Spouse Job Opportunities May Someday Influence Where the Military Bases Troops

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A military spouse speaks to a potential employer at the Marston Pavilion aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune during the Military Spouse Business Alliance Hiring Fair and Career Forum Aug. 9. (U.S. Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Jackeline M. Perez Rivera)
A military spouse speaks to a potential employer at the Marston Pavilion aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune during the Military Spouse Business Alliance Hiring Fair and Career Forum Aug. 9. (U.S. Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Jackeline M. Perez Rivera)

The Defense Department is considering major new steps to boost employment opportunities for military spouses, including state licensing requirements, when making decisions on where to base personnel and units, the Pentagon's personnel chief said Friday.

"We're working very hard on military spouse licensing laws," which can vary from state to state and make it difficult for spouses to transfer skills such as nursing and teaching when the family moves, said Matthew Donovan, the under secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness.

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'We've made some good progress, even to the point where that could become a criteria for making basing decisions in the future."

As an example, Donovan said that "if we were fielding a new squadron of airplanes, say, and we were trying to decide where to put them, that would be a score [in] basing criteria: the spouse licensing."

While fielding questions from a virtual Congressional Military Family Caucus event at Fairchild Air Force Base in Washington state, Donovan also said spouse hiring criteria could be included in new contracts awarded by DoD.

The proposal would first need to pass muster with Ellen Lord, the under secretary of Defense for Acquisitions and Sustainment, but "I think that's one of the items that we're looking at," Donovan said.

He noted that DoD already includes incentives and spouse preference clauses in government contract awards and was looking to include the same incentives with private contractors.

"So expanding it out into [private] contractors is something that we'll certainly take a look at and see if there's a way we can incentivize companies first to do that," Donovan said.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper was also set to address the Caucus virtual forum, led by Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Washington, and Sanford Bishop, D-Georgia, but his pre-recorded statement was cut short by technical difficulties.

Rogers and Bishop noted that challenges for military families have increased with the COVID-19 pandemic. Finding affordable daycare off base, Donovan noted, has in particular become more difficult.

"A lot of our child care facilities closed at the start of the pandemic," Donovan said, and off-base facilities "that a lot of our folks counted on closed down."

Many, he added, are unlikely to reopen.

As a possible daycare alternative, DoD is looking at classrooms that have gone vacant as schools have switched to virtual learning, Donovan said.

"We're looking at leasing some of those facilities," Donovan said. "We're working very hard to see how we can increase the capacity."

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

Related: Schools, Spouse Licensure Will Influence Future Basing: Pentagon

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