WASHINGTON — Congress wants to help more military spouses living overseas find work, even if that means telecommuting across an ocean.
Tucked into the annual defense authorization bill, which is expected to be signed into law by President Donald Trump later this month, is a provision for a new pilot program “providing telework facilities for military spouses on military installations outside the United States.”
The effort, which could cost up to $1 million, is designed to broaden opportunities for military spouses whose careers are affected by out-of-country military moves. The pilot program would provide technical assistance and partnerships with private, U.S. businesses to examine how to better allow those individuals a chance to keep working.
According to National Military Family Association research, the average service member faces a new move in less than every three years. That frequent upheaval is one reason the unemployment rate among military spouses is estimated at around 23 percent.
For families who receive orders to overseas locations — with new employment rules, new job certifications and new language barriers — the challenge of finding a job is even more daunting.
Specifics of the pilot program are still to be determined. But the legislation specifies that at least two military installations outside the United States will be selected for a three-year test, with a report due at the end to determine whether the effort should be expanded.
The pilot program “shall permit military spouses to provide administrative, informational technology, professional, and other necessary support to companies through telework from department installations” overseas, the language states.
The authorization bill also includes a new stipend of $500 for relicensing costs of military spouses whose families are reassigned across state lines, to help them fulfill any requirements required to continue their careers.
That program is scheduled to last for four years, with a similar leadership review at the end to determine its usefulness. Details of when payouts will start have not yet been released.
The defense authorization bill, which specifies military spending priorities and policies for fiscal 2018, was passed overwhelmingly by the House and Senate earlier this year.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.