that the law is not retroactive. Officials said only spouses whose preference had not expired before the measure was signed by President Barack Obama in late December 2016 could operate under the new, time-cap-free standard.

Pentagon officials did not give a timeline for the upcoming PPP change. They said base hiring managers will be trained on the new rule before it takes effect.

-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at amy.bushatz@military.com.

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