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Defense, Labor Partner in Quality of Life Initiatives

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 15, 2003 – The Defense and Labor departments are combining forces to improve the lives of service members, their families and veterans re- entering the civilian workforce by sharing of information on job training and employment programs.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao signed a memorandum of understanding outlining the new collaboration at a July 11 Pentagon ceremony.

People, Rumsfeld noted at the signing ceremony, "are the most important thing that we have as a resource and we value them greatly."

The DoD-DoL agreement is equally important, the defense secretary asserted, because "it can help (military) spouses get steered toward careers that are compatible with frequent relocations."

The partnership, he added, also provides "access to national and local employers, both of which, of course, can help the Department of Defense in that it improves its retention and recruiting as well as quality of life."

It's recognized, according to DoD surveys, that frequent family moves that are part of military life can put a damper on the job and career aspirations of service members' spouses. This, in turn, can have an adverse impact on military recruitment and retention.

And DoD surveys show that 45 percent of military spouses say frequent moves have hurt their job advancement prospects.

There are about 700,000 military spouses across the services, according to DoD, and 93 percent are women. The employment issue is an especially important to the 340,000 spouses married to enlisted members in the pay grade of E-5 or below, according to DoD surveys - a group that makes less than $20,000 yearly in basic pay.

The memo of understanding cites a number of initiatives to address this situation, to include sharing information on job training programs and employment centers.

Also, the MOU targets military members returning to the civilian job market, noting that DoD and DoL will share job training and employment search information in that realm as well.

Initiatives under the agreement include "expanding the services available to veterans and military spouses through America's Job Bank and through our nationwide network of more than 3,900 one-stop career resource centers," Chao pointed out.

Another resource available to military spouses, she added, is the http://www.milspouse.org Web site, "which provides all sorts of information about employment and training opportunities for military spouses."

Chao saluted service members' efforts in the war against global terrorism, noting, "it is our turn to support them by providing separating service members, military spouses and veterans with the help that they need to succeed in the 21st century workforce."

DoD is obligated to improve the quality of life for its people, Rumsfeld reiterated, noting that without service members' skills, courage, training and dedication, "this department wouldn't be able to do anything approximating of what we are capable of doing."

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageSecretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, center, and Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao speak to reporters at the Pentagon July 11 as Marine Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, looks on. Department of Labor photo by Neshan Naltchayan.   
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