More job opportunities may be opening up — and more quickly — for spouses of service members stationed overseas.

The Air Force and Navy have implemented a new pilot program for locations outside the United States that allows Department of Defense organizations to hire qualified military spouses more quickly for certain civil service positions, outside the competitive hiring process.

Information was not available from the Army or the Marine Corps about the status of their programs.

A number of DoD organizations already prioritize hiring military spouses, and officials say this direct-hire authority will cut two weeks or more out of the hiring process for spouses. Defense Commissary Agency officials expect to have their plans and instructions ready for their overseas hiring managers within 30 days, said DeCA spokesman Kevin Robinson. And the Department of Defense Education Activity is using the program for the positions that qualify, said DoDEA spokesman Will Griffin.

The unemployment rate for military spouses hovers around 21%, affecting the family’s financial and overall well-being. Over the years, defense and service officials, as well as private groups, have worked on a number of initiatives to help spouses find meaningful employment, especially portable jobs that can move with them during their many relocations with their service member. Moving overseas often brings even more difficulty for spouses to find jobs.

“We recognize that spouse employment is a fundamental quality of life issue for our airmen and guardians, especially for families in overseas locations,” said John Carbone, director for civilian force management for Air Force Manpower, Personnel and Services, in announcing the start of the service’s pilot program.

“We’re hoping having access to this new hiring authority will open up greater opportunities for spouses, which in turn will positively impact military retention, the financial well-being of the family, and Department of the Air Force readiness,” Carbone said.

The direct-hire authority applies to General Schedule (GS) and Wage Grade (WG) competitive services positions within DoD components that are permanently located outside the United States, and in Grades 15 and below or the equivalent. Merit factors are the basis for selecting individuals for positions.

According to DoD guidance implementing the program, which Congress authorized in the fiscal 2022 National Defense Authorization Act, here are some details about the program and eligibility:

♦ Spouses must be authorized to accompany their service member to the duty location on permanent change of station orders at government expense.

♦ Spouses must reside with the service member in the same local commuting area of the member’s duty assignment.

♦ Spouses must be applying for a position within that local commuting area.

♦ The ongoing DoD Military Spouse Preference Program is separate from this appointing authority.

♦ Appointments using this direct-hire authority are made on a time-limited basis, not to exceed two years. But the appointment may be extended for two additional terms of no more than two years each, for a total of six years.

♦ Appointments will end when the term expires, at the end of the service member’s tour of duty, or in the event of divorce from or death of the sponsor.

♦ If the service member is relocated to another location outside the United States in a permanent change of station, the spouse may be eligible for a new appointment to another position using this direct-hire authority.

♦ Appointments using this authority can’t be made after Dec. 31, 2026, when the pilot program ends, unless future law extends the program.

Defense Commissary Agency

Defense Commissary Agency officials are drafting plans and instructions for using the new hiring authority, said Kevin Robinson, spokesman for the agency. Officials anticipate that using this program will cut out an average of 14 days in the hiring process because of the elimination of the need to have public notice, Robinson said.

The commissary puts priority on hiring spouses, Robinson said. More than 3,440 military spouses work for DeCA — nearly 31% of its nearly 11,200 civilian employees, he said.

“DeCA is always looking for ways to hire spouses, especially if it means getting them on board more quickly. This new program will let us accomplish this goal more efficiently,” he said. “We actually have a great program to retain military spouses once hired, and we will continue to leverage that approach as we hire even more spouses in the future.”

Since public notice of the positions is not required, applicants don’t have to go to USA Jobs to apply, he said. “Our managers can select spouses they wish to hire by just submitting a request for personnel action with the required information/documents attached, along with an authorized vacancy,” Robinson said, adding that forthcoming guidance will outline the process for consistency at all overseas locations.

Department of Defense Education Activity

Department of Defense Education Activity officials are using the new pilot program for General Schedule and Wage Grade competitive service positions. The job offer can be made two to four weeks earlier than through a traditional announcement-based recruitment, said DoDEA spokesman Will Griffin. Military spouses will apply directly to the hiring manager at the location when a specific vacancy is posted locally by the hiring manager, Griffin said. If hiring managers need to expand the hiring pool, they can also request a direct-hire authority announcement through the USA Staffing system, he said.

But the new pilot program doesn’t apply to teacher or educational aide positions, which are in the Excepted Service, and are the majority of DoDEA positions overseas. DoDEA applies military spouse preference to the hiring of teachers, and appoints overseas spouses to positions with specified time limitations that may be converted to permanent positions after two years. The new hiring authority is one hiring source available to supervisors along with other non-competitive and competitive sources open to military spouses, Griffin said.

DoDEA has established open continuous announcements for Excepted Service education aide positions overseas that are only open to those eligible for military spouse preference and certain other preferences, he said.

Military spouses are nearly 20% of the DoDEA work force, Griffin said.

Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.

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