The special event offered recognition that military spouses so often do not receive. The extensive separations from family, friends, and spouses that they endure, high levels of stress while their husbands and wives are deployed to far away places, numerous and sometimes unexpected relocations, and maintaining their families often goes unnoticed. According to the President, America owes these special people a debt of gratitude that can never be fully repaid.
Trump, who was joined by first lady Melania, said at the event, “We know what you do, and your spouse knows what you do. We can never repay you for that, but we can and we will give you the opportunities you deserve.”
The executive order requires federal agencies to implement “to the greatest extent possible” a noncompetitive hiring system that exists for military spouses. This enables them to secure employment in certain jobs without having to compete. The federal personnel office is directed to provide education to government agencies about the implementation of their non-competitive hiring authority, raising awareness among military spouses. It is hoped that the executive order will also serve as an inspiration to the public sector to provide the spouses of military members with priority when making hiring decisions.
According to a survey released last June, 92% of military spouses are women, and military spouses currently have an unemployment rate of an astounding 16%. About 14% of spouses who are employed have only managed to secure part-time positions, but half of them desire full-time work. Because of their frequent moves and abundance of other sacrifices, military spouses who are able to secure employment earn, on average, about $12,000 less per year than other workers. Over an average 20 year military career, military husbands and wives suffer estimated financial losses of approximately $190,000. According to Trump, it is time for that to change. And he is promising to change it fast.
Unfortunately, many military spouses choose “portable” careers that pose significant challenges when relocating to different states. Many of these careers, like teaching, nursing, law, and real estate require state-specific licenses and testing requirements that take time and money to complete. As a result, each new move presents barriers to employment. In fact, about 35% of military spouses work in careers that require professional licenses that are state-specific. And most military spouses change jobs about every three years due to their spouses’ military orders.
In 2011, former first lady Michelle Obama and former second lady Jill Biden launched “Joining Forces”, an initiative that was designed to encourage businesses, institutions, and individuals across the nation to give back to the military families who sacrifice so much to ensure that we enjoy freedom and security here in America. Joining Forces urges Americans to support veterans, military members, and their spouses through education, wellness and job opportunities. By its fifth anniversary in 2016, Joining Forces had provided such significant outreach that approximately 1.2 million military spouses and veterans had been trained or hired.
Today, all 50 states in the U.S. have adopted policies or taken other action to remove the barriers to employment that military spouses face. But substantial challenges still exist, and there is still much work to be done. And for teachers and educators, whose careers require specialized and complicated licenses and certifications, the obstacles are particularly severe.
Military spouses are some of the most talented, highly-educated, motivated and highly skilled workers in the United States. As businesses and institutions all over America are starting to realize, hiring these individuals is not only the right thing to do, it is also a sound, profitable move.
President Trump is demonstrating his support for military families and Joining Forces as he continues to build on the magnificent work that has already been done by Michelle Obama and Jill Biden.
The administration has been working with states across the nation for months now to urge them to remove the licensing barriers for professional military spouses so that they can secure employment in their chosen careers no matter where they relocate. And now, with the new executive order in place, the spouses of military members are one step closer to receiving the opportunities that they deserve.