Military families struggling with employment are set to receive new aid under a new executive order signed by President Joe Biden this week. The nearly 20 actions in the directive are designed to help military spouses get hired and maintain stability in their careers despite service-related moves.

He signed the order while visiting Fort Liberty, formerly known as Fort Bragg, on Friday, June 9. Fort Liberty is the largest U.S. Army base by population, being home to approximately 47,000 soldiers

The order is meant to help both with acquiring work and aid families in childcare and other challenges. The new actions are expected to help 16,000 people. 

The core of the order calls for developing a new plan for hiring military spouses in the federal government and retaining them, due by year’s end. Another provision would increase hiring preferences for military spouses for jobs in federal agencies.

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The other aspect of the order is meant to increase work flexibility. A key component is meant to help spouses maintain their work and business even when moving for military deployments or change of stations. The order includes provisions for five days of administrative leave during such moves, as well as expanding opportunities for remote work. For military spouses with their own businesses, Biden’s order directs the Small Business Administration to come up with new tools and resources to help families relocate their work. 

“You also need support to navigate challenges unique to military families, challenges like juggling child care and work while your partner’s deployed or when you’re caring for an injured loved one,” Biden said at the signing event.

One of the actions calls for federal agencies to train human resources and other personnel in understanding the specific and unique issues military families face, both in work and in personal life issues. 

Biden’s executive order comes as military spouses deal with a high rate of unemployment; Department of Defense data for 2021 found that 21 percent of spouses were unemployed. Of the people who filled out the 2021 Active-Duty Spouse Survey, 48 percent said that the hardest challenge was finding work after moving to a new location.

“This executive order encourages all federal agencies to do more to retain military spouses through flexible policies, policies like granting leave when their partner has to [permanent change of station], improving remote work opportunities for military spouses — including when they’re stationed overseas,” Biden added.

The order also includes provisions for more affordable childcare. One aspect will create a dependent care savings account for service members to put as much as $5,000, pre-tax, away to cover child care costs. 

Cost of living and childcare have been some of the major issues for military families in recent years. Last fall, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered new benefits to help families, including raising the Basic Allowance for Housing, new discounts for childcare and cutting costs at military commissaries. Most of the provisions went into effect in October.

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