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First Lady Calls Military Spouse Employment a National Security Imperative

Oct. 26, 2021 | BY Terri Moon Cronk , DOD News

As the Military Spouse Employment Partnership turns 10 years old, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden said military spouse employment is a national security imperative.

Military spouses graduate from employment training.
Group Photo
Thirteen community members -- including military spouses, a veteran and a National Guardsman -- gather before being recognized during a graduation ceremony honoring the completion of a 10-week COMCAST customer service virtual class that secured their employment at the Hilton Garden Inn, a few miles from Fort Lee in Colonial Heights, Va., June 30, 2017.
Photo By: Amy Perry, Army
VIRIN: 170706-A-PN068-196

Speaking today at the virtual 2021 Annual Official Opening Event and New Partner Induction Ceremony, Biden emphasized the importance of how 45 new partners — businesses, organizations and federal agencies — are joining MSEP's existing 500 partners to support military spouses who are searching for employment.

Recently, she said, her Joining Forces initiative and the National Security Council released a report on the Biden-Harris administration's government-wide commitment to those who also served: military and veteran families, caregivers and survivors, and it is called Strengthening America's Military Families.

"In it, we've outlined the status of military spouse employment," she said. "The statistics are concerning. Almost 40% of military families said that they have considered leaving active-duty service because of challenges with spouse employment."

Biden thanked the MSEP partners who have stepped up in the past 10 years to employ nearly 200,000 spouses to find work.

"Our goal is to work with [partners] in and out of government to create more flexible, transferable and remote job opportunities for military spouses, and support those spouses who want to start their own businesses. [If] we truly want to make progress, we need to retain the spouses and allow them to build careers and your businesses," she noted.

A woman works at a store.
Yaritza Gonzalez
Yaritza Gonzalez, a military spouse and an Army & Air Force Exchange Service associate at Fort Campbell, Ky., organizes a display at AAFES, July 28, 2021. Gonzalez has worked with AAFES for three years and is a supervisor. She has personal experience in using an associate transfer program and said that it is a wonderful resource that other spouses should consider using if going through a permanent change of station.
Photo By: Sirena Clark
VIRIN: 210730-A-N1234-001

The strength of the Defense Department's total force is directly related to the strength and stability of its military families, Gilbert R. Cisneros Jr., the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, said.

"That stability often comes from our military spouses having access to quality employment and opportunities, like business ownership, career counseling and education," he said. "The retention of qualified service members is essential to mission readiness. When military spouses are satisfied with their career and employment options, they are much more likely to support their service members’ continued service."

Cisneros asked MSEP partners to help the partnership spread the word to their fellow businesses, organizations and agencies to help military spouses gain the employment they deserve. "The department’s commitment to military spouses remains a top priority," he said. "We want to empower them to live their best military life, leading to a better future for military families and the nation they serve."

"By choosing to become an MSEP partner, you have made a valuable decision that connects you to the military spouse, community and the diverse skills they offer," Patricia Montes Barron, deputy assistant secretary of defense for military community and family policy, told the newly inducted partners.

The DOD is committed to military spouses with programs that offer career exploration, education and training, employment readiness, support and employment connections, Barron said, adding that there are nearly 1 million spouses in the global military community.

Military spouses take part in an education and employment panel.
Spouse Symposium
Tamara Rose Olson-Harper, Military Spouse Employment Partnership, speaks during the military spouse education and employment panel during the second-annual Spouse Symposium at Dover Air Force Base, Del., March 7, 2018. The speakers, who represented several agencies that typically hire military spouses, spoke about the value of education and job experience when seeking new employment.
Photo By: Air Force Staff Sgt. Aaron Jenne, Air Force
VIRIN: 180307-F-OB680-1083M

"Our MSEP partners and I have something in common," she said. "We both recognize the high degree of talent our military spouses offer employers. We see personal characteristics that translate into the kind of people we want to work and grow with characteristics like adaptability, resilience, loyalty and a willingness to work as hard as it takes to get the job done. Through this partnership, we truly are stronger together."

The virtual event for new and long-time MSEP partners features special presentations, sessions and networking opportunities.