You don't just get to say you're hiring spouses and veterans with the Military Spouse Employment Partnership program (MSEP) -- you have to actually make an effort.
That's the message the Defense Department has sent MSEP civilian companies. To join MSEP, the companies must commit to hiring veterans and military spouses, annually report the number of spouses they hire, post jobs openings in the MSEP portal, mentor new MSEP partners and attend the annual MSEP meeting, an MSEP partner booklet says.
And if you don't live up to those expectations? Program officials might drop you.
Between 2015 and 2016, 11 companies dropped from the program. And although a few of them fell off the list for other reasons, at least some of them were dropped by the DoD.
"Some companies have opted-out and re-joined while others have merged with larger companies in addition to those who have been removed for reasons related to a lack of commitment," Eddy Mentzer, a military spouse and DoD official who manages the spouse employment program, said in a statement to Military.com.
When the Military Spouse Employment Partnership program first started in 2011 there was some concern among military family watchdogs that companies would use the "partner" label as a public relations stunt, and would never be required to put their money where their mouth is.
That means the willingness by DoD to reexamine the partnerships and let companies go, if needed, is a good thing, they said. But even beyond that, said Joyce Raezer, executive director of the National Military Family Association, managing the partners means managing military spouses' expectations of what those companies are willing to do.
"I think, for a lot of companies there is still this very heavy PR component to it," Raezer said. "The big reason, to me, why [accountability] is important is that we are being realistic to spouses about what their expectations should be when approaching a company. ... If they're not willing to follow through, then we're raising military spouses' hopes and setting false expectations by having them on the list."
To get to a place where they are dropped, Mentzer said, a spouse hiring partner must be disengaged and unresponsive.
"We looked at responsiveness from each partner and as some became disengaged, we made a decision to remove them," he said in a statement. "To us, a disengaged partner is a company that is unresponsive to outreach, does not attend the annual meeting, does not promote employment opportunities for military spouses and does not act in a manner that aligns with the Military Spouse Employment Partnership Statement of Support."
Since its start in 2011, the Military Spouse Employment Partnership program has grown to 335 companies, with 50 new partners added at their annual meeting this month. Over 100,000 spouses have been hired through the program, officials said at the meeting.