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DoD, Services Unite to Promote Spouse Employment

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 22, 2001 – Jean Marie Ward says there are so many spouse employment initiatives underway within DoD and the services right now it makes her head spin.

"We stand on the brink of a number of very exciting initiatives that are all moving concurrently in the same direction, and they all support each other," said Ward, senior policy advisor for spouse employment and technology in DoD's Office of Family Policy.

A major campaign is underway to promote spouse employment, she said. "Our new action agenda is just one of many avenues we're exploring."

The action agenda developed as a result of the August 2000 Spouse Employment Summit in Phoenix, Ariz. About 120 program staff, civilian personnel specialists and military spouses at the summit identified key issues and suggested strategies to address them.

The agenda integrates summit participants' recommendations into DoD and service initiatives. "The plan specifies that we work on policy and resource issues, career continuity and marketing," Ward said.

Under a provision of the fiscal 2000 Appropriations Act, she noted, the federal government aims to have 25 percent of its workforce telecommuting within five years. The military's overall goal is to promote portable careers, remote training and telework for spouses.

A military spouse in the Washington, D.C., area, for example, won a contract to manage an Army-wide program. When her husband was transferred overseas, she continued working the contract from her overseas location.

She monitored the program using phone, fax and email, just as she had done from Washington. She made trips back to Washington periodically to attend meetings and conduct quality control inspections.

In another example, the husband of an active duty Army officer was working for a small business in Texas while she was stationed at Fort Hood. When she was transferred to Fort Leavenworth, Kan., for a one-year school assignment, he accompanied her and continued to work business development and proposal preparation for the company through telework.

He and his wife then moved to Washington, D.C., where he continued working with the company managing operational test, research and development infrastructure. He parlayed his experience into a job managing software engineering with a top defense contractor.

Following the Phoenix summit, DoD launched a partnership with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to promote just such spouse employment opportunities. The chamber is now laying the foundation for the program, Ward said. (See related AFPS news article, “Spouse Employment Tops DoD Summit Agenda.”)

For example, CISCO Systems, a high-tech information technology firm, in conjunction with the Communication Workers of America, recently offered six training scholarships to spouses in the Washington D.C. area. They also offered up to 20 distance-learning scholarships.

"The response was awesome," Ward said, after word about the scholarships went out at a weekly meeting of DoD and service spouse employment program managers. "We basically gave them 10 days turnaround and more than 1,500 people expressed interest. We couldn't enter people in the database fast enough."

The Chamber partnership initiative prompted DoD and the services to look at what else could be done one-on-one, Ward said. This includes pursuing training opportunities offered through the Department of Labor.

In addition to cooperating with Labor, each of the services has launched spouse employment initiatives. "The Navy, for example, is talking with placement agencies with the idea of creating a partnership with one of the larger national or international firms," she said.

"The Air Force has a number of projects, including reexamining a spouse entrepreneur program tested at Ramstein," she added. "The Marine Corps is checking out some different areas where they might be able to partner with non-profit training organizations.

The Army is working on its existing initiatives and providing valuable support to DoD in its efforts to bring the summit agenda items forward, she said. The Army is most active, in DoD's effort to develop a spouse telework employment program in partnership with the General Services Administration, Labor Department and Office of Personnel Management.

"Throughout all this, the spouse employment programs at service headquarters level and installation level are doing their own bit to forward the broad goals of the agenda which are intended to enhance spouse employment through every means possible," she said. "All of the services are also involved in helping me to put together an on-line desk guide.

"We had a password-protected intranet in family services for many years that was designed to circulate materials that would be of use to the staff," she noted. "I'm in the process of revamping that to make it a public family program Web site, including an improved site for spouse employment program staff."

The site will enhance the resources and training provided for the people in the field who help spouses find jobs, she explained. During the Phoenix summit, attendees spoke of a need for consistent policy and the Web site will meet that need.

"We held an off-site for program managers in late January to look at what we needed to include, such as DoD guidance, position descriptions, regulations," Ward said. "What do you need to be a really good employment professional? What sort of things do you have to have in your information referral area? Who do you need to know in the community to send people to? What kind of training should you offer?"

DoD currently offers the DoD Job Search at http://dod.jobsearch.org and the One-Stop Jobs at http://www.milspouse.org/FindAJob/ to help spouses find jobs, Ward added. "We have not taken away any resources; these are new resources we're building."

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