By Sheila Casey, Executive Director of Joining Forces

The President and First Lady, as a military family, recognize the commitment and resilience of military-connected families as essential to the recruitment, retention, and readiness of our Armed Forces. Meeting the economic, social, and emotional needs of our military and veteran families, caregivers, and survivors is a national security imperative. Although military spouses are well-educated and qualified for a range of careers, they face a persistently high unemployment rate, last measured at 21 percent in 2021 by the Department of Defense (DoD). It remains largely unchanged over the past decade.

In June 2023, the President, alongside Dr. Biden, signed an Executive Order on Advancing Economic Security for Military and Veteran Spouses, Military Caregivers, and Survivors. This Executive Order is the most comprehensive set of administrative actions any President has ever taken to support military spouses, and included nearly 20 new actions aimed at enhancing career stability, expanding employment resources, and improving transition assistance support for military-connected spouses.

The Biden Administration has created two new tools to help Federal hiring managers strategically incorporate the military connected-community into their hiring and retention plans.

Joining Forces released A Guide to Recruiting and Hiring Military Spouses to ensure Federal hiring managers are equipped with available resources they can leverage to best support the military-connected community. This guide was informed by hiring managers and employment policy staff from Federal agencies and aims to:

  • Build understanding of the diverse skillsets and strengths of military spouses;
  • Connect hiring managers to resources and tools to strengthen their recruitment of military spouses;
  • Share leading hiring and retention practices from successful teams across the Federal government.

As a result of the President’s Executive Order, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is required to publish this new guide on the FedsHireVets website and provide the resource as part of annual training for agency human resources personnel and hiring managers.

Additionally, on February 27th, 2024, OPM published The Government-Wide Military-Connected Strategic Plan to all Federal agency Chief Human Capital Officers (CHCOs). This plan, as directed in the Executive Order, is a whole of government hiring and retention strategy focused on leveraging the talent of military and veteran spouses, military caregivers, and survivors.

The Government-Wide Military-Connected Plan includes strategic guidance to help:

  • Set standard metrics of success for the recruitment and retention of military-connected families;
  • Leverage existing tools to retain military-connected employees in Federal careers;
  • Eliminate barriers to hiring military-connected employees;
  • Increase understanding of the talent, experience, and diversity of military-connected employees; and
  • Track specific data on hiring and retention of military-connected employees.

The publication of these two tools is integral to ensuring that the Federal government is a leader among employers, modeling approaches to hiring and retaining military spouse talent.

Additional progress from the Biden Administration

  • President Biden signed the Executive Order on Increasing Access to High-Quality Care and Supporting Caregiverswhich included measures to ensure military and veteran families have access to high-quality child care, as well as actions to better support veteran caregivers.
  • The Office of Personnel Management issued a Chief Human Capital Officer Guidance Memo encouraging federal agencies to improve work-place policies to help strengthen the recruitment and retention of military-connected federal employees.
  • The Department of Defense launched Dependent Care Flexible Spending Accounts to allow service members and their families to use their pretax dollars to help cover the cost of child care.
  • The Small Business Administration launched the Military Spouse Pathways to Business Program, which assists military spouses in starting and maintaining their small businesses as they transition duty-stations or relocate due to their spouses’ military service.
  • OPM’s annual Employment of Veterans in the Federal Executive Branch report has expanded to now include data on hiring military and veteran spouses, caregivers, and survivors. The report will now be called Employment of Veterans and Military-Connected Spouses and Survivors in the Federal Executive Branch.

The actions that the Federal government has taken to recruit and retain military spouses can easily be implemented by the private sector. Joining Forces will continue to work with Federal agencies to enhance Federal career opportunities for the military-connected community while urging the private sector to follow suit in leveraging this untapped talent pool.

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