Lankford, Colleagues Want to Make It Easier for Military Spouses To Find Permanent Careers

WASHINGTON, DC – During Military Appreciation Month, Senator James Lankford (R-OK), lead Republican on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Government Operations and Border Management, along with Senators Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Angus King (I-ME), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) introduced the Military Spouse Employment Act, which provides federal agencies clear authority to hire military spouses who already want to serve their country to fully remote positions. With a fully remote position, the military spouse can maintain federal careers if transferred anywhere.

“The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated that we are ready for almost anyone to work from almost anywhere, which gave us this opportunity to help military spouses find and keep a federal career while their spouse also serves our nation,” said Lankford. “The relocation that comes with serving in our nation’s Armed Forces has prevented our military spouses from seeking long-term employment—until now. Our bill would ensure federal agencies can take advantage of the talent, expertise, and quality work our military spouses are capable of through direct or remote federal careers, regardless of whether their spouse serves our nation in Altus, Enid, Oklahoma City, Lawton, McAlester, or any of the other great installations around the country, where some federal agencies do not have local offices.”

“Military spouses bear a huge burden and sacrifice so much,” Inhofe said. “Being a military family means frequent relocations, making long-term employment incredibly difficult. That’s why, during Military Appreciation Month, I am glad to introduce the Military Spouse Employment Act alongside Sens. Lankford and King. This bill would give federal agencies authority to employ military spouses remotely, wherever they may be. I know this would be beneficial for families at our five Oklahoma installations and around the country. This is commonsense legislation, and Congress should pass it quickly.”

“America’s military spouses make immense personal sacrifices to support their partners – including, oftentimes, giving up their own careers,” said King. “As our nation grapples with a worker shortage and increased connectivity enables remote work, the federal government should be taking every step possible to tap into this network of talented and patriotic Americans to fill vital public service jobs. Our legislation would help strengthen our nation’s federal agencies and allow military spouses to maintain a fulfilling, good-paying job regardless of where their partner is stationed.”

“Arizona’s service members and their families make immense sacrifices to keep us safe and secure. Our bipartisan bill empowers military spouses to continue their careers in federal service, regardless if they are transferred to another part of the country alongside their spouse,” said Sinema.

Lankford continues to look for practical ways to serve our military families, including addressing employment issues he’s heard about for military spouses. He served as ranking member in a Homeland Security Subcommittee hearing entitled, “Chief Human Capital Officers at 20: What is needed to empower CHCOs to Ensure HR practices support agencies’ mission success,” in which he discussed the benefits of a proposal to help military spouses access federal employment through remote work.

A recent survey found that 43 percent of active duty families surveyed said spousal unemployment is an issue for them. The survey found that 20 percent of military spouses in the labor force are unemployed and actively seeking work. The national unemployment rate at the time of the survey responses was six percent. It has since fallen to 3.8 percent. But 42 percent of military spouses reported they are not in the labor force and are looking for employment.

A combination of issues is keeping military spouses from holding jobs. Nearly half of the spouses said they would look for a new job in the next year. Thirty-three percent of spouses said the reason they aren’t working was because their family will relocate soon because of new military orders. Underemployment also continues to be an issue for 63 percent of military spouses.

Lankford introduced the Military Spouses Retirement Security Act, a bill that would help spouses of active duty service members save for retirement by expanding access to employer-sponsored retirement plans. Lankford is also a cosponsor of the Military Spouse Licensing Relief Act.